Background to my interest in teaching children with autism

A Tremendous Tremulousness
Sharon was admitted to the back ward Behaviour Therapy Unit under a pall of mystery. She was a short, stocky woman in her late forties, with a sort of a brusque hostility about her. She walked stiffly around with her right arm extended downwards, and her left arm crossing her body and holding her right arm tightly. On the psychological tests she exhibited a ‘psychotic degree’ of deterioration of emotional resources and a high level of anxiety and guilt-proneness. It was Felicity’s friend, the institution’s neurologist, who lifted the veil of secrecy. He explained to Felicity that the patient had a unilateral (right sided) masturbation tremor. Felicity had a hard time finding much literature on that condition. However, he did glean enough that it finally made a tiny bit of sense to him.
Masturbation requires movement of the hand and at least the wrist. When it results in sexual climax, the experience involves at once a very rewarding experience and a rapid sense of relief. These two consequences are contingent upon, and follow directly after, the hand and wrist movements. They, therefore, reinforce the hand and wrist movements, each time adding habit strength to what is apt to become continuous rapid movements of these parts. Hence the learned, unilateral (one-sided) hand tremor. [And you would have to be schizophrenic to believe that. ☺ RR]
Sharon had been married for many years to a man who spent his days working hard at tiring labour, and who came home to eat and to go promptly to sleep. She had never worked, and she had no children to keep her busy. So she spent a lot of her daytime hours, and some hours at night, entertaining herself with the act of masturbation. This was before the time of television.
She was probably vaguely (or clearly) aware of the cause of her tremor. Perhaps some physician had the indelicacy to inform her about it. Anyway, she felt acutely guilty about the tremor, and hence her habit of holding the offending arm as she moved about the ward.

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