I Don't Want to be Inside Me Anymore: Messages from an Autistic Mind.


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Sellin, Birger. I Don't Want to be Inside Me Anymore: Messages from an Autistic Mind. Translated by Anthea Bell, With an Introduction by Michael Klonovsky. New York: Basic Books, 1995. Originally Published in German by Verlag Kiepenheurer & Witsch, Koln, 1993. 227 pp. $22.00.This is a poignant and forceful addition to the growing body of literature by psychologically afflicted persons. But it is not just a first-hand account of the experience of affliction. It is poetry-immediate, raw, powerful. As the author writes in a prefatory statement: “now i am going to write a song about the joy of speaking... nails in forked branches are the instruments/i am singing the song from deep down in hell i am calling/out to all the silent people in this world....”Born in Germany in 1973, Sellin was diagnosed as autistic. A happy, outgoing baby, he retreated into total silence at the age of 22 months. By puberty he had developed increasingly bizarre and unruly behavior and was considered mentally retarded. When he was nearly 18, however, it was discovered that, with someone supporting his arm, he could type. He began to pour out thoughts and feelings (to “humanity without me”) that no one suspected he had or understood.Klonovsky, a journalist, was brought into contact with Sellin in 1992. As he studied what was known about the problem, he “discovered that autistic people, although they may be highly intelligent, live like prisoners in the dungeons of their own minds” (p. 2). He was stunned by Sellin's writings-as was I. So will any reader familiar with the withdrawn yet unpredictable behavior of persons with this affliction, seemingly epitomized by inarticulate agony, often revealed in repetitive, rocking behavior, screaming fits, and hitting and biting themselves. This was also Sellin, whose favorite place at home was underneath the dining table.The discovery of his writing ability did not come spontaneously. In early 1990, his parents heard, through American speech therapist Annegret Schubert, of the therapy known as facilitated communication. It was developed in 1977 in Australia by Rosemary Crossley of Melbourne. Today, although some controversy exists, facilitated communication is used worldwide, and its apparent success rate is high. As Klonovsky puts it, “it has helped many parents to receive news for the first time from the imprisoned minds of their autistic children.”This volume is recommended both for its clinical significance and the beauty of its contents. Sellin remains severely autistic, living with his family in Berlin. But he has, at least, opened a door to communication with others. As he writes to the Postscript:“dear readersthank you for getting right to the endfor persevering with my works...i am only a withoutme figure who has stepped out of the darknessof the autistic world to make contact with human citizens of your kind in the worldbut i cannot take part in your life because my world still holds me prisoner...your dark nonperson birger.”-E.B.B.

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