Published on November 10, 2007
By David Cohen
'Idle speculations that characterise autism as a fashionable accoutrement of the artist do a disservice to a serious malady.'
'Barely a generation ago, autism was thought to be so rare that clinicians did not even have a name for it. It is now widely recognised as a genetically based malady affecting language, behaviour, imaginative ability and empathy – but there are still people keen to invest this spectrum of disorders with their own unscientific narratives.'
'My own view, as the parent of a severely autistic child, a lover of books and a journalist who spent the better part of four years looking at autism around the world, is that idle literary speculations deserve a lower billing than serious scientific investigations or concrete proposals for fine-tuning what public awareness there is, not least within the literary set itself. Janet Frame is dead. The envoy from the mirror city is no longer with us, but the inhabitants of the autistic city remain everywhere – bafflingly, mysteriously, alone.
(David Cohen is the author of A Perfect World - a study of autism.)