“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is a mystery story narrated by 15-year old Christopher John Francis Boone who has Asperger’s Syndrome.
Asperger’s Syndrome is a type of autism, specifically a high-functioning autism, or a savant syndrome.
- Raymond Babbit (played by Dustin Hoffman), Charlie Babbit’s (played by Tom Cruise) brother in “Rain Man”
- Sam (played by Sean Penn) in “I am Sam”, which also featured Dakota Fanning.
A high-functioning autistic refers to someone who is diagnosed with autism (a mental disability?) but who also has an extraordinary talent or skill i.e. The Rain Man was a mathematical genius but I don’t recall “Sam” having any special talents…
Anyway, Christopher is also a math genius and he’s the typical autistic savant in the book i.e. cold, expressionless, devoid of feeling and highly sensitive to touch.
Christopher lives with his father and is told that his mother is dead. One day, he discovers that his neighbour’s dog, a poodle named “Welllington”, is brutally murdered i.e. stabbed in the stomach with a garden rake and he sets out to find the killer.
Just before that, he learns that his mother may not actually be dead and his investigation into Wellington’s murder is also a search for his mother. Most children or young adult with autism lack social skills.
In fact, children who are autistic shy away from society and would especially find crowded places highly traumatic. Thus, Christopher setting foot out of his home and neighbourhood and making his way to his mother’s place via Underground is a HUGE step out of his comfort zone.
I really enjoyed reading the book because it gave me some insight into the mind and behaviour of people with autism, pretty much like what The Rain Man did.
I actually found the book a really funny read because Christopher’s logical, straightforward and guileless way of thinking and acting are quite at odds with the way people generally behave (or are expected to behave) in society. Yet, his simple observations hit the nail right on the head in many situations.
I know someone who found out that her son is autistic at about 3 years old when he started showing the typical symptoms:
- distress in crowds or when meeting strangers;
- repeated self-destructive behaviour i.e. head banging;
- rigid body posture i.e. hands held up with fingers slightly bent;
- lack of expression or feeling;
- lack of eye contact and
- strong reaction to any physical contact e.g. touching or hugging.
She left her job to care for him full-time and the last we met, she was working hard to develop learning materials that would help him learn to read or recognize familiar objects around him. Ultimately, I understand that she is trying her best to help him become an independent person who can function in as normal a way possible in our society.
She is quite caught up with autism (who can blame her?) and I don’t think she ever spends a waking moment without thinking or trying to find aids or materials that would help her autistic son.
I know that she has been reading up on a a lot of books and references on autism – I wonder if she might want to read a book that would allow her to imagine what’s it like for her child?
On one hand, I’d like to help her understand her son better but on the other hand, I don’t want to make her feel even more disappointed than she already is – IF she feels that the future seems bleak if her son turns out like Christopher Boone.
Personally, I think that Christopher Boone is a really smart boy and does really well for himself. Then again, I don’t have an autistic child – I wouldn’t know what is a “good” or “bad” standard for autistic children.
Did you read the book? What do you think about it and how do you feel about Christopher Boone?
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