I have never stopped thinking and caring about Jean. As a psychology professor at a college in the San Francisco Bay Area, I told her story many times to students who were always deeply moved, had questions, and wanted to know more. Recently retired after almost three decades of teaching and mentoring students, I am ready to open the pages of the past and reveal the complete story of Jean, who in 1979 was the subject of my doctoral dissertation.1 Dr. Mervin Freedman, dean of my graduate school, said, “You should publish this.”
He felt that the case of this unusual girl ought not to be lost, because few persons with her disorder had been observed for such a long period of time. Also, born before autism was identified as a separate clinical entity, Jean suffered throughout childhood from the confusion of misdiagnosis.
Jean’s mother, Dora, an intelligent, articulate woman, was vitally involved with her daughter’s well-being. Upon hearing that I wanted to tell Jean’s story in my thesis, Dora said, “That’s good. Now I won’t have to do it!” Dora and I decided we would embark on this project together. I would go to her house throughout the summer months of 1978 to tape-record her account of her daughter’s life, while Jean would be occupied in a daytime activity.
My connection to Jean and her mother was established a long time ago. Now, with time available and Dora’s emphatic words still clear in my memory, I am ready to tell the story.
This book is dedicated to Dora, in gratitude for entrusting me with the task.