OAARSN Book Review

 

Paid for the Privilege: Hearing the Voices of Autism, by Dan Reed, 1996.
A "Moviní On" book from DRI Press, PO 5202 Madison, WI 53705

A most engaging account of the authorís experience as marketing director in a day center for about 100 adults labeled "severely and profoundly retarded and autistic" in the first half of the 1990s. All the early signs were against the jobóso Dan on his first day thinks: "I want to run out of this place and never come back. Iíll end up institutionalized if I continue working here." But he is struck when one of his new colleagues remarks: "Can you imagine growing up and spending your lifeónot around people that love you and want to be around youóbut only with people who get paid to be with you? No free friends, only one that are paid for the privilege."

The first few months were unpredictable, occasionally hilarious, always challenging and frustrating. Dan finds the largest stumbling block to finding jobs for the centerís adults is communication. When he happens to see a TV program about a new technique called facilitated communicating (FC) he enthusiastically promotes its use. This book is a most readable story of how FC enabled adults with autism to express themselves, explain their dreams and fears, develop true friendships, and use their abilities. Experiences with sceptics and opponents of FC are recounted. A postscript presents a useful review of "New scientific approaches to challenge our assumptions about autism/ mental retardation" by Dr Anne Donnellan of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Five years after the publication of this book, everyone concerned with and for autistic adults could still learn from its messages. The Prologue by one "silent voice of autism" has more meaning than ever:

I sit here wondering what it will take for these people to start seeing us for who we are. I am a man with many qualities and I care about all those around me. Too much thinking with little or no talking is dangerous. And in our world, force seems to speak louder than words. I guess that is why we are in a scary place.

It is hard to explain, but our brains may work somewhat differently from yours. We probably see, hear and feel things differently from you.

We sit, rarely accomplishing much, and pretty much hide in our own world. It is lonely and wrong. Not many seem to think we know much, but we do and we want to know more. The time is coming when we no longer will have to feel detachment and isolation. We will belong, but we need your help.

Wasting away is not what God has intended for us. A system with many misinformed people feel that enough is being done, and others feel that they have their hands tied by rules and regulations...

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