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DAVID'S STORY - the story of an autistic man betrayed and abused by the very people who were supposed to protect and help him.

I was born on 22nd July, 1962, at the end of a thirty-six hour labour which - according to my mother - left possibilities for some extent of hypoxic brain damage to occur. She tells me I was never a "normal" baby. At the age of ten months, I took a fit which, she says, was described in such a way as to have been an epileptic convulsion. Following this fit, my mother tells me that I withdrew totally. My medical records state that I did not, at three years of age, speak very well ("rather slow in talking"); that I was "easily frightened" and "would not play with other children in the neighbourhood". Additionally, at this time, the paediatrician (Dr. C. S. Livingstone, of Wakefield General Hospital) said he felt that I was "more of a psychological problem" and that he would see me again in six months of that letter. Nothing further is in my records from then - March 1966 - to December 1968, when I was referred to Dr. John Orme... a psychiatrist in Barnsley, United Kingdom, where my family lived.

John Orme was told, by Anne M. Gill (Departmental Medical Officer) that my mother was "very anxious" about me - "history of aggression", "twitching of face" and "occasional withdrawal into a world of fantasy" were mentioned. I was seen by him in January 1969, when he wrote to the Divisional Medical Officer (Dr. C. G. Oddy, who was based in Division 25 of the West Riding Public Health Service in Yorkshire), that it was difficult to assess my abilities at first meeting. He told Dr. Oddy that I was not doing very well at school, and that I was on the slow table at school (although, despite this, I appear to have given him a detailed description of the flight round the moon which had recentcly occurred). Dr. Orme went on to say that I wrote music, and had various other interests far in advance of my age. The fantasy world was mentioned, and related - by Orme, through the lack of understanding by adults of my fantasies - to the aggression. He finished off by describing me as an "unusual child" and noted that my mother found it difficult to understand me. His last line on this letter was:

"We shall be looking into these problems more carefully and hope to help him and his mother to make full use of his abilities"

I have obtained copies of some of the notes made by Orme at the start of his involvement with my case. This is what he said about my mother:
"Mother reassured (by Livingstone) that things normal, but now anxiety due to an excess of emotional expression (i.e., tantrums)" ... my paratheses.
"A woman with strong feelings of inferiority and inadequacy. Maybe convinved herself she couldn't have normal child - being extension of herself. Responsibility of baby, especially first child - strong ambivalence - guilt."

About me, he wrote:
"As a baby... seems to have been either retarded or withdrawn."
"Highly developed sophisticated fantasy life - living different roles, etc. Cause of great anxiety to mother."
"Destructive but not in temper... i.e., acting out fantasy
Destructive in constructive way... i.e., dismantling toys out of curiosity"
"(However) from mother's descriptions David does seem to be confused sometimes by reality and fantasy. No doubt schoolwork is a poor substitute for his rich inner life, and sounds to be behind somewhat scholastically. If he is of high intelligence then problem at school may be of understimulation."

By July 1969, these notes still refer to the fantasy life, and say that "mother not reading anything sinister now". I wonder what he meant by that. But, after this time, there are no more notes submitted until 1975, save for notes - very rough ones - which say little ("... admits he doesn't play with anyone"); nothing then until 1975 - March that year...
"Better since outburst, but problem is his lack of awareness of people around him, his eccentricities and 'no-one can get through to him and he can not give out adequately."
"He is seen as an eccentric"... April 1975. "Quiet but cheerful. has been withdrawing from family a bit, and this makes everything calmer, but he seems quite happy"... May 1975.
"Admits he is doing badly at school. Is withdrawn from others at home and at school; contact annoys him as it disrupts what he is thinking about, but he cannot describe his fantasy. Very rigidly thinking still about aeroplanes."... July 1975.

My parents accepted that view of me, and were "very anxious because of my increasing withdrawal at rigidness in (my) approach to life". I was prescribed chlorpromazine at quite a high dose for a child. By December 1971, I had been tested by a psychologist... this was the start of a travesty! This individual put my difficulties down to "motivational and emotional factors"; I had a full scale IQ of 129, which put me in the "superior" range of ability. My reading attainment was said to be good, with a reading quotient of 153.

Things had not improved by 1974 (January), and a report was done by the LEA's Education Welfare Officer:
"A boy of high intelligence who has difficulty in committing himself to written work, is easily distracted by household noises, shuts himself away in his room at home....
Referred to Dr. Orme from Royston Junior School. Seen by Dr. Murray who suggested hypnotic treatment.... "

Still nothing seems to have been done at all... the next note is a letter to Mr. T. Brooks - the Education Officer for Barnsley - from the Head of Lower School, Normanton Grammar School (where I had been hanged at the school gates, and not a thing was done about it, except that when my parents withdrew me from the school, they were asked by Mrs. Bedford not to say anything about the incident so as not to besmirch the good name of the school). This letter covered a report - not very detailed - which read thus:
"Although David is a boy of considerable ability he finds it extremely difficult to express himself in writing which prevents him achieving his full potential. He is a quiet introvert who is being made increasingly unhappy partly through his failure to succeed in his work, and partly by the attitude of his contemporaries.
There is no doubt that he is 'different' from the average thirteen year old boy and in consequence is subjected to a certain amount of (what would seem to anyone else) relatively mild teasing but David seems to be quite incapable of learning to live with this.
The situation is now such that he is loathe to come to school and on a number of occasions recently has made himself physically ill with fear."
My family doctor - in February 1975 - wrote to Dr. Orme requesting advice and seeing me regarding school problems, and notes "... unable to write for any length of time although he has the knowledge" (Dr. J. Brown). The reply (25th Feb. 1975) was not a brilliant piece of work:
"Thank you for asking me to see this boy whom I visited on 18th Feb. He was previously known to me when he first went to school when there were problems of his fitting into the group situation because of his eccentric manner and tendency to live in a fantasy world. He was found to be above average in intelligence but testing was difficult because of his verbal fantasies.
He is now at NormantonGrammar School where he is capable of doing the work but has great difficulty in write. He is very sensitive to teasing and is the object of a lot of derision because of his eccentricities. Recently he has developed extreme anxiety reactions with panic attacks, vomiting, etc."

He asked the psychologist (Mr Dennis Young, of Barnsley Education Department) to examine me, had the doctor keep prescribing chlorpromazine, and kept me on at the Child Guidance Clinic for "further investigation". By June, 1975, Dennis Young was saying that my writing difficulties were "largely emotional rather than due to any marked specific learning difficulty".

I have to tell you here that the British Psychological Society had, for a long time, banished the word "dyslexia" (a "specific learning difficulty") from its vocabulary - probably on the instigation of the fraudulent Sir Cyril Burt, whose ideas on dyslexia were such that, after his investigation in 1921, the condition (congenital word-blindness, as it was known then) was not included in the training of educational psychologists or teachers.

All educational psychologists have to have a recognised degree... recognised by BPS... whose one-time-president was Burt, whose attitude to left-handedness was that "it wasn't because the child couldn't use the right hand - it was because s/he wouldn't!" This statement is incitement to child abuse! And a professional organisation that allowed such a person to be its president has, in my view, some responsibility for the systematic abuse of dyslexic-dyspraxic, autistic and left-handed children in schools all over the United Kingdom.

The BPS Clinical Division also forbade the use of that same word, and the constant practice of psychologists was in putting writing difficulties down to emotional and motivational disorders.

John Orme wrote to my family doctor on 8th July, 1975, saying:
"I am afraid that David is not doing terribly well although his overt behaviour seems less abnormal. He has become much more withdrawn and is extremely rigid in his attitudes.
He finds it extremely difficult to concentrate on his school work because of the way thoughts will not stay on the subject in hand and his results at school have been very poor in recent months.
I am afraid he may be developing a schizophrenic disorder and in the long run I am hoping to get him into a psychiatric unit for adolescents. Meanwhile I think it might be worth putting him on Largactil (chlorpromazine) again so I would be grateful if you could prescribe this... 25 mg t.d.s."

He goes on to mention that he has discussed with my parents the question of my being admitted to such a place, and that they had all agreed not to mention it to me until a suitable vacancy had been found. However, my parents do not recall what would have obviously been a serious conversation about any of this.. not the schizophrenia question, nor the hospital admission question. It appears that Dr. Orme may well have been lying with intent to deceive. This is a criminal offence of fraud.

After this, Orme goes on to note my characteristics... his own notes mention the following:
"... still very aloof and unreactive with others... "
"... mother accepts that the problems are in David and that he will have problems where ever he goes... "
"... mother's concern over continuing personality patterns... largely his lack of bonding... no real friends... his unrealistic attitudes... tendency to show off in immature ways when under any stress... difficult relationships, difficulty expressing himself in writing but high verbal ability, difficulty in maths and lack of help at Royston Secondary Modern... "

In May, 1977, Orme says, in a letter to my family doctor, "You will have heard that David has been getting increasingly tense and disturbed... I shall continue to see him regularly".

He didn't.

I have also a copy of a report by Dennis Young, Educational Psychologist in Barnsley at the time I was at school there. He says this:
Handwriting In my opinion David has no fundamental difficulties with his handwriting. At the centre he was able to write dictated passages with adequate speed and legibility. It is worth noting too that when his spelling was tested by means of Schonell A the most difficult words were written down quickly and legibly as well as accurately.

His writing in a freer situation was far less satisfactory. Examination of a sequence of short essays suggests a progressive relaxation of standards rather than a basic difficulty. The last of the series contained phrases in capitals in an attempt at dramatic effect or to mark facetious asides - very much the style of a much younger child writing entirely for his own amusement.

Writing As for his writing in the wider sense of the term, the content and structure of his essays certainly do not match ability as measured by intelligence tests: they are no better than those of an average 11-year-old pupil.
Discrepancies of this kind are also observable in other children and, by general principle, they are not to be assumed to be remediable but consideration of several aspects of David's behaviour suggests that the discrepancy in his case may not be due so much to a lack of ability in this specific field as much as a consequence of his personality difficulties.
In brief I think that he is having learning problems which are quite wide and that his writing reflects in a more obvious way what is observable in his conversation. This does not strike me as being that of a 12-1/2 year-old pupil in the top 5% of the population. His interest both in aeroplanes and in astronomy for example seems to result in little more than a knowledge of names (of aeroplanes consellations). There is little evidence that he has acquired an intelligent grasp of ideas that need a degree verbal subtlety for their manipulation. His reading seems very limited even in his fields of interest and that his reading of more technical texts is used to feed fantasy rather than for knowledge and insight. His current obsession is that he wants to build a real aeroplane from canes and kitchen foil. (Parents confirm this).
His mother describes him as "undisciplined" and his father relates how he refuses any systematic guidance. For instance he wanted to use his father's lathe but he didn't want to be told how.
I suggest therefore that David's neurotic reactions to "writing" do not in the first place derive from difficulties in expression so much as a lack of systematic knowledge and insight, and that the lack of satisfactory expression either oral or written is a straightforward consequence. That the neurotic have become associated with writing rather than oral expression is of course quite understandable. It is in that situation that the defects of his thinking become apparent.
If this analysis is correct it is difficult to see what practical measures might be taken - short of psychotherapy aimed at encouraging more realistic attitudes."

Eventually, after a long time, I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome - which is the way that a number of the children seen by Kanner turned out to be. Asperger Syndrome is autism of a particular type. This is what Dr. El Sherbini says in a letter to my last General Practictioner:
"I will not go into the details of his previous history as it is well documented in previous communications and I am sure that you are familiar with his background history by now. David clearly suffers from Asperger Syndrome."
He recognises the dyslexia (more than Mr. Young did), but still fails to accept that I am autistic:
"The dyslexia component he finds difficult to handle as he is unable to get on with his work properly. As you say in your letter he believed himself to be autistic and I spent a long time persuading him that this is not the case...."

In fact, he spent ten minutes with me trying to tell me that even if I was autistic when I was a child - which IS the case - that I am not anymore. I terminated the "help" since it was not helping me... I feel that it was aimed at discouraging me from following up a legal case I intended to take against the Health Authority. If you are an autistic child you always become an autistic adult unless you get killed in adolescence.

The reason I have written this article is because I was denied the proper diagnosis as a child, and therefore denied the proper help for my condition and I suffered a great deal of institutionalised child abuse from all parties involved - the Barnsley Education Department, the Barnsley Health Authority and the Barnsley Social Services. It is my contention that the reason for this denial was money... nothing more. My claim against these people was quite efficiently scuppered by Prof. Digby Tantam of Sheffield University.

My beliefs in this matter are as follows:

I am, and will remain whilst ever I am not recompensed for my troubles (which have been great), a very angry man. Because of the negligence and intransigence of the Barnsley Education Department, the Barnsley Health Authority and the Barnsley Social Services, I have suffered enormously… a suffering which has had a pervasive effect upon my life, in a number of ways - not least of which is the vulnerability I am still left with.