Sample text for Fragile success : ten autistic children, childhood to adulthood /c by Virginia Walker Sperry.


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Excerpted from Fragile Success: Ten Autistic Children, Childhood to Adulthood, Second Edition, by Virginia Walker Sperry, M.A.

Copyright © 2001 by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. All rights reserved.

In the 1960s, autism was a mysterious condition. It was poorly understood by physicians, and there was little concrete information available on its symptoms and treatment. From 1966 to 1972, the years that I was director of the Elizabeth Ives School for Special Children in New Haven, Connecticut, I often saw the painful frustration on the faces of the parents of the pupils at the school as they endured the confusion and emotional turmoil that went with raising a child with autism.

Soon after my retirement in 1972, I ran into an 11-year-old former Ives pupil and his mother in the aisle of a local supermarket. I had last seen the child when he was 7 or 8 years old. Sandy-haired, freckle-faced, and rangy in build, he beamed as he recognized me. Compared to the hyperactive, constantly chattering boy I had known, he seemed focused and in control. His mother told me proudly that her son was managing well in the special education program of his public school system. The change in him was really remarkable. She thanked me for the attention he had received at Ives, without which, she felt, he never would have come so far. In a flash of conviction and inspiration, it occurred to me that it could be beneficial to share with others, especially the parents of such children, some of the hard-won knowledge we at Ives had gained from working with children with autism.

Within a year, I began to collect data on the careers of 11 former pupils of Ives School. These children were chosen not because of their diagnosis but because I had a sound relationship with them and their parents. Geography defined the choices considerably, so they all lived within a manageable distance. Of these 11, I have included 9 stories of those whose original diagnosis was "autistic," "autistic-like," or "personality disorder with autistic overlay." Also, for this edition of the book I have added a tenth case in order to provide insights into another type of disorder falling in the autism spectrum, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).

The parents gave me permission to obtain information from the various institutions and programs that had treated their children. The Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, Connecticut, which originally tested and diagnosed the 10 children profiled in this book, provided facts on their early toddlerhood, doctors' and social workers' analyses, accounts, interviews, test scores, and final diagnoses. (Doctors at the Center's Child Development Unit, specifically the late Dr. Sally Provence, Dr. Martha Leonard, and the late Dr. Mary McGarry, referred their most puzzling younger children to the Ives School from the school's inception. These three doctors also became consultants for the school.) Other information came from records at nursery schools, public school special education programs, state-funded programs, and private special education schools.

I compiled a full set of testing results for each child, from their earliest examinations through grade-level achievements and scores when each of the original nine turned 21 and "graduated" from high school. To help complete the profiles, seven of these children were retested as adults at the Yale Child Study Center.

I interviewed the children's teachers, social workers, and parents, and as the children got older I went to their graduations, workshops, group homes, and places of work. I took many of them out to lunch several times and kept interviewing them and their parents through 1999. At the time my research for the first edition was complete, the individuals' ages ranged from 23 to 30, and for the second edition, from 30 to 40. My




Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Autism in children -- Case studies.
Autism in children.