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Tustin, F. (1984). The Growth of Understanding. J. Child Psychother., 10(2):137-149.

(1984). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 10(2):137-149

The Growth of Understanding

Frances Tustin


This paper was requested by Dr. Ithier, the Editor of Patio, a French psychoanalytic journal, for an issue to be devoted to “Innovations in Psychoanalysis”. She asked for an “interview-article” describing my own findings in relation to childhood autism, and also gave permission for it to be published in an English journal.

Thus, this paper will describe how I became involved in working intensively with autistic children, and where I was led in my attempts to understand them. Dr. Peter Medawar, the well-known British research scientist, whose sayings I shall quote from time to time in this paper has rightly stressed the part that luck and opportunity play in making new discoveries, however small these may be (Medawar 1979). Thus, this paper will be an account of the many privileges I have had which encouraged me to embark on the difficult task of trying to get in touch with these inaccessible children. Dr. Medawar quotes Fontanelle who said, “Ces hasards ne sont que pour ceux qui jouent bien!” (“These strokes of good fortune are only for those who play well.”) But to “play well” we have to remember the words of Pasteur who said, “Fortune favours the prepared mind.” Thus, this contribution must acknowledge the many people who have shed light upon my path and helped to prepare my mind for the daunting task of entering the mind of an autistic child in such a way that changes in his view of the world could be inaugurated.

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