11 months ago



Stephen 15 Susan Sontag

Stephen 15 Susan Sontag has written about how certain diseases that are mysterious and cannot be treated easily have unwittingly and often inappropriately become metaphors for the human condition: the plague, tuberculosis, syphilis, cancer, and, more recently, AIDS. That is because each disease is also an illness, a presentation in the world, and is associated with a predicament that is unique to every affected person. Autism is not so general a metaphor, but what is so tragic is that the impairments in social interaction, in communication, and in play strike at the very heart of what it means to be a child. After all, childhood is about playing with other children, being looked after by adults, learning to talk, and experiencing the pleasures of communicating and exploring the environment in all its diversity. Childhood is about play, fantasy, and creativity within a world of other people. Autism limits the capacity to develop these to the fullest, and the process derails development onto a somewhat different pathway. What I hope to show in this book is that while this derailment is tragic and produces considerable suffering for the family, it also carries with it the capacity to see the world in a way that has its own value. Within the disability, there is a focus on the intimate architecture of the world. There is an innate capacity to see that architecture without the use of metaphors that may obscure what is seen, so that it may be truly appreciated.

A Heather Mind Apart Chapter 2 Heather A World That Revolves around a Different Axis Walking through the old neighborhood, you can hear the children’s shouts before the schoolyard comes into view. The sounds cut the morning air like metal striking metal. It is a cold November day, and the trees, now bereft of leaves, are stark against the sky. The clouds are a monochrome gray, and no shadows are cast by the movement of the young mother as she walks into town to do her shopping. She thinks about walking past the schoolyard, knowing it’s time for recess. Perhaps she can catch a glimpse of her daughter, wave to her, give her a smile and the confidence to work hard in class. Her daughter is six years old, and the separation each morning as Heather is bundled off to school is still difficult. To see her would be a brief moment of pleasure stolen from the inevitable process of growing up and moving on. But she does not want to be a distraction, to pull her daughter away from her playmates. The mother imagines her daughter skipping rope or playing tag with the kids. Heather is still new to the school, and there have been many problems. Perhaps it’s best not to know, to turn down the other corner and go straight into town. But the lure of seeing the tiny figure in the distance is too great, and with a mixture of longing and foreboding the mother turns up the street toward the playground. Now the children’s shouts are louder, almost deafening. There is a long chain-link fence that cuts the schoolyard off from the street, either to protect the children from strangers or, more likely, to try to contain 16

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