Nicola Aloisi, Silvia Cimarelli, Chiara Mangiarotti
Fondazione Martin Egge Onlus
At the Martin Egge Onlus Foundation, each operator follows individually the child or young person; receives the parents, with whom makes periodic meetings; maintains a constant relationship with the teachers and the world of the school and with other reference figures of the Local Health Services. While each one works individually, there is always present on the horizon the practique à plusieurs as a reference device to a third element, people or things in praesentia or absentia that can tangle around the subject a network of desire. The treatment aims, as Eric Laurent writes, to construct “for subjects with no boundaries and no edge […] a singular chain that amalgamates signifiers, objects, actions and ways of doing, in order to construct a circuit that fulfills a function of edge and of drive circuit.”
Three clinical vignettes on three children who have come to us already diagnosed as Asperger, written respectively by Nicola Aloisi, Carlo, Silvia Cimarelli, Samuel, and by Chiara Mangiarotti, Alberto, illustrate our way of operating:
Carlo arrives with a card of presentation, botany, theme around which he works: a herbarium, PowerPoint presentations. He is very distressed in relation to sickness and death and, among plants, he gives privilege to the poisonous ones. In middle school, he is isolated and exhausted due to his difficulty to find a place in a very competitive class. Even if it has been tried, it was not possible to make a network with the teachers. During our encounters, Carlo proposes to me some games that he has invented himself, a puzzle by which he evaluates me: he tests me to verify if I could be a partner for him. The school environment does not allow him to reach a pacification, a fundamental passage to be able to pass from a particular knowledge to a more general knowledge. Carlo carries out an unequal battle; he does not realize that he is the one that always talks and annoys the others, alienating them.
When Carlo went to high school, we agreed with the parents that he could have a support teacher for, on the one hand, helped him relieve the pressure on performance and, on the other hand, mediate with the other boys to help him perform a better socialization in an environment that welcomes and values him. Collaborating with the support teacher, we have placed his difficulties and, above all, we have highlighted his strengths, establishing strategies that can help Carlo find a place where his particular knowledge is taken into account. We established, for example, that when Carlo intervenes during class time, the teacher would respond, as to everyone, if the question he asks is inherent in the lesson; however, if this is related to themes outside the subject, they could then deepen them together at the end of the class. In the course of these years – now Carlo is enrolled in 3rd. Year, he is doing very well and all the classmates appreciate him – a network has been consolidated between the teachers, the parents and myself, that has enabled Carlo to be less distressed and also to be able to access to a more general knowledge. In our meetings he no longer try to test myself; On the contrary, he is proud to share his new interests with me: Minecraft, a video game through which he builds virtual landscapes and, especially in the last period, Plants Against Zombies. Carlo defines this game as “the most beautiful game in the world”; in which, he explains to me, the plants, with which he identifies himself, destroy the zombies that threaten the Earth. Now botany no longer carries death, but, on the contrary, destroys it.
Samuel does very well in school – runs the fifth year of elementary school – but he is very sad because the classmates do not consider him. “A boy told me that they do not want to be with me because I talk a lot and just what interests me.” He would like to make friends but he says, “Some are bullies, they push me”.
The first period of work has focused on an articulated treatment of the body and language. At first, I followed the interest of the boy by the armor of knights and superheroes, mainly in his taste for endorsing armor (shields, armor). I followed his directions, almost like a dressmaker, to build some cuirasses that he liked. He intended to get everything “fast and right now!”, but I was a bit slow. It was thanks to his interest in these objects and to my calculated slowness that he allowed himself to take some breaks in his continuous and speedy manner of speaking, to help me do the work precisely.
One day Samuel arrives manifesting a new passion, wants to play You Ghi Ho. He begins to speak without pauses and in an irrepressible way of the movements of the game in a very particular and incomprehensible “language” (that of the code of the players or “duelists” of You Ghi Ho). Also his body is taken by the jouissance in this blah, blah unstoppable: he runs through my office from side to side imitating the acrobatic movements and special effects of this game in its electronic version. He speaks only of this; Then, I associate with his language You Ghi Ho picking up some loose pieces, without understanding almost nothing of what he said. For example, as a beginner in this game, I ask for help in understanding how “duels”, Monster, and Trap cards work.
Samuel recognizes that he is a very good “duelist” in the virtual game, but – he tells me – he is sad because in the real game (with the table cards) he cannot beat even his little brother. When the opponent surprises him with the “Trap” or “Magic” cards, he blocks, loses “life points” and becomes sad.
Intervention: While he is teaching me to play, I ask him how his avatar does in the virtual game to overcome surprises.
He replies: “It’s simple, he leaves the powerful cards covered and then I use them to beat the cards ‘Trap’, but with the ‘real cards’ I do not succeed, I like to make them see.” I conclude the session here by saying: “Let us evoke the avatar to help!”
The next time Samuel returns contentedly. In fact, he tells me that he has recovered the “life points”. He tells that during the game of You Ghi Ho with another child, he has made playing as an “undercover agent”, at his post, an avatar. “So I managed to cover the powerful cards!” He says. By means of this invention, he has managed the jouissance, in order to be able to gain a certain satisfaction.
I note that Samuel first related only to the imaginary side of the avatar: he touched or painted the figure of the character on the screen of the electronic game. In other words, he “personalized” it, for example, drawing it with reddish hair, as he wanted to dye himself. But after my intervention, he managed to recover some of the strategic functions that the avatar (mainly “cover”, “pretend”) supported, from which it could only be served through the “evocation” of the avatar, which began to function for him as the figure of a double auxiliary.
With the avatar, Samuel has found a solution to one of his main difficulties, that is, a substitution of a fundamental function: to put a limit to the excess of juissance that invades the body and distresses him when something surprises him. The surprises, for Samuel, constitute something that escapes the conditions of immutability of his autistic defenses; in his case, of the schematic knowledge that he has memorized about the standard moves of the game.
Later on, he will be able to make a passage: from recourse to the avatar to treat the surprises of the game (covering the powerful cards); passes to subjectivizes this function, using it in his daily relations with his coetaneous. In fact, he manages to regulate his ostentation of knowledge through that blah, blah continuous. Thus, he will be better off with his classmates in school, more pacified and less entrapped in the struggles of pure prestige.
Finally, through support in his You Ghi Ho double, Samuel manages to cope with some aspects of the symbolic function of the boundary (cover, pretend, lose); Not only to play You Ghi Ho better, but also use this resource to make friends in school. In addition, he will use “cover” as a function in other aspects of his life, in his intimacy, in his family relationships, as well as in his new interests and subsequent artistic inventions.
When Alberto arrived, he was in the second year of middle school. Isolated and excluded, he defends himself with self and hetero-aggressive acts.
Alberto’s great passion is the airplanes. After the initial period of our meetings, centered on the narration of diverse scientific experiments, Alberto begins to build paper airplanes. I follow him in his work and ask him to explain to me what he does and how he folds the paper. To make each model, he takes into account the principles of physics that allow flying to an airplane and explains me in the smallest detail each part of the plane in relation to its functions. I make a great effort to follow him, also because he speaks in a low voice and he “eats” the words. Then I propose to take care of writing everything he says to me, thus giving value to his explanation. Each plane carries out the taxiing: Alberto evaluates, analyzes the problems, looks for the solution through several variables and then performs an experimental correction.
One day he proposed a modification in a model: cut the tip, applied on a paper cylinder, in a way that the air can pass through it. The wings that he applies blow the plane through the friction of the air. As the air traverses the structure, he tells me, it annuls this same structure (according to the principle of aerodynamics that says the air that pass through the body of the airplane reduces the weight of the apparatus because it reduces friction).
The hole, allowing the passage of air, cancels the weight of the body of the plane and allows it to fly a plastic representation of the work that Alberto is doing rigorously.
I underline two passages:
1.-If we think that the cone is his body, he now has an opening, a hole.
2.-The structure of the plane is canceled by the air, as well as the “new air” that runs around Alberto has allowed him to forget of itself and to think in the invention of the hole; his work with the airplanes becomes operative and he reaches to circumscribe, as an edge, the hole and to produce it. Thanks to having sustained his ideas during the sessions and to an intense networking with parents and teachers, Alberto has been able to take flight, forget about the weight of all the insufficiencies inscribed in his body, and to be victorious of the challenge in which he had committed with tenacity at the end of middle school: he enrolled in a very complex high school, where he currently attends the third year with great success, well integrated into the group of his class.
In the sessions continues the atelier airplane, which allows him to take a breath from schoolwork and, at the same time, verify its construction and relaunch it.
As Albert Einstein says in one of his celebrated aphorisms, and that Alberto himself has made me known: “The wing structure of the hornet, in relation to its weight, is not adapted to the flight, but he does not know it and it flies anyway “.
Translated by Lorena Hojman Davis