The life story of Jeanne Simons, whose own autism informed her pioneering work with autistic children.
Jeanne Simons devoted her career as a social worker to the study, treatment, and care of children with autism. In 1955, she established the Linwood Children's Center in Ellicott City, Maryland, one of the first schools especially for pupils with autism anywhere in the world. Her Linwood Model, developed there, was widely adopted and still forms the basis for a variety of autism intervention techniques. Incredibly—although unknown at the time—Jeanne was herself autistic.
Behind the Mirror reveals the remarkable tale of this trailblazer and how she thought, felt, and experienced the world around her. With moving immediacy, Jeanne tells her life story to developmental psychologist, friend, and collaborator Sabine Oishi, describing various adaptive strategies and coping mechanisms she developed to help control challenging behaviors associated with autism. Reflecting on her early years, she explains how she cognitively retreated behind a metaphorical one-way observational mirror, suppressed her panic when overwhelmed by emotional relationships, and followed self-imposed obsessive rituals to maintain emotional stability—all of which fit into what we now classify within a broad autism spectrum diagnosis. It was Jeanne who first showed a skeptical psychiatric community, including her mentor and collaborator, Leo Kanner, who first identified the syndrome in a group of his patients, that autistic children could be successfully treated if sensitively engaged. Her keen insight into her own behavior enabled her to help hundreds of children with autism at Linwood and elsewhere.
In each chapter, Jeanne's unique experience is supplemented by commentary from Dr. Oishi, who explains the importance of key biographical details and fills in additional information about the diagnosis and treatment of autism. Enhanced with a photo gallery, a look at new approaches to the education of children with ASD, and a history of Linwood since its founding, the book also contains a foreword, an afterword, and an appendix by James C. Harris, MD, the director of child psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the founder of its autism clinic. Demystifying the experience of autism, Behind the Mirror is a groundbreaking account of possibilities and hope.
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