Thursday, 2 April 2009


Today is World Autism Awareness Day. I work with children who are on the autistic spectrum. I spend a lot of time working with teachers to give them the skills and knowledge to teach children with Autistic Spectrum Condition. It’s a fascinating and frustrating job.

Fascinating because I am privileged to hear first-hand accounts of the children, their fears and joys as they work so hard to ‘fit in.’

Frustrating because there’s never enough resource or goodwill to go round and because these kids shouldn’t have to ‘fit in.’ They should be accepted.

When I’m introducing the topic of autism or raising awareness in a school, I often recommend ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’ by Mark Haddon. Firstly because it is a brilliantly written book, tightly plotted with painstakingly observed characters. I love this book; I wish I had written it.

Secondly, it gives the reader a good insight into the experience of one individual with ASC.

Christopher Boone is 15. He is brilliant at Maths and Science but finds other people difficult to fathom. He has good days and bad days, he dislikes anything brown and likes yellow. He observes minute detail but not the whole picture.

When he finds his neighbours dog lying dead on the lawn he decides to investigate. But his investigations unravel so much more. The final plot twist is heart-breaking but so plausible.

My only gripe? Well, it’s not with the book. The only problem might be that some people treat it as a textbook and think that Christopher Boone represents all children on the spectrum. They are all individuals.


DOT said...

Well said, Jon. I know a few people with varying degrees of autism and, as you say, they are all individuals.

Tracy said...

I loved this book.

I suppose one of the problems is people are too quick to put people in boxes with a label that encompasses all - whatever the issue or health problem. Things are never black and white but many shades of grey.

Jon M said...

DOT: Quite right.

Tracy: It is simply a really good book. Always grey!

KatW said...

Sounds an interesting book. I may add to my toppling tower of tbr.

Hopefully most people realise that all people are individuals. Then again, even apparently intelligent doctors seem to have a problem with this concept (not that I have any personal bitter experience or anything - much!!)

Kat :-)

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

I'm guessing you must have read some of Oliver Sacks work - particularly The Anthropologist from Mars - fascinating insights - not just from that story, but all his "stories" - makes one realise how no one can or should be "boxed".
I've not read Curious yet, I keep meaning too and then get distracted by other things. It's going on the must read list right away!

Tam said...

That's what I'm teaching my teen this week, that everything comes in shades of grey.

I found The Curious Case moving and insightful.

DJ Kirkby said...

I loved this book! The bit where he hugs his dad by touching palms always makes me well up with tears, that one paragraph alone describes ASD beautifully. I too wish I had written this book.

Jon M said...

Kat: Well worth a read, a fantastic book.

Vanilla: You must must must read it!

Tam: Teaching teens...shudder...

DJ: I knew you'd have read it! Glad you liked the post! :)

Pearl said...

Yes, I thought it was a great book too. It really gets inside one person's perspective of the world of what could be causality, like the harbingers of colors of cars.

Gareth said...

Hi Jon

Flitted over to your blog from Sarwat's - enjoying looking around.

My older kids and I loved the "Curious Dog" (as we call it 'cos we can't be bothered with the whole title).

A top insight for me was when Christopher was justifying? his 4 red? cars in a row mean it's going to be a super-good day - he likened it to people waking up to a sunny day and deciding to be happy... just because the sun's out.

Leaves you wondering who's take on life is "normal".

PS - major congratulations on your book deal.

Jon M said...

Pearl: I think these extremes kind of reflect a little of ourselves back, if you see what I mean.

Gareth: Good to have you over Gareth! I'm often left questioning what is 'normal.'
Thanks for the congrats! Hope you're enjoying the easter break!