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Whelan, M. Hudson, W. (1987). Searching for a Lost One: The Plight of the Family of the Autistic Child. J. Child Psychother., 13(2):91-107.

(1987). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 13(2):91-107

Searching for a Lost One: The Plight of the Family of the Autistic Child

Maurice Whelan and Willis Hudson

“Come away, Oh human child!

To the waters and the wild

With a faery, hand in hand,

For the world's more full of weeping than you

can understand.”

“The Stolen Child”, W.B. Yeats

In this poem the fairies beckon the child and entice him to leave a world that is “full of troubles and is anxious in its sleep”. They offer a leafy island with “pools among the rushes that scarce could bathe a star”, where ferns “drop their tears over the young streams”. Fairies however are not always offering an eternal youthful Peter Pan world. In Ireland the “Sidhe” is a name given to a fairy who is usually construed as being far from benign. Children whose mental development has been severely impaired or retarded can be spoken of as if this “Sidhe” had taken their souls away. This idea is not unique to Irish myth. In “Totem and Taboo” Freud refers to a similar phenomenon where the soul is taken and replaced by another. Scottish myth tells of the fairy who can touch you and leave you distant and dissociated. Hence the word “fay”. Being presented with an autistic child is a baffling and puzzling experience. Enter the poet who through his medium can convey an experience which is difficult to explain and which defies prosaic reasoning.

Autistic children are very distant and it is almost impossible to know what is going on in their minds. We can sometimes get an approximation by our own strange experiences.

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