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About the book



Update from Margaret Paton
March 2005

Quite a lot has happened to us since my husband died nearly eight years ago. We spent four years in Gerrards Cross, then a year in Kent, another year back in Gerrards Cross and we are now in Scotland where David and his brother Jeremy were born.

We are in fact now able to live wherever we wish rather than be tied by a workplace, since our home is in fact the place where we work, ‘we’ being myself and David with Jeremy and his wife in South Korea.

Just before my husband died, David had achieved his HND in Furniture Craftsmanship and a BTEC in Antique Furniture Restoration. This was a great gift to David senior, who was present at his graduation and also at Jeremy’s first full professional piano recital. It was a comfort to us that he had witnessed the fruits of his own labours and sacrifices.

It soon became clear, however, that David could not undertake full-time employment in the furniture industry. Although High Wycombe, just a few miles away from us, was supposedly a centre specialising in fine craftsmanship, most furniture makers of a high standard were struggling to maintain one-man businesses and many of the bigger firms were driven by competition—and probably greed—into unethical practices.

Although David does on occasion do small projects for friends, it has never been a viable full-time option, for a reason that has pervaded all his post-formal education and employment: he is always a victim of exploitation.

For this reason he took up care work and at the time of writing Paths was very satisfactorily employed in a care home doing all the things we were told he would never do: forming lasting and caring relationships with those outside of his own family, bringing his wonderful sense of humour to potentially stressful situations and his compassion to the problems of grief and bereavement, performing practical and even menial tasks without complaint and showing great gifts of consultation and creativity in his dealings with others.

It was not, however, to become a permanent situation because of the change of management and this has remained a constant consideration for him. As Alan Phillips so wisely and aptly described, it is not in the end the autistic syndrome which remains the core difficulty, but the attitudes of the society which surrounds our autistic offspring. The latter can, in fact, often not only adapt to the expectations of ‘normal’ humanity but enhance and bring deeper meaning to them.

David has high moral standards and an enormous capacity for self-sacrifice, but conflict and stress within his environment cause him to become exhausted to an extreme degree. He was also often the victim of what I would call verbal abuse, but which was probably just accepted as the norm.

Although he never officially had the appellation of ‘autistic’ at this time, because his ‘special needs’ categorization had been removed before he left school, people sensed, and still do, that he was different, if only in his willingness, his compassion and his purity, which they mistakenly identified as naivete. They simply took advantage, and it was because of this that we removed to Kent where we had friends and where he was offered another job. This in turn presented similar problems and I could not watch him suffer any longer. He handed in his notice and we went back to Gerrards Cross.

In the meantime, however, things had developed in another direction. David’s brother, Jeremy, had married a lovely Korean girl and, having a lot of varied talents, had gone into teaching English as a foreign language. He set up a web site which was so successful that it has now borne offspring and is their full-time occupation. For some time it was ours too, with myself developing scripts and grammatical material and David doing all my computer work.

David now works for me full time. Although for a time it meant some reduction in our income, the main web site is now supporting Jeremy & Hyun Ju in a good lifestyle and contributing to ours as well.

I have also, stimulated by David’s contribution and technological expertise which seem to come quite naturally to him, been able to develop my own literary work and produce more creative as well as educational materials. We have returned to Scotland for the time being, since my mother-in- law is in her 97th year and very ill.

In any case we needed to leave London for a while where I had also been doing educational work and needed to escape to somewhere where I was not within easy access! I was in danger of becoming indispensable! As far as I am concerned this is exactly what David is to me.

We do meet people who suggest that his attachment to myself and to the work he does is unhealthy and that he should ‘meet more people of his own age’, some misguidedly implying that he isn’t ‘working’. We have never worked so hard in our lives and he has plenty of friends in whose presence he can relax. We make a point of going out every day so that we have constant human contact and our circle of activity takes us well beyond the physical compass of the computer.

At the age of 30 I think he has the right to choose his own lifestyle. His physical reactions to technological exposure do have to be watched, but I have long been aware that it is the commercial input which can be harmful, not anything in which he is creatively involved.

We will almost certainly return south at some point, but we are needed here in Fife at the moment, not only because of the family as well as more formal work, but also for voluntary teaching work based on moral and spiritual educational courses.

David is wonderful with children, a great trombonist and I have no household maintenance problems! I have also discovered over a number of years that he has heightened susceptibilities towards people which are extremely useful. If David doesn’t trust someone I look at them twice. He hasn’t been wrong yet!

Above all, as Alan says, he is happy. I remember that when David was very small a clinical psychologist asked me what I wanted for him in life. It was a loaded question. She had judged me to be an academic and was expecting an academic answer. I confused her by saying, ‘I just want him to be happy.’ I can truly say that he now is. The tragedy, however, is that society has lost so much, not because of his inability to adapt, but because of its own.

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