Anyone who has met children with autism wonders how they experience life. Because autism affects children's ability to communicate and interact socially, they cannot always easily explain how they see the world or how they understand themselves and others. Of course, some adults have overcome autism's impedi-ments to communication and written memoirs. Donna Williams' Nobody Nowhere and Temple Grandin's Emergence: Labeled Autistic and Thinking in Pictures offer illuminating glimpses into the experience of growing up with autism Now, though, Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay, a thirteen-year old Indian boy with autism, has written a remarkable book entitled Beyond the Silence: My Life, the World and Autism. It chronicles his experience suspended between two dreams. As a small child, Tito felt lost in an uncontrollable "flow of happenings" (5) and unmanageable sensations. He did not understand that his mother's moving lips had anything to do with her voice, or that the different parts of his own body were related. To defend against this agitating confusion, he dreamt of a staircase climbing ever higher, bringing him peace. By the end of his narrative, though, he dreams not of climbing staircases that go nowhere, but "of being an independent person one day capable of living . . . [his] own life" (76).
The latter dream began to supplant the former when Tito's parents took him to the Christian Medical College Hospital in Vellore for treatment. In its open spaces, his body felt scattered. Frightened, Tito tried to picture the soothing staircase, but could not. But why? He believes that his mother's efforts to teach him language made the difference. Communication had helped him forge connections with others and with the world. The dream of an independent life was still some ways off. Tito still could not hold a pencil and believed that his voice was a "distant substance" that he needed to find, collect and "put . . . inside his throat" (52). But, if, since then, Tito has picked up a pencil, spoken, and found a way to give voice to the still largely uncharted inner life of an autistic child, who would want to set a limit to his dreams for the future?
Copyright © 2002 by John Murchek
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Tuesday, 12-Jul-2005 14:46:14 EDT