Monday, October 29, 2007

Parallel Play and Prodigies

After reading Tim Page’s article, Parallel Play, and Sachs’ chapter, Prodigies, I was immediately struck by the different degrees of aspergers syndrome and autism. For example Tim writes: “Caring for inanimate objects came easily. Learning to make genuine connections with people—much as I desperately wanted them—was a bewildering process.” For Tim, he mourned his inability to interact with people in society and was very hurt as a child by his teacher’s frustration with him. In contrast to Page’s account, Sachs writes that Stephen really didn’t have much connection with people and was not aware of any kind of deficit in his emotional capabilities. Sachs writes: “Other people held no apparent meaning for him [Stephen] except to fulfill some immediate unspoken need; he treated them like objects” (197). When Stephen’s mentor Chris Marris can no longer be there for him, Stephen seemingly doesn’t hold any emotional attachment to the man who had been in his life for so long. For most normal children this would have been a great loss and sadness, yet Stephen appeared completely devoid of any feeling for his long time companion. However when Margaret falls ill, due to an asthma attack, Stephen actually is very distressed and stays by her bed. This was very striking to me. Is it possible that through Stephen’s artistic expression that he is actually more open to human relationships? It is unclear as Sachs writes, but it is still interesting to pose the question of how much Stephen actually can penetrate? He laughs and is amused, but by what? Is it random laughter or is he actually connected to someone or something?
Finally, the saddest account was Christopher Gillberg’s encounter with a fifteen-year old autistic boy who had lost his mother to cancer. The boy is unable to grieve his mother’s death, but can logistically explain that he has no sense of loss because of his Asperger syndrome. It is almost more terrible to be able to be aware of your problem than oblivious. This made me think of Zazetsky and Dr. P, who are both suffering from similar disorders, yet one is painfully aware and the other oblivious. Throughout all these accounts it is apparent that there are many varieties of autism and none can be neatly categorized.

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