5th November 2004 at 00:00
LIVING IN THE SPECTRUM VOLUME 1: AUTISM AND ASPERGER. Mindscape Productions $16.95 (audio CD)

"You are much too marvellous, too marvellous for words..." The poetry, music and lyrics that open this American CD were produced by people living in (and with) the autistic spectrum. There are some heart-rending accounts by parents of their "peculiar" children and the problems they have had to overcome, although all attest to what they have gained; loving children for who they are, being made better by them, the "gift" of autism.

Experts on this engaging CD describe some of the more technical issues: hypersensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells, leads children with Asperger syndrome to prefer soft clothing, certain foods and to avoid smoke, bright lights and specific noises. Unable to read social and non-verbal clues, individuals with autism show a marked interest in cartoons because of the easy readability of the characters' expressions.

The coverage veers towards the phenomenal and the inspirational, such as gifted savant artists, rather than the day-to-day difficulties, which is where most families are stretched (communicating, sleeping, screaming, self-harming, feeding, dressing, travelling, resisting change). Not every resource crosses the Atlantic successfully, but this does just manage it.

Alec Webster

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