Thursday, June 02, 2016


No paradise for autistic children


This book is a very thrilling adventure book on a very serious subject.

Abel, the central character who is telling his own story, is around 12-13 at the time of these events. He at times speaks of the past and some documents are provided about his past. His mother ended in drug addiction and completely lost all mental control and consciousness. His father was killed by a truck in what we consider a road accident. Abel ends up in foster homes and finally at his aunt’s, an obese obnoxious person, violent and abusive both in the violent or cruel meaning and in the exploitative understanding of the word.

Abel apparently was the victim of some brain or skull trauma when very young that left him with some mental disorder which is very close to what we consider today to be the savant Asperger syndrome. He has all the symptoms of it: obsession with numbers, calculations and counting; photographic memory of anything he just sees once; difficult communication with other people; reluctance at touching and being touched, and yet a great fondness at petting dogs and animals; his ability at feeling empathy for people and even attaching himself to some people for reasons that are not really explained or explainable.

In his tremendous dire situation he comes across quite a few possibilities to develop his capabilities with codes and numbers, and yet that is always the initiative of one particular person who wants to help but is not really in charge of his future, of his everyday life. He thus is excused from regular education and is set in some personalized library program with a tutor who just follows his work and improvement. That is in a way a good thing. But he has to accept to live with his tyrannical aunt and it turns dramatic if not tragic with his 15 year old cousin who gets pregnant and the aunt is at least irritated by the prospect of taking care of her daughter and grandchild.

He develops some friendships: with a boy his age, Russell (like Bertrand of course), and with an old man, his son and his son’s Vietnamese wife who are taking care of a service station. He works odd jobs here and finds some peaceful time. He also come across a lot of music and becomes an encyclopedia on popular music, hence his Nickname Juke, short for Jukebox. But he has, sooner or later, to run away from this life and he finds out that every single time he tries and meets someone on the road or along the way, no matter how benevolent these persons are, they will end up calling social services not to risk being caught up for child abduction or who knows what else. And he will end up in some kind of detention in a center for boys or in foster homes. His qualities, his needs and even his desires, hopes and dreams are not taken into account. The question that comes up is: Who is ever going to care for such a lost in a way spoiled fruit? And the answer is NO ONE.

The end thus is logical and he will take care of himself till he is of age, and even so he will have to be on the run all the time though he will always find in public libraries some resources available to him provided he does not ask for personal help and does not enter into detail about himself. To be happy he has to remain hidden behind a whole Berlin Wall or Iron Curtain of lies.

The book then is interesting about how autism is qualified as what it really is: a different brain, mental and cerebral functioning but it can be highly productive. Unluckily our present society either puts them away in some social service that looks like a social trashcan for children who do not fit the standard norms, or that reduces them to some kind of collecting device, devices that can gather a lot of data but their ability to process that data is totally overlooked, negated or even rejected as probably dangerous, or even a fake.

The book then is an excellent tool to understand that we are all different, and autistic people are not monsters or should not be social refuse or reject but they are different and they have to be integrated in our society as soon as possible after birth so that they can develop their capabilities and not be locked up in some kind of incurable handicap. The book shows society can only become better if we consider people in their diversity and in the case of autistic people their neurological diversity that some people call neuro-diversity.

Bill Gates considers that a company like Microsoft and society as a whole can only really improve towards more humanity if it targets what he calls “inclusive diversity.” It is not enough to claim we accept diversity (ethnic, racial, sexual, gender, religious, national, or whatever other differences we can come across in life). It is essential to practice the inclusion of all these diverse people on full equal footing in everyday life, be it professional, social, personal, cultural or whatever other level.

Let me clearly conclude by saying the following: if we don’t advocate this inclusive diversity the people who will be elected to the top jobs in our society will be the demagogues, the populist politicians, the worst most violent power mongers that will turn into warmongers at any moment when they will have to take a decision of any importance.


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