Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 46, Issue 7, pp 2561–2564 | Cite as

Lessons that Linger: A 40-Year Follow-Along Note About a Boy with Autism Taught to Communicate by Gestures when Aged Six

  • C. D. WebsterEmail author
  • D. Fruchter
  • J. Dean
  • M. M. Konstantareas
  • L. Sloman
Letter to the Editor


We draw on an article published in 1973 in this journal. We described how we taught “Geoff,” a 6-year old boy with autism, an elementary form of sign language during the course of 24 one-hour sessions held over a 12-week period (Webster et al. in J Autism Child Schizophr 3:337–346, 1973; Fruchter in Autism: new directions in research and education, pp 184–186, 1980). Here, we describe how it is that Geoff has maintained the vestiges of what we taught him (and indeed what he taught us) over the long span. This basic communication strategy has endured well and continues to contribute to his enjoyment of life.


Autism Gestures Sign language 



The authors wish to thank Geoff’s mother, brother, and sister for all they have done for Geoff over so many years. We are pleased to acknowledge his father’s support, financial and other, during the founding of Kerry’s Place before he died many years ago. We also wish to thank the members of staff of Kerry’s Place in Thornbury and Thomasburg. They have done a remarkable job in supporting Geoff through many ups and downs and have, most importantly, provided for him a home in the truest sense of the word.

Author contribution

Mention needs to be made of the role of the various authors over the years. C.D.W. and D.S. gave direct simultaneous-communication (S.C.) to Geoff in the early years. J.D. is the staff member at Kerry’s Place responsible for Geoff on a day-to-day basis. M.M.K. with C.D.W. led the establishment of the S.C. program at the Clarke site between 1973 and 1981. As well, she has served as a consultant to Kerry’s Place for many years. In this role she oversees the progress of all K.P. clients, Geoff included, in the Ontario South East region. L.S., a psychiatrist, was responsible for Geoff’s treatment in the early years and has maintained an interest in Geoff over the many years (via C.D.W. and D.F.). C.D.W has visited Geoff at Kerry’s Place most years. We are also grateful to Justine Fifield, Child Development Institute for aiding in the preparation of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. D. Webster
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • D. Fruchter
    • 4
  • J. Dean
    • 5
  • M. M. Konstantareas
    • 2
    • 5
    • 6
  • L. Sloman
    • 2
    • 7
  1. 1.Child Development InstituteTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Department of PsychologySimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada
  4. 4.Camp WinstonTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Kerry’s Place Autism ServicesThomasburgCanada
  6. 6.Department of PsychologyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  7. 7.Centre for Addiction and Mental HealthTorontoCanada

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