Book Review – George and Sam by Charlotte Moore

Published in 2003, George and Sam is a record of family life with two autistic boys, hugely different from one another, along with one “neurotypical” child. Charlotte Moore, the boys’ mum, is an excellent writer, a writer first (with an Observer column), who has a wealth of home experience to talk about. Her recollections are funny, touching and extremely thought provoking, for parents and therapists alike.

Her descriptions of her boys define the range of autistic behaviours that I have experienced in practice. Like many of the parents of autistic children that I have worked with, she is forever worrying about what makes for ‘normal’ and trying to minimise her children’s stress. She doesn’t want them ‘stimming’ all day, but she also doesn’t want them to be ‘programmed’ to the hilt, or to have empty lives.

One aspect of the book is her description of the various therapies and approaches that she tried with the boys. These included:

  • Auditory Integration Therapy – which she says was helpful for George, but not for Sam. Her reference gives www.auditoryintegration.net for this, but that doesn’t seem to be up anymore – try here instead.
  • Applied Behavioural Analysis – which she says she wishes she’d started earlier for both of the children. There is more information at www.peach.org.uk. She also calls it ‘Verbal Behaviour Therapy’
  • Dietary intervention – the GF/CF diet, for which the main reference given is the Luke Jackson book.
  • She often mentions the ‘central coherence’ model, which is the rationale behind the ‘Visualising and Verbalising’ programme.

My interests are naturally on the linguistic side, and as such we have in this book some brilliant, sparkling gems of autistic thought and language such as the following.

George’s obscure lyricism:

  • What have you been doing today George? ‘Watching the shadows dance’ (music and movement session).
  • George, pulling out the slimy slice of dill pickle from a hamburger and saying ‘mum, this is my conscience’.

George’s fantastically intelligent delayed echolalia:

  • Pointing at his mum and saying ‘she was a wonderful writer, artist and countrywoman’ – picked straight out of a Beatrix Potter biopic.
  • Saying ‘he jumped into the bath with a tremendous splash’ as he did exactly that.

Sam’s habit of spotting visual correspondences:

  • Regarding a plate of tagliatelle, he said ‘I like seatbelts, mmm, ‘licious’.

Literal interpretations running wild.

  • Charlotte eventually came to the conclusion that one of the reasons George was not eating was because adults were telling him that eating food would make him big and strong. He did not want to change at all.

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