By Mark Frankland.
ISBN 1 85619246 6
This is an historical account in more ways than one. It is in
part a family history written retrospectively from personal
memories, observations, photographs and letters, not by Freddie
himself – he cannot speak or write – but by his stepbrother, Mark
The book also looks at the life of his mother Olivia who adopted
him as a baby. In charting the lives of Olivia and Freddie, the
book also charts the history of various forms of care and treatment
over the past 50 years.
Olivia fought for what was ‘best’ for her son. But what was
‘best’ for Freddie changed as ideas and fashions changed. Diagnosed
autistic in 1950, he moved between Steiner schools and communities
and, because of ‘aggressive outbursts’ into the locked wards of
psychiatric hospitals. Over the years Freddie’s treatment included
child analysis, neuro-surgery and drugs. Now the wheel has come
full circle and he is living in a small staffed house in the
While this is an engaging and at times moving account, the focus
is on the experiences of one family. That limits its scope and
impact even though the author does pause in his narrative to
explain some aspects of his story – the main characteristics of
autism, for example, and the origins of Camphill communities.
The book is limited in two other respects. It is essentially a
compilation of two people’s lives, from the perspective of a third
person, without oral testimonies from the main protagonists. And
although the book brings us into the present where Mark is now
Freddie’s guardian, and visits him in his Devon home, it retains
the language of the past.
When they were both children, Mark saw his stepbrother as ‘odd’
and ‘alien’. Now he views him in a more sympathetic light as
‘handicapped’. In this sense the book stays rooted in the past.
is senior lecturer, Open University