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is christopher on the autism spectrum?

Nowhere in the book on which the play is based nor in the script of the play is Christopher ever described as being “autistic” or “on the autism spectrum.” So why do people make the connection between the book/play and autism? Because some of Christopher’s behaviors are consistent with those of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). But as Dr. Stephen Shore so aptly put it, “If you met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” 

“I’m meant to say that others have learning difficulties or that they have special needs. But this is stupid because everyone has learning difficulties because learning to speak French or understanding relativity is difficult and also everyone has special needs, like Father, who has to carry a little packet of artificial sweetening tablets around with him to put in his coffee to stop him from getting fat, or Mrs. Peters, who wears a beige colored hearing aid, or Siobhan, who has glasses so thick that they give you a headache if you borrow them, and none of these people are Special Needs, even if they have special needs.” - Christopher, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

What do we know about Christopher’s behaviors? Here’s what he tells us himself in the book:

“my behavioral Problems”

A) Not talking to anyone for a long time 

B) Not eating or drinking anything for a long time 

C) Not liking being touched 

D) Screaming when I am angry or confused 

E) Not liking being in really small places with other people 

F) Smashing things when I get angry or confused 

G) Groaning 

H) Not liking yellow things or brown things and refusing to touch yellow things or brown things 

I) Refusing to use my toothbrush if anyone else has touched it 

J) Not eating food if different sorts of food are touching each other 

K) Not noticing when other people are angry with me 

L) Not smiling 

M) Saying things that other people think are rude 

N) Doing stupid things 

O) Hitting other people 

P) Hating France 

Q) Driving Mother’s car 

R) Getting cross when someone has moved the furniture”

So what are Christopher’s strengths? Here are some things he tells us about himself in the book: 

curiouscover.jpg

A) He’s intelligent 

B) He understands how machines work 

C) He’s good at solving puzzles 

D) He’s excellent at math 

E) He knows all the prime numbers up to 7,057 

F) He does not tell lies 

G) He is highly observant and notices things other people miss 

H) He has a very good memory 

I) He has excellent powers of concentration 

J) He likes outer space 

K) He likes being in small spaces (so long as he’s the only one in them) 

L) He is very logical 

More on ASD

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a medical diagnosis meant to identify learning and behavioral deficits and to help address the issues caused by them. Neurodiversity is a concept where neurological differences are to be recognized and respected as any other human variation. The concept of diversity is not unfamiliar to us. Over the course of the past century, many social movements fought to ensure fair treatment for different gender, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Neurodiversity evokes a similar concept that acknowledges diversity of experience is natural— not just basic emotions like happiness or sadness but all sensations and perceptions. It proposes that all the different ways in which we experience the world reflect our individuality. Unique as each of them are, they are all worthy of recognition. 

thoughts from mark haddon

“I’ve always regretted that the phrase ‘Asperger Syndrome’ appeared on the cover of Curious Incident when it was first published. Mostly because the central conceit was that Christopher himself had written the book (for a long time it had the dull but accurate working title, Christopher’s Book) and ‘Asperger Syndrome’ is not a phrase he uses. In the book he refers to himself only as ‘someone who has Behavioral Problems’… I prefer the wry humor in these words. I like the way it gently mocks the diagnostic medical language. I like the way it includes all of us (who doesn’t have behavioral problems?). But I like it most of all because it is Christopher’s own phrase. Labels tell us very little about the person who has been labeled and a lot about the people doing the labeling. If you want to find out who someone is, just ask them.” - Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Haddon didn’t want to label Christopher because he wanted his readers to discover Christopher and by doing so, remind us that there are many different ways to see the world. We come to understand how Christopher sees the world. We see what is hard about it and what is cool about it and we’re left to wonder how we make a world where differences don’t stand in the way of a person becoming his/her/their best self.