Friday, April 04, 2008

Autistic Rebellion in a 1930s German School

I've been trying to translate Hans Asperger's 1944 description of 'autistic personality' from German so I can read it. It's difficult, but already I've discovered interesting things about his first case, Fritz V. In many ways, Fritz V sounds like me, only more autistic. He was a clumsy boy, slow and awkward at self-care skills, but said his first word at 10 months and spoke 'like an older' (I think they mean older child). One big difference between us is his ADHD-like behavior - he was noisy, grabbing everything and interested in everything.
What is most interesting to me is his school problems (if you know German, please tell me if I've mistranslated).

"Er war von der Schule eingewiesen: schon am 1. Tage des Schulbesuches hatte sich gezeigt, dass er 'vollkommen schulunfähig' sei." [The school said he was 'perfectly unteachable' after 1 day of attendance.]

"Von klein auf machte er die ärgsten Erziehunsschwierigkeiten; er fügte sich keinem Befehl, tat einfach, was er wollte, oder das gerade Gegenteil des Befohlenen." [From when he was small, he had behavior problems at school; when given a command, however simple, he would do as he pleased or the opposite of what he was told.]

"'sie reizen ihn nur auf', er wird immer gleich aggressiv, schlägt mit allem zu, was er gerade erreicht, ohne Rücksicht, ob er andere ernstlich gefährdet (einmal mit einem Hammer)" ['he just provokes people', he always became aggressive, had no concern for the safety of others (once with a hammer)]

His school problems are much more severe than mine were, but if I'd been attending a 1930s German school, I'd probably have acted the same way. It sounds like he was in full blown rebellion right from the very first day. The school's comments sound like things my teachers might have said about me. In fact, my teachers actually called me unteachable, though not on my very first day. (My father says "she may be unteachable, but boy can she learn!")
It's odd, I'm noticing something I also saw in Leo Kanner's article - they mention things that I know to be true in autistics I've met, but which are either not thought of nowadays or the opposite is considered typical. Supposedly, Asperger Syndrome kids are usually rulebound and trying to be obediant - their disobediance is due to misunderstanding the command, and they'll often try to enforce the rules on other children. They should do very well in a highly controlled school like the 1930s German schools. I'm not like that, and neither is Fritz V. Like me, Fritz V seems to vehemently resist being controlled.
By the way, once I've finished translating it, I'll put it up on the net. Before then, I might put up a text version of the original, so it's easier to Babelfish it.

I've translated more of it, and even more than Fritz V, Harro L's reaction to school reminds me of myself:

"Er geht während des Unterrichts aus der Bank, kriecht auf allen Vieren in der Klasse herum." (He leaves his desk during instruction and crawls around on the floor.)

I've never heard of anyone else who did that before! I thought I was the only one!

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Blogger Liesl said...

"My father says "she may be unteachable, but boy can she learn!"

LOVE that!

2:24 PM  
Blogger Ivan said...

what is the next disability blog carnival topic?

let me know as soon as possible so I can start writing something.....takes me a while and I enjoyed participating in the last one.....


Ivan of athenivanidx

9:36 AM  
Blogger Heike Fabig said...

I think the sentence 'sie reizen ihn nur auf' means 'people only provoke him' rather than 'he just provokes people'. If it was the latter, it would say 'Er reizts sie nur auf'


5:47 PM  

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