A Picture Essay by Lindsay Weekes

Listen to Hamish
  Hamish is very angry and being restrained by his school principal. Picture: Russell Kemp

Hamish is 22. I first met him when he was 7 and misplaced in a class for low-functioning autistic children. At some time or another during his life he has exhibited just about every behaviour in the autism diagnostics. He still shows many of them today. He is intelligent but until recently his perception was significantly fragmented. His personality is beginning to cohere, for want of a better word. He can speak, although he only does so when absolutely necessary and hardly ever in full sentences. He prefers to communicate using body language, gestures, signing or short phrases often beginning with the word "more". He understands most things said to him, provided that he's aware that someone's speaking to or about him.

He is an astute and determined manipulator who has known a great deal of fear and is consequently almost immune to threats. He is not frightened so much as depressed and prone to panic attacks these days. For many years I was part of a small team which included some of his teachers, the occasional psychologist who relished a challenge and his mother, which was dedicated to making him more self-sufficient, giving him some reason for optimism and as much emotional support as he needed, which we hoped would lead to his functioning at optimum levels within a few years. That hasn't happened to the extent that it should have and the blame for that can be fairly and accurately laid on the Education Department which was significantly unable to cope with the challenges Hamish presented.

Hamish: May 2000. Picture: Russell Kemp





With people he trusts, Hamish can be charming and pleasant company. He has a wonderful roguish grin. Right now, however, it's not seen very often. What follows after this picture is a series, taken within the space of five minutes, beginning with Hamish hiding behind his shoes to indicate his absolute reluctance to participate and gradually coming further out after each picture until he's fully at ease in front of the camera. In the process, Hamish demonstrates classic autistic behaviour. There are a lot of good photos of Hamish here, which illustrate many aspects of autism and take up several pages.






Hamish is hiding behind his shoes. Picture: Lindsay

Hamish is peeking out from behind his lunch. Picture: Lindsay
Hamish is holding out a piece of fruit while loking away from the camera. Picture: Lindsay
Hamish is looking at his shoes and playing with the laces . Picture: Lindsay
Hamish is peeringing straight at the camera and starting to grin. Picture: Lindsay
Hamish is toying with his shoelaces but looking very interested in the camera . Picture: Lindsay
Hamish is finding it hard to conceal his grin. Picture: Lindsay
Hamish is laughing openly. Picure: Lindsay

More about Hamish

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