A remarkable testament of hope and love, these pages recount Howard Buten’s lifelong journey working with autistic children. For three decades his pioneering, often controversial approaches have enabled him to gain access to their strange and
solitary universe—a universe he shares in a book that is unlike any you’ve ever read.
From his first unforgettable encounter with a wild, clawing human hurricane in the form of a little boy named Adam S., clinical psychologist Howard Buten has sought ways into the seemingly closed world of the autistic child. Whether he’s done this by
letting himself be pummeled, scratched, and bitten, or by imitating the child’s behaviors, or by feeling himself into what the child must be feeling, he has often been
rewarded. With extraordinary insight and in ways that are powerfully moving, he brings to life as never before the innermost selves of these children.
Among those you’ll meet in the clinic he founded in Paris are Lise, whose seemingly random movements are as expressive as a dancer’s; Florian, who can instantly tell
you on which day of the week your birthday falls for any year, past or future; Martin, whose nonstop speech echoes the angry voices he has heard all around him, but who is impervious to the emotions they contain; and Hakim, a child so lost and so violent, no other institution will take him.
Writing with a scientist’s clarity and a humanist’s heart, Buten conveys the reality of autism with passion, ruthlessness, humor, wisdom—and love. This is a book both heartbreaking and hopeful, and when he succeeds in breaching the invisible wall of aloneness that seems to separate the autistic from the rest of us, we cheer.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: Through the Glass Wall|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
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|Publisher: Bantam Books|
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Through the Glass Wall
Chapter OneHurricanes and Land Mines
I work with the autistic, in France. I founded an institution there, a day clinic dedicated to the treatment of extreme cases. I have always been most interested in extreme cases.
When I was a child I wanted to be a doctor-I didn't want to become a doctor; I wanted to be a doctor, now! I'd found a copy of Morris's Anatomy in my cousin Bettie's attic when I was eight years old. I read the whole thing. There were lots of pictures. I memorized the appendectomy procedure-incision, artery, hemostat, suction, section, suture. I felt like a doctor.
At the time I also felt like a ventriloquist; my mother had been a vaudeville performer in her youth, and she'd taught me to sing and dance, so ventriloquism seemed to be the natural next step. I taught myself the basics of the art with the help of a book entitled So You Want to Be a Ventriloquist? which I'd come across in the elementary school library while searching for a book that didn't exist but which would have been entitled, had it existed, So You Want to Be a Brain Surgeon? Inspired by these two parallel studies, I took to performing two or three appendectomies a week on my ventriloquist dummy (his appendix was a shoelace, inserted in his abdomen the night before, frequently inflamed). A year later my success, as well as that of Christiaan Barnard, allowed me to move on to open-heart surgery (a knotted maroon sock). Both my careers unfortunately came to an abrupt halt with the untimely demise of my dummy, who died of postoperative complications (falling apart at the seams) a few weeks before my tenth birthday.
By the time I was twelve, I was already pursuing three "career...