Section: MEDIA REVIEW
THROUGH THE GLASS WALL:
A Therapist's Lifelong Journey to Reach the Children of Autism
by Howard Buten, M.D.
Over the past decade, autism--a complex, innate neurodevelopmental disorder--has become a world-wide epidemic and has received enormous attention from the medical community and from the media. Dr. Buten, a pioneer in autism research study, a best-selling novelist in Europe and an internationally known performance artist, has devoted the last 20 years to helping those afflicted with the most severe forms of autism. In this deeply moving memoir, he describes his remarkable approach to breaking through the barrier of autism to bring a seemingly unreachable person into the world.
Autism differs significantly from one autistic person to another, from one psychological evaluation to another, from one brain scan to another, and from one genetic profile to another. Through anecdotes and case studies, Dr. Buten journeys through the mind of an autistic individual to explain the disorder and some of- his controversial approaches to treatment.
According to Dr. Buten, "the distinguishing descriptive criterion for autism is the presence of this invisible wall that most distinguishes autism from other handicaps and pathologies, and the reason for which autism has often been classified as a communication disorder." He goes on to explain "I must confess that I have never encountered, even among the most extreme cases, a single autistic person with whom I could not communicate at all, a single autistic person whom I did not, in the end, consider to be 'good company.'"
Founder of the Adam Shelton Center in Paris in 1997, Dr. Buten has worked with a myriad of autistic children and throughout the book he introduces us to some of his patients and the various modes of-therapy used to treat each. One therapeutic device created by Dr. Buten is callrd reciprocal imitation, the act of imitating an autistic person in order to create communication and connection. According to Dr. Buten, "Playing a therapeutic character is not a matter of 'becoming someone else'.... It is a matter of calling up certain parts of our own true personalities--parts that we might not call upon often-and putting them to work in the service of someone else."
In his book Dr. Buten not only successfully explains how he broke through the glass wall, but he also shatters myths and long-held scientific theories behind this mysterious, confusing disorder.