One beautiful hot summer’s morning an enthusiastic teacher said to her Key Stage 2 class: ‘Isn’t this a beautiful day! It’s so good to be alive!’
‘Except for dogs,’ said Jack, morosely.
‘Dogs?’ the teacher asked, puzzled and somewhat irritated at having been interrupted, and in such a deflating way.
‘Yes, dogs,’ said Jack. ‘Don’t you know that a lot of people leave them locked in cars, especially on hot sunny days, and they can get very ill that way.’
This was typical of Jack. His view of the world was really very distinctive, and seldom shared by those around him. And in spite of his morose responses on those occasions, he always seemed at his happiest when he was in that world of his. For Jack the subject of animals was his central preoccupation. No matter what the subject in hand was Jack would be drawn to making a connection between it and animals; no matter how convoluted, tenuous, or plain bizarre the connection was. Unfortunately, it was very hard to interest him in anything which for him did not relate to animals. This made communicating with Jack difficult. Teachers, his parent and peers could never be sure that they were on the same ‘wavelength’ as Jack. They might think they were having a conversation with him about the weather, but Jack’s half of the conversation was about animals. In fact so long as Jack was able to indulge his obsession with animals he did not appear to be interested in communicating with others—unless the communication was to do with animals.
The social implications of this were illustrated when Jack was taken with class-mates on a trip to London Zoo. His excitement at the prospect was almost tangible. For weeks leading up to this trip Jack plagued his teachers with the question: ‘How long will it be until the trip to the Zoo?’ On the day of the event Jack and the rest of the group arrived at the zoo where they were introduced to Mr Taylor. He proved to be an excellent guide (and just what the Head of the school had asked for): patient, understanding, and able to connect with a group of students some of whom could be