What is it like living with autism in a world made for others? With over one million Americans affected, autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disabilities today according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While early intervention services now exist for acclimating children with autism into school and society, it was only a generation ago that it was considered common to institutionalize anyone with autism.
The Children of Raquette Lake: One Summer That Helped Change the Course of Treatment for Autism (North Atlantic Books, April 2012) is an inspiring account of author Mira Rothenberg’s experience with eleven autistic and schizophrenic children during the summer of 1958. In order to find new approaches to treating them, Rothenberg, a trained psychologist, and her colleagues Zev Spanier and Tev Goldsman, decided to bring their young patients to an island in Raquette Lake, located in the Adirondack region of Northern New York. They proved that these children were both educable and treatable, and Rothenberg’s work helped change the standard treatment for autism throughout the world.
Many of Rothenberg’s patients exhibited signs of abuse and emotional trauma. On the island, Rothenberg, Spanier, and Goldsman discovered that by applying what was then an unconventional treatment of loving care and tolerance, their young patients improved and were able to heal many of the emotional and physical issues associated with their conditions. Written as a narrative journal that follows the children’s progress from week to week, The Children of Raquette Lake is interwoven with personal histories and fascinating case stories that demonstrate the healing power of the human heart. The book includes a never before published interview with Dr. Jeremy M. Silverman, notable professor of psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Director of the Mount Sinai Family Studies Research Center. A resource section for therapists and parents of autistic children makes the book especially practical for those that struggle with the disorder today.