Several newspapers recently reported the results of new findings on the condition known as Persistent Vegetative State: in half of the patients diagnosed with PVS, sensitive approaches by carers had succeeded in producing evidence of communication, awareness of identity, and of pleasure in being alive. The Director of the Royal Hospital for Nervous Diseases declared that the word 'persistent' should be removed from the diagnostic label. Chronic autism is something very like a persistent vegetative state of the mind. Yet clinicians, parents and teachers have been able to arouse animation, movement and development in some previously emotionally deadened children. In the Autism Workshop, we believe we have built up experiences of finding ways to reach these children - sometimes by meeting them wherever they are, at other times by tugging on the lifeline of human communication to get their attention and interest. I want to look at some of the issues involved in this process, and to think around issues of deficit (in this chapter) and disorder, deviance and personality (in the next), in an attempt to clarify only a few of the many mysteries and challenges inherent in working with these children.