Background to my interest in teaching children with autism


A Dream Team

We’ve had a story about a non-catatonic non-schizophrenic in the person of Ruth. Although we’re not done with schizophrenia yet, it might be refreshing, even silly, to tell a yarn about a non-paranoid non-schizophrenic. Rosemary was just such a person.

Rosemary was admitted to Felicity’s Behaviour Therapy Unit bearing with her a diagnosis of conjugal paranoia. She was a very attractive married woman in her early thirties. She had a husband who adored her. The only blemish on their marriage was that Rosemary had been living in the hospital for about four years suffering constantly from jealousy about her husband. If he mentioned another woman or looked in passing at a calendar with a picture of a female on it, Rosemary was consumed with jealousy. She was sure he no longer loved her, that he really wanted to be with the other woman and that he was about to leave her. She would remonstrate with him hour after hour about any and all such events. Finally, to obtain some peace of mind and some rest for both of them, it was decided that she would take a vacation from him in the hospital. It was also hoped that the hospital vacation would rid her of her jealousy. However, the vacation was extended rather longer than planned due to the discovery by her psychiatrists that she had a mysterious mental illness called conjugal paranoia.

To be fair, the hospital psychiatrists had inherited this diagnosis of her condition from the psychiatrists who had been treating her for years in the community. She had started going to psychiatrists in her late teens. And the psychiatrists to whom she had been referred were psychoanalysts. Rosemary had become very well indoctrinated in the mysteries of psychoanalysis. She knew what her role as the patient was. Consequently, after she was admitted to his Behaviour Therapy Unit and was given appointments to see Felicity in his office, she came in, sat down and, without further ceremony, began to recount in precious detail all the events which went to make up the contents of her nocturnal dream life.

Nor could Felicity dissuade her from this well-habituated activity. She simply ignored his attempts to draw her into other more productive therapeutic pursuits. It was as though she felt duty-bound to educate Felicity in the correct therapeutics and process necessary for psychotherapy. She was unwilling or unable to notice that she had already tried that approach to treatment and that it had yielded no benefit for her at all. Felicity began to think that Rosemary might indeed be suffering from a schizophrenic illness given her imperviousness to his presence, interventions and obviously impeccable logic. “Perhaps,” Felicity thought, “since she isn’t listening to what I am saying, I ought to listen to what she is saying.” How’s that for a shockingly different idea!?

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