Background to my interest in teaching children with autism

PSYCHOTHERAPY BEYOND THE FRINGE, continued

Now she was asked to bring down the picture of the woman’s fist and look at it. What happened if she moved it farther away – she didn’t like it as much. What if she brought it closer – she didn’t like it as much. What if she put it a little lower, beneath her line of vision – she liked it better as it seemed more like a petite woman. What if she took away the colour and made it black-and-white – she didn’t like it as much. What if she changed it to other colours – she didn’t like it as much. What if the picture was less clear and more misty – she didn’t like it as much. What if she added movement, so the arm and fist waved – she liked it a little more, she thought. What if there was sound, like people talking – she didn’t like it as much as it distracted her. What if she added sound, like fanfare – she liked that much better. What if she added sound, like people cheering – she liked that even more. She was asked to put it back on the shelf.

She was asked what picture popped into her mind when she thought about being ‘thoughtful or considerate of others’ – the value, currently ninth, which she wanted to move to fourth place. She described a waterfall which cascaded repeatedly over rocks so that each level broke the fall of the water and made each fall gentler. She was asked where she saw it. Again, it was straight in front of her, way up above her line of vision, and perhaps fifty feet away. On inquiry, she described the water as mostly white with blue lines in it. The rocks were ‘sort of brown’. There was slow movement down each cascade. There was a steady swish of sound. Felicity asked her to change the scene in various ways and to tell him how it made her feel. Bringing it closer seemed much nicer. Bringing it down toward her line of vision made it seem nicer. Making it black-and-white (without colour), taking away the sound or increasing the sound all made it less pleasant. Adding sparkles made it more pleasant. Adding the sounds of birds made it more pleasant, but adding the sounds of people made it less pleasant.

Felicity asked her to keep looking at the waterfall scene. He said he would like her to enjoy this scene. He would like her to move the waterfall down to about even with her line of vision, to bring it up quite a bit closer, say to about ten feet away, and to add a distant background sound of birds. She brightened noticeably as he talked. He asked her whether she enjoyed that. She affirmed warmly that she did. He asked her to take a picture of that scene as it now was in her mind and to put the T.V. screen on which it was displayed at ten feet directly in front of her. He asked her to make the T.V. set a heavy one so it stayed put. When she had done that, he asked her to bring down the picture of the woman’s fist raised in the air, to put it up a little higher – above the T.V. screen. He asked Mary to push the image of the arm and fist up a little to have it just above the T.V. screen. He asked her if that was all right. She said it was, that she liked the waterfall front and centre, and that having the triumphant arm and fist above it made her feel that she had found the waterfall all by herself.

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