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The Siege: A Family's Journey Into the World of an Autistic Child Paperback – June 30, 1982
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About the Author
Clara Claiborne Park is the author of several books. She has recently retired from the English Department of Williams College, and is a prominent speaker about autism. Her account of her daughter's life with autism continues with EXITING NIRVANA.
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I just had to get another copy.
Her progress with her daughter is very slow.. Elly ( the pseudonym for Jessica Park) makes progress at her own pace and she notices and responds to what interests her. She is very attentive to some details ( and has become a remarkable artist) but she is rarely attentive to people. I sometimes got impatient with the narrative but I think that was more indicative of my need for Elly to make more rapid and remarkable progress than it was of any flaw in the prose.
Clara Claiborne Park raised Elly during the era when the supposed etiology of autism was “the refrigerator mother,” a parent who did not want her child and whose demeanor conveyed this to the developing infant. (See Bruno Bettleheim’s “Joey the Mechanical Boy” for the full explanation of this most damaging of theories). Her discomfort at being judged for unnamed flaws is poignantly expressed: “Comfortable, well-educated members of the upper middle class ordinarily escape the experience of depersonalization, of utter helplessness in institutional hands, of reduction to the status of children to whom situations are mediated, not explained. Like so much that hurts, the experience is deeply educational. . We know now in our skins that the most threatening of all attacks is the attack on the sense of personal worth, that the harshest of all deprivations is the deprivation of respect. We know now, I think, how the slum mother feels as the welfare worker comes round the corner. It takes, one would think, so little knowledge of psychology to put oneself in another person's place.”
Attitudes toward autism and its etiology have changed dramatically, but this memoir, originally written in the 1960s is still well worth reading