His play was terribly repetitive and obsessive and he wouldn't really communicate with others. If he was going to learn and grow up as a whole person and happy person, Sam was going to have to be actively taught all the things that other children just absorb naturally (snip)She then refers to some books they made including one which began;
Sam underwent 40 hours of lessons a week with a team of behavioural therapists (snip)
Everything in Sam's environment became super-controlled. His favourite toys-his beloved dinosaurs-which he would arrange in circles again, and again, and again, and again-they were all put away and he was only allowed to play with them for half an hour every day.
He had to learn everything. He had to be taught to look at people and recognise emotions. He had to be taught not to grimace weirdly and not to walk away while someone was talking to him.
'I must not talk all the time about dinosaurs, bugs and death.'(said in a monotone, to the merriment of the other guests.)
She mentions that when they were out for a walk she thought;
'Oh good, he's generalising social skills', for as Sam was gradually becoming human, I was becoming a creep.They gave up the therapy after 4 years because 'Sam needed to have a life.'
We kept on Sam's therapy for 4 years. I think it was pretty successful, though of course as he doesn't have a twin, I can't really tell how he might have shaped-up without it.
Sam is 10 now, and although he is still a difficult boy and needs support at school, he has genuine friendships with other children and he also doesn't seem strange the minute you meet him.
He now says rather poignantly, 'When I was young, you ever let me play with my elephants, and there were always these ladies everywhere. I never had any space.'I thought this was a interesting interview. The mother obviously wanted to help her son, but the piece included many autism cliches that I believed for a while when Duncan was diagnosed. It's sad that she felt she had to fill his days with so much therapy and restrict his access to his favourite things.
I heard this programme on the same day as I wrote my post A novel treatment for autism. It describes the opposite approach to that we are taking with our son. Duncan plays with trains a lot, or with his little Zeebad figure and paper tube characters. His play looks repetitive, but I wouldn't think to restrict his access to those toys. I also know him to be fully human already, even without such training as she describes. Although I have no way of knowing whether this is the right approach, I would imagine than when he is 10, he will be happy in his own skin, perhaps he'll have one or two good friends but he will seem strange to people who meet him. About that last part, so what! As my children are learning, different is good!