When I began reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, I noticed the incredibly accurate depiction of an autistic character in regards to the discomfort with variation. The first indication I found of this representation of a fixation on control was on page 13, when Christopher says “But I have decided to give my chapters prime numbers 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13 and so on because I like prime numbers”. He prefers numbers which are predictable and follow a precise pattern, which is much like my uncle in his routines as he lays out his movies and books in a distinctive arrangement I still cannot understand. Christopher also seems to find comfort in numbers and familiarity, showing his discomfort with the unfamiliar as is seen through his continuous statements throughout the book that he dislikes strangers because he does not know them. Christopher also indicates that he prefers structured rules as are common in mathematics as he describes on interaction with a teacher saying “He said I liked maths because it meant solving problems, and those problems were difficult and interesting but there was always a straightforward answer at the end. And what he meant was that maths wasn’t like life because in life there are no straightforward answers at the end” (77). His inclination towards mathematics is not merely played off as a savant-like ability, but as a coping mechanism which I found refreshing.
Christopher also has a strong aversion to lies because there are too many variables in lying as well. He says on page 24,
“A lie is when you say something happened which didn’t happen. But there is only ever one thing which happened at a particular time and a particular place. And there are an infinite number of things which didn’t happen at that time and that place. And if I think about something which didn’t happen I start thinking about all the other things which didn’t happen.”
Christopher portrays this unique view of autism in this moment which reveals a truth many never consider about autistic individuals, that sometimes they can be overwhelmed by the hypothetical. My uncle has shown extreme discomfort when he tries to consider an intangible idea because he begins to picture all of the variables instead of focusing on just one. I applaud this book for trying to provide an accurate depiction of life on the spectrum for the autistic individual and their family.
I was also very impressed with the realistic portrayal of the treatment of autistic children by others as Christopher relays that “Terry, who is the older brother of Francis, who is at the school, said I would only ever get a job collecting supermarket trollies or cleaning out the donkey shit at an animal sanctuary” (32). This moment truly upset me because of the reality behind it, my uncle does collect carts at a store, and the fact that this book recognizes the limitations applied to people on the spectrum by their peers is hopeful for me. I decided to research the diagnostic requirements for autism once more to refresh my memory and found that this depiction contains examples of every indication used in diagnosing ASD. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book because I felt that the depiction was highly accurate and that the depiction was executed without stereotyping and dehumanizing the autistic character.
Lord, Catherine, and Susan Risi. Frameworks and Methods in Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorders. Chicago, University of Chicago, 1998, pp. 90-96.
Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.