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12 and HoldingA Guide to Asperger SyndromeA Lethal InheritanceA Mother's Courage: Talking Back to AutismA Parent's Guide to Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning AutismA Special EducationA Toss Of The DiceA Tribe ApartA User Guide to the GF/CF Diet for Autism, Asperger Syndrome and AD/HDA Walk in the Rain With a BrainABC of Eating DisordersADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your LifeADHD Grown UpADHD in the Schools: Assessment and Intervention StrategiesADHD NationAdolescence and Body ImageAdolescent DepressionAggression and Antisocial Behavior in Children and AdolescentsAll Alone in the UniverseAlpha GirlsAmericaAnother PlanetAntisocial Behavior in Children and AdolescentsAsperger Syndrome and Your ChildAsperger Syndrome, Adolescence, and IdentityAsperger's and GirlsAssessment of Childhood DisordersAttention Deficit DisorderAttention-Deficit Hyperactivity DisorderAttention-Deficit/Hyperactivity DisorderAutism - The Eighth Colour of the RainbowAutism and MeAutism's False ProphetsAutistic Spectrum DisordersBad GirlBeen There, Done That? 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A reviewer does not lightly admit
to being reduced to tears by a book but I have to confess to having shed a tear
or two at several points during the reading of this one. The author is a
clinical psychologist who in her long career has specialized in working with
severely disturbed children and especially those diagnosed as autistic or
schizophrenic. She is perhaps best known as the co-founder and clinical
director of Blueberry Treatment Centres which started off as a source of
day-time therapy for autistic and schizophrenic children and ended up as a
residential village offering a protected environment for them.
The book is a beautifully written
account in detail about six of the children she helped while, in chapters
dealing with groups of boys or girls, we are given less detailed accounts of
many more children. The detailed accounts are of children called Jonny,
Anthony, Chaim, Sara, Danny and Peter. Not all of the stories have happy
endings; this is not a feel-good book. Rather, the stories of these boys and
girls are intended to make us the readers aware that in every highly disturbed
child there is a fellow human being crying out to us for help. Sometimes we
find a way of extending a helping hand; sometimes, despite years of
heartbreaking attempts, we fail. The story of Danny is one such story of
failure. Danny was diagnosed as autistic after a sudden personality change at
the age of four. His father's job as a test pilot, the death of a much loved
grandfather, being lost for two days in a forest and possibly witnessing the
death of a friend were all listed as possible factors in the child's
development of an autistic disorder. Whatever the cause or causes, Danny became
violent and uncontrollable. Mira, over a long period of time, worked wonders
with the child. When the time came for him to move up a class and leave Mira,
he totally regressed and in the end he was sent away to a state hospital unit.
The author's last word in this chapter is 'Forgive!' On the other hand, the
story of Anthony is an encouraging tale where a most unprepossessing boy, who
was an ardent fan of Adolph Hitler, who was covered in swastikas from head to
toe and who was extremely physically violent towards both children and adults,
came first for a few hours day and finally as a resident in Mira's home. After
years of support and several reversals, Anthony, who came from an ardent Roman
Catholic background, matures into an almost unbelievably well-balanced young
man and the chapter ends with his marriage to a Jewish girl, a musician, and
the birth of their first child. The last words of this chapter are 'Anthony is
Chaim was the son of concentration
camp survivors. Although he was born after they moved to the U.S.A. and
although he was normal for the first four and a half years of his life, he
suddenly changed and became the living embodiment of his mother's nightmares,
of the terrors she had lived through and of the hell on earth that she could
not forget. Peter was diagnosed as schizophrenic and as an 'idiot-savant'. He
had an unerring memory for facts and figures and was one of those people who
could instantly tell you the day of the week for any date a thousand years ago
or a thousand years in the future. Jonny was a deeply disturbed little boy who
seems to have been traumatized by three and a half months in an incubator
having been born prematurely weighing only one and a half pounds. Sara was a
very strange little girl who blossomed into a beautiful young lady who was
nicknamed Blueberry and after whom Mira's camp and residential village were
The stories of groups of children
are equally moving and sometimes very funny as well. One such is the story of
how Mira took a group of girls, Carla, Annie, Mary, Patty, Sally, Bonny, Cybelle
and Molly, who between them contained murderesses, prostitutes and a great deal
more, on an outing to a restaurant two or three miles from the center. Mira
must have been quite young herself at the time because the police thought that
the group of nine young women had absconded, threw them into the back of a
paddy wagon and booked them. I won't spoil the story for you by telling you the
ending. The story of two groups of boys, a younger group and an older, a story
called 'The Hamster', is also funny at times but on reflection it is more
poignant than anything else and its ending is far from humorous.
This is a book to tug at your
heartstrings. From a psychological point of view, it is a much-needed reminder
of the essential humanity that lies at the core of all of us, even the most
disturbed. It is subtitled 'Histories of Extraordinary Boys & Girls' and
this is most certainly true. However, it is also a series of snapshots from the
life of an extraordinary woman. I thoroughly recommend this book to you but
make sure that you have a box of tissues nearby when you read it.
© 2004 Kevin Purday
Kevin M. Purday
is Head of the Cambridge International High School in Jordan and recently completed the Philosophy & Ethics of
Mental Health course in the Philosophy Dept. at the University of Warwick.
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