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Money-Kyrle, R. (1976). Explorations in Autism: By Donald Meltzer, John Bremner, Shirley Hoxter, Doreen Weddell and Iska Wittenberg. Scotland: Clunie Press. 1975. Pp. 250.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 57:499-500.

(1976). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 57:499-500

Explorations in Autism: By Donald Meltzer, John Bremner, Shirley Hoxter, Doreen Weddell and Iska Wittenberg. Scotland: Clunie Press. 1975. Pp. 250. Related Papers

Review by:
Roger Money-Kyrle

The authors of this book are modest in their claim, stressing that they have located problems rather than solved them (p. 5). But if their main theory can be substantiated—and a prima facie case for it has been made—I think the book will deserve to be called a breakthrough. For, as far as I know, it gives the first coherent theory of autism, which, till now, has been a very baffling as well as a heart-rending illness.

Their overall theory rests on (and incidentally gives further support to) several recent theories about early failures in development, such as Bion's on mothers with an insufficient capacity to tolerate their infants' projective identifications of distress and rage; Meltzer's on 'dismantling' as an earlier defence against pain than splitting, by which multisensual concepts of things that can be seen, felt, heard, tasted and smelt are dismantled into their unisensual elements; Esther Bick's on children who in early contact with their mother fail to internalize her holding function so that they do not form a 'psychic skin' to hold them together; and also on children who fail to form three-dimensional concepts of objects which can contain spaces, and are therefore unable to identify either projectively or introjectively. The alternative identification by a skin-to-skin contact she calls 'adhesive identification'.

It is clear, I think, that children who suffer from these defects in order to escape pain will fail in the very first steps in concept-building which must precede their construction of a world-model.

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