Absorbed in mutual delight
Autism Diva recently published a blog about Gilles Tréhin and his partner Catherine Mouet. Both are autistic artists.
Giles has created a world called Urville. He has drawn over 200 detailed pictures of the city and written about its History, Geography, Economics and Culture.
He has recently published a book available from Jessica Kingsley.
Catherine's art is totally different. In this one, entitled Ratatouille, she explores all the possible colour combinations based on the four basic ingredients of ratatouille. but you really need to visit her website to appreciate the scope of her project and the range of her talent.
On Saturday, the Guardian published an interview with Gilles and Catherine, and Gilles parents – Chantel and Paul. The interviewer is Charlotte Moore, a talented writer and the mother of two autistic boys who are the subject of her book, George and Sam.
There are lots of delightful nuggets in the interview. Chantel has some good advice for parents everywhere.
"From 15 months, I knew he was different. But both Paul [Gilles' father] and I, even before Gilles' birth, liked people with different minds. So we always tried to see Gilles' good points, and help him make the most of them."
"We have learned not to make plans for him, but to accompany his progress instead of mapping his life." I
Gilles and Catherine are obviously exceptional human beings. But Gilles reminds us that
"There are no people without talents," he says. The talent supported by family and professionals can make inclusion in society a lot easier." He's excited about the benefits to both sides if neurotypicals can learn to accept and celebrate the "differently abled". "It is an historical chance which can make our society become more human."
Charlotte Moore finds that Gilles' altruism is surprising given that autists have difficulty with empathy. This is a common error in NTs who mistake self absorption for selfishness. Why should there be a connection between social cognition and moral values? There are plenty of NTs whose empathic sense is fully functional but who limit their altruism to a select band of family and friends. Charity begins at home as the saying goes. But where should it end?
This is a practical as well as a moral question. This Easter my wife and I spent a glorious day at Brantwood, the home of the great Victorian polymath, John Ruskin. He was so overwhelmed by the needs of the poor and felt that he had to do something. But he could never do enough and this drove him into periodic bouts of madness. But I am wandering now. Let us end with Charlotte Moore's last view of Gilles and Catherine.
When I turned to wave goodbye, they were on the down escalator, flinging their arms round each other, utterly absorbed in mutual delight.