OK, so my friend (who is more like a sister really), asked me a couple of weeks ago if I’d read a book called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, written by Mark Haddon. I had not. I had not even heard of it at that time. The story is told in the first person by Christopher, who knows all the countries of the world and their capitals, as well as every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. He has a superbly logical brain and takes things very literally. Christopher as you already probably imagined is autistic. In the book he is fifteen.
My sister-friend implored me to read it and let her know my thoughts. This is someone who has spent a significant amount of time with my Jay. She’s a high school teacher who, while not a special education teacher, has had a large number of special needs kids work their way through her classroom. She is not ignorant of autism in its varying forms; yet she said this book gave her some new insight – when it wasn’t making her laugh, or feel sad.
I saw a lot of Jay in Christopher, but at the same time, I did not. Christopher was able to maneuver himself through some sticky situations in ways that I cannot at this moment see Jay being able to do at fifteen. Christopher definitely has an advanced math brain that Jay does not have. However, Jay is way more flexible than Christopher in terms of his ability to enjoy different environments and adjust to a thrown off routine. Unlike Christopher, Jay has a decent understanding of our language nuances (sarcasm, hyperbole, metaphors, jokes etc). Jay is not touch averse and where Christopher seemed to not “feel” any emotions, Jay definitely can see things from other people’s perspective and he understands the feeling of love as something more than just having someone there to meet your needs. Jay enjoys other people’s company and loves to have fun with people. The pickiness with the food is something they do share.
There was one page in particular though that I found myself taking out a hi-liter and marking some passages because I think this is how Jays brain works and it was nice to see it explained this way. It made perfect sense to me.
My memory is like a film. That is why I am really good at remembering things, like the conversations I have written down in this book, and what people were wearing, and what they smelled like, because my memory has a smelltrack which is like a soundtrack.
And this is how I recognize someone if I don’t know who they are. I see what they are wearing, or if they have a walking stick, or funny hair, or a certain type of glasses, or they have a particular way of moving their arms, and I do a Search through my memories to see if I have met them before.
And this is also how I know how to act in difficult situations when I don’t know what to do.
For example, if people say things which don’t make sense like “See you later, alligator,” or “You’ll catch your death in that,” I do a Search and see if I have ever heard someone say this before.
And if someone is lying on the floor at school, I do a Search through my memory to find a picture of someone having an epileptic fit and then I compare the picture with what is happening in front of me so I ca decide whether they are just lying down and playing a game, or having a sleep, or whether they are having an epileptic fit. And if they are having an epileptic fit, I move any furniture out of the way to stop them from banging their head and I take my jumper off and I put it underneath their head and I do and find a teacher.
Overall, I enjoyed the story very much and not because it was trying to educate people on autism. It was just a well written fiction novel. I give it a thumbs up.
If you are a reader, go ahead and give it a try – Then let me know what you thought of it. It’s Marks first novel and I was able to download it for free through a simple google search. The language is simple and I knocked it out in about 3 days.