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"A huge contribution, in this clear explanation ..."

I am one of the generation, born in the 1940s and 1950s, which grew up with no awareness of autism. Contemporaries who, with hindsight, I now realise may have been on the spectrum were expected to "get a grip" or "pull themselves together". The expectation was that their behaviour was something they could change if only they tried hard enough.

This attitude, grounded in ignorance of the condition, was prompted by two motives. One was doubtless selfish: such behaviour could be inconvenient, or disruptive, or disturbing and other people would find life much more comfortable if the person in question would "please just sort themselves out and not cause trouble".

The other reason, though underpinned by the same level of ignorance, was fundamentally well-intentioned. If the child persisted in this strange behaviour, ran the argument, they would be ostracised by their peer group. Most children have an intuitive awareness of how to "fit in". Variety was tolerated and eccentricities accommodated but only if some of the peer norms were acknowledged. But the child who seems unaware of any of these requirements could face bleak times. Most of my generation can recall the pillorying of the "misfit' who failed to conform, the mockery and isolation they endured. Hence the call to "get a grip" could be motivated by a valid concern that if nothing changed the child would suffer at the hands of their peers. As a result people of my generation have been prone to expect youngsters on the spectrum "to sort themselves out for their own good".

The huge contribution of Katy Elphinstone's book is not only the clear explanation it provides of autism and its impact but also the pointers it offers towards supporting the person with autism in strategies and behaviours which acknowledge the condition but facilitate engagement with the peer group. Autism will not go away but it can be understood and the person with autism acknowledged, valued and integrated in our society.

Mike Brown, A Grandparent's perspective