From Publishers Weekly
Buten, a part-time clown-mime and author of several novels, founded the Adam Shelton Center in Paris, which treats autistic children. While many autism specialists have degrees in psychiatry or do neurology research, Buten has a doctorate in clinical psychology in addition to years of training and experience in clowning and other performance arts. His approach to autism is eclectic, nondogmatic and practical: if it works, he does it. While the psychiatric establishment has had many theories for the causes of autism, Buten remains somewhat agnostic, focusing on treatment instead. First, the therapist must get the autistic person's attention by figuring out what, specifically, interests them. Utilizing his theatrical skills, Buten found that by closely imitating every gesture of an autistic patient, he could catch their attention-the game could even become reciprocal. Imitation also helped him empathize with his patients, and this understanding became a way of getting beyond the "glass wall" of his patients' isolation. Imaginative play, humor and inventiveness sparked unexpected breakthroughs. Sensory stimulation-massage, music, etc.-has also proven effective. Buten doesn't focus on "extinguishing" his patients' ticks and repetitive gestures; he sees their rituals as either a response to disturbing sensory phenomena or as a means of self-stimulating beta-endorphin production. Unlike parent/practitioners like Florance (Maverick Mind), Buten does not focus on neurological assessments, verbal skills acquisition or mainstreaming. He wants to help his patients connect and communicate better, but he believes the autistic are simply different from "us normopaths" and he'd like us to understand and to accept their differences.
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Clinical psychologist and mime Buten has found an ingenious way to combine those talents. In his capacity as principal therapist and founder of the Adam Shelton Center in Paris, he has encountered hundreds of adults and children with autism and has adopted a somewhat unconventional treatment modality: he mimics them. In his very readable account of some of his triumphs and failures, he confesses that "it is more interesting to be wrong than to be right--it makes you search further, learn more." It appears, however, that by entering into his patients' world and adapting to their needs, he may be right more often than he is wrong. He writes with wit born of genuine compassion about the sometimes-heartbreaking ways people with autism cope in a world in which they feel threatened in ways most others cannot imagine. Buten can so imagine, and he lucidly shares the insights he has gleaned in a book about successfully breaching the thing that separates people with autism from the rest of the world. Donna ChavezCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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