Absorbed in mutual delight

Autism Diva recently published a blog about Gilles Tréhin and his partner Catherine Mouet. Both are autistic artists.

Pont des Investitures

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.

9 thoughts on “Absorbed in mutual delight

  1. Giles and Catherine, autistic? How could that be? Autistics are by definition cold and insular, unable to feel, empty shells, in need of immediate irradication – like so many plague rats carrying the autism plague. So many toxic waste sites in need of detoxing. (gah!) They are merely so many victims of the beneficial vaccine program.

    Thank you for this blog entry. I love these peeks at the lives of real, as opposed to imaginary, autistic people.

  2. Camille
    My very real autistic son is about to start a degree in countryside management. He celebrated his 21st birthday driving a 4×4 off road in the Lake District. He is a really cool guy and I love him.

  3. Now Ruskin on seeing John Bretts “Stonebreaker”, told the artist to go to the vale d’aosta to paint some more geology.

    Now do you know what, John Brett did, now hows that for taking things literally 🙂

    of course we all know what Ruskin said about St Michaels Spire ……….

  4. Personally I like Le Corbusier’s drawings of la Ville Radieuse.

    I’m not sure that Monsieur Jeanaret actually had empathy with the future inhabitants of Unite d’habitation, however a TV documentary some time ago reported that the inhabitants of Erno Goldfingers Trellick Tower quite liked it. However that is all modernism and we have surpassed that now.

    I am looking out at my own shining city tonight, orange lit all round. But all this must pass. I shall never have such a view from my window in times to come.

  5. Pingback: The Empathy Conundrum: Ethics, Emotion, and Autistic Cognition | Autism and Empathy

  6. Pingback: The Empathy Conundrum: Ethics, Emotion, and Autistic Cognition | Autism and Empathy

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