Many years ogo I was visiting a school in Dover, Kent to make some stories with the pupils. I was using a method learned from Jack Zipes the distinguished American lecturer and author of many storytelling books. I would tell a story to all 26 children then ask them in groups of 6 to retell it back to me and the rest of the class but in a different style.
I described this to the class but the teacher took me to one side before I started and explained that one girl would be taking no notice of me at all and would not be creating with the others. “She’s not being rude, she has autism; it’s as if all around her is nothing but a dream. But she always wants to come to school, although she has never stood up nor spoken here in four years of attendance.”
The groups retold the story A Kingsdown Romance as a mini opera, as an MTV news bulletin, as a committee meeting of the local ‘Women’s Institute’ and lastly from the point of view of the mermaids family. This last group included the autistic girl who, during the retelling, stood up and made strange gestures in the air. The teacher had never seen her stand before and rushed forward. “What are you doing, dear?” “Hanging up starfish to dry of course,” was the halting reply. She had entered the story; somehow this old tale had penetrated her mental isolation. I felt like a gorilla who had found a surgeons tool bag; wonderful glittery things but how are they supposed to be used? Stories have been used as healing tools in some societies and here was I using them as mere diversions.
I would like to work with people showing symptoms of aspergers syndrome or autism again. Can anyone help?