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Meltzer, D. (1975). Chapter II: The Psychology of Autistic States and of Post-Autistic Mentality. Explorations in Autism: A Psycho-Analytical Study, 6-29.

Meltzer, D. (1975). Chapter II: The Psychology of Autistic States and of Post-Autistic Mentality. Explorations in Autism: A Psycho-Analytical Study, 6-29

Chapter II: The Psychology of Autistic States and of Post-Autistic Mentality Book Information Previous Up Next

Donald Meltzer

In this chapter we wish to describe in outline a formulation of the findings which are subsequently to be described in detail by the individual therapists. We have all been somewhat surprised by the complexity of the ideas which have evolved among us during the years of working together. There can be, of course, no apologizing for such complexity except in so far as we must leave unanswered the question of whether it is a manifestation of our inability to reach simple, more comprehensive, more precise formulations and modes of expression, or whether the complexity does indeed reside in the nature of the material itself.

The main aspect of this complexity is the view which tends to divide the autistic state of mind proper from qualities of mentality in general which appear in these children during the course of development, and are in a sense outside the autism proper - what we see as the residues of the autism. This in itself does not appear to be a very complicated idea, having a rather ordinary medical heritage in the concepts of disease and sequellae; the complexity rather resides in the actual interweaving of the two in any particular child during any particular period of observation. This will be most clearly exemplified in the material of Timmy (J. B.), with whom observations lent themselves to a most convincing mode of study. Over a period of months it became clear that certain forms of behaviour which appeared in great abundance constituted Timmy's autistic phenomena; and by culling out of the record those items which seemed clearly outside this category, and linking them together like pearls on a thread, we were able to construct sequences (sometimes covering several sessions) which could then be interpreted as if they had been indeed quite consecutive. The result was something akin to the cinematic photography of the blossoming of flowers, taken at one frame every few minutes, in which the balletic unfolding and growth describes a pattern unseen by the waking eye.

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