By Peter Szatmari MD
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Additional info for A Mind Apart: Understanding Children with Autism and Asperger Syndrome
Out of breath, she asks, “Heather, what are you doing, honey? ” Hearing a voice she recognizes, the little girl turns around and looks up at the mother. The corners of her mouth turn up slightly. But there is no exuberant sense of pleasure at this unexpected meeting. It is as if this unnatural moment is the most normal thing in the world. ” She takes her daughter by the hand, just as she has done every day of Heather’s short Heather 19 life. The mother leads her daughter into the school and sends her off in the direction of her classroom.
The bell rings, and all the children begin to file in through the doors. The chaos in the schoolyard starts to resolve itself as two orderly lines form at the doors. A ribbon of children funnel through the en- 18 A MIND APART trance and are taken in by the warmth of the school. As the yard clears, the mother sees her daughter. Off to one side there is an old oak tree. All the leaves have fallen, and some of the branches are now dead. At the base of the tree, a young girl in a green coat and cap goes round and round the girth, with one hand on the bark and the other hand holding an old tattered bathing suit.
She carried them to school every day in her backpack, and perhaps now she was showing off the newest addition to her collection. Her friends were clearly very impressed, and I imagined that appreciative sounds were made about this character’s color or that figure’s shape. Heather was clearly proud to be the center of attention and eager to show off to her classmates. The bell rang, and she joined her friends as they lined up to go inside. There was some pushing and shoving in the line, but Heather patiently waited her turn, holding fast to her bathing suit as she filed into the school and out of my view.