Magazine article The Spectator

George and Sam

Magazine article The Spectator

George and Sam

Article excerpt

Scared of Christmas presents GEORGE AND SAM by Charlotte Moore, with an introduction by Nick Hornby Viking, £16.99, pp. 252, ISBN 067091441X

In this fascinating book about her two autistic sons Charlotte Moore describes what would be a nightmare life for most of us.

I'd like to be able to have a bath without anyhody else joining me in it ... to open my handbag without finding a bitten-off lipstick or a capless, leaking pen ... to leave a pot boiling on the stove while I answer the door, without finding that an ingredient I hadn't bargained for has been added in my absence ... to be able to watch television; usually I can't, because the boys go to bed late. I'd love to be ... secure in the knowledge that my sons are all safely and constructively occupied without my constant vigilance. But this is just how life is, and I don't waste time or energy fretting about it.

This last sentence sums up her robust lack of self-pity. George and Sam, who need 'constant supervision', are not toddlers but 11 and 13. Their father broke down after George's diagnosis at four and no longer lives with them. Moore's first baby, with no legs 'and only half an arm' was aborted.

Moore is remarkable in her ability to stare unpleasant facts in the face. She plainly adores George and Sam but does not romanticise them. Unhopeful of a cure, she states that, despite her sons' different characters, 'they are both autistic through and through'.

I have a son, 20, with Asperger's syndrome, far more articulate and able than George and Sam. Nevertheless, many of her boys' childhood traits are alarmingly familiar. Sam was obsessed with washing machines and oasthouses, my son, consecutively, with balloons, spiders and plants. Neither really played with toys. Moore describes George 'like a foreigner with a phrase book; he stored memorised sentences, and pulled out whichever seemed best fitted to the occasion'. …

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