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Truckle, B. (2010). Autism in Childhood and Autistic Features in Adults edited by Kate Barrows Karnac, London, 2008; 306 pp; £19.99. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 91(6):1543-1546.

(2010). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 91(6):1543-1546

Autism in Childhood and Autistic Features in Adults edited by Kate Barrows Karnac, London, 2008; 306 pp; £19.99

Review by:
Brian Truckle

It may seem strange to begin a review with an account of personal experience but I hope it will become relevant to the argument. Starting school in a rural country village at age 3 and three-quarters was a frightening experience. On my first day, armed only with the knowledge of how to write my first name in capitals, but with no understanding of what the signs meant, I ventured forth. Until then, most of my life had consisted of playing with the gypsy children in their encampment in the forest, surrounded by caravans, dogs, piebald ponies and singing around the camp-fires.

The day did not go well. I was handed my slate and slate pencil and faced a blackboard with hieroglyphics with no meaning. It was bewildering and alarming. Later, the whole group was assembled for singing songs of which I knew nothing. Then the pianist struck up a tune I knew — Vaughan Williams's ‘Linden Lea’ and at last a faint hope emerged in me. At least now I could sing as I knew the song from the gypsies. My voice rose with the others but there was a problem. They were singing in English and I in Romany.

My experience of working with children and adolescents on the autistic spectrum leads me to believe that this too is their experience — singing the wrong words to the right tune, leaving them too in a state of bewilderment, disappointment, misunderstanding and fear, unable to be understood. Luckily for me, I met Miss Theodora Smith who was somehow able instantly to understand how children feel on their first day and could communicate this both verbally and nonverbally and, somehow, magically transform the hieroglyphics on the blackboard to symbols with meaning, which in turn opened up a glorious world of communication.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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