Autism's "island of intactness"

My first introduction to autism was a rather jarring one. It was my first day on my child psychiatry rotation. The Department was in a house on the University Hospitals campus in Madison. As I approached the house I heard a very loud “thump! thump! thump! Sound, which literally rattled the rafters of the house.

Inside was a 12-year-old non-verbal, severely autistic girl banging her head on a school desk. She had a helmet on, but even that was not enough to muffle that awful sound.

It occurred to me then that somewhere inside that girl, troubled as she was, had to be some “island of intactness,” some uninjured element of reality and wellness, however hidden and deeply buried.

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8th March 2017
Scientific American