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Autism

Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. The diagnostic criteria require that symptoms become apparent before a child is three years old. Autism affects information processing in the brainby altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize; how this occurs is not well understood. It is one of three recognized disorders in the autism spectrum (ASDs), the other two being Asperger syndrome, which lacks delays in cognitive development and language, and pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified (commonly abbreviated as PDD-NOS), which is diagnosed when the full set of criteria for autism or Asperger syndrome are not met. Autism has a strong genetic basis, although the genetics of autism are complex and it is unclear whether ASD is explained more by rare mutations, or by rare combinations of common genetic variants. In rare cases, autism is strongly associated with agents that cause birth defects. Controversies surround other proposed environmental causes, such as heavy metals, pesticides or childhood vaccines; the vaccine hypotheses are biologically implausible and lack convincing scientific evidence. The prevalence of autism is about 12 per 1,000 people worldwide, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report 11 per 1,000 children in the United States are diagnosed with ASD as of 2008. The number of people diagnosed with autism has increased dramatically since the 1980s, partly due to changes in diagnostic practice; the question of whether actual prevalence has increased is unresolved. Parents usually notice signs in the first two years of their child's life. The signs usually develop gradually, but some autistic children first develop more normally and then regress. Early behavioral or cognitive intervention can help autistic children gain self-care, social, and communication

skills. Although there is no

known cure, there

have

been reported cases of children who

recovered. Not many children with autism live independently after reaching adulthood, though some become successful. An autistic culture has developed, with some individuals seeking a cure and others believing autism should be accepted as a difference and not treated as a disorder.

Social development

Social deficits distinguish autism and the related autism spectrum disorders from other developmental disorders. People with autism have social impairments and often lack the intuition about others that many people take for granted. Unusual social development becomes apparent early in childhood. Autistic infants show less attention to social stimuli, smile and look at others less often, and respond less to their own name. Autistic toddlers differ more strikingly from social norms; for example, they have less eye contact and turn taking, and do not have the ability to use simple movements to express themselves, such as the deficiency to point at things. Three- to five-year-old autistic children are less likely to exhibit social understanding, approach others spontaneously, imitate and respond to emotions, communicate nonverbally, and take turns with others. Older children and adults with ASD perform worse on tests of face and emotion recognition.

Communication
About a third to a half of individuals with autism do not develop enough natural speech to meet their daily communication needs. Differences in communication may be present from the first year of life, and may include delayed onset of babbling, unusual gestures, diminished responsiveness, and vocal patterns that are not synchronized with the caregiver. In the second and third years, autistic children have less frequent and less diverse babbling, consonants, words, and word combinations; their gestures are less often integrated with words. Autistic children are less likely to make requests or share experiences, and are more likely to simply repeat others' words (echolalia) or reverse pronouns. Autistic children may have difficulty with imaginative play and with developing symbols into language.

Repetitive behavior
Autistic individuals display many forms of repetitive or restricted behavior, which the Repetitive Behavior Scale-Revised (RBS-R) categorizes as follows.

Stereotypy is repetitive movement, such as hand flapping, head rolling, or body rocking. Compulsive behavior is intended and appears to follow rules, such as arranging objects in stacks or lines. Sameness is resistance to change; for example, insisting that the furniture not be moved or refusing to be interrupted.

Ritualistic behavior involves an unvarying pattern of daily activities, such as an unchanging menu or a dressing ritual. This is closely associated with sameness and an independent validation has suggested combining the two factors.

Restricted behavior is limited in focus, interest, or activity, such as preoccupation with a single television program, toy, or game. Self-injury includes movements that injure or can injure the person, such as eye poking, skin picking, hand biting, and head banging. A 2007 study reported that self-injury at some point affected about 30% of children with ASD.

No single repetitive or self-injurious behavior seems to be specific to autism, but only autism appears to have an elevated pattern of occurrence and severity of these behaviors.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, By Mack Haddon


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time takes place in the year 1998 in and around the town of Swindon, England. The fifteen-year-old narrator of the story, Christopher John Francis Boone, discovers the slain body of his neighbors poodle, Wellington, on the neighbors front lawn one evening and sets out to uncover the murderer. His investigation is at times aided, and at other times hampered, by the mild form of autism he lives with. After Christopher hits a policeman in a misunderstanding at the scene of the crime, the police take Christopher into custody. They release Christopher with only a stern warning, under the condition that he promises to them and to his father not to look into the murder any further. Christopher chronicles his investigation in a book as part of a school assignment. Ignoring repeated warnings from his father, Christopher investigates the crime scene and conducts interviews with the residents of his block. He uncovers a more tangled plot than was first apparent when he discovers that his father and the owner of the slain dog, Mrs. Shears, had a romantic affair. He subsequently learns that their affair began in reaction to another relationship, one carried on between Mr. Shears and Christophers mother, before she disappeared from Christophers life. At school, Christopher prepares for an A-level math exam that will enable him to attend a university, a feat no other child at his school has managed. He also continues to work on his book. Upon returning home one afternoon, Christopher accidentally leaves his book in plain view on the kitchen table. His father reads it, becomes angry, and confiscates it. Later, Christopher searches for the book and

uncovers a series of letters, hidden in a shirt box in his fathers closet, addressed to him from his supposedly dead mother. The letters chronicle a life that his mother has continued to lead with Mr. Shears in London and contain repeated requests for Christopher to respond. In shock, Christopher passes out in his bedroom surrounded by the evidence of his fathers deception. When Father comes home and realizes what has happened, he breaks down in tears. He apologizes for his lies, explaining that he acted out of a desire to protect Christopher from the knowledge of his mothers abandonment of the family. Christophers father also admits to killing Wellington after an argument with Mrs. Shears, his lover. Christopher, now terrified of his father and feeling he can no longer trust him, sneaks out of the house and travels to London to live with his mother. During a harrowing journey, he copes with and overcomes the social fears and limitations of his condition, dodges police, and almost gets hit by a train. His arrival at his mothers flat comes as a total surprise to her, as she had no idea that Christophers father had been withholding her letters. Christopher settles in for a time at his mother and Mr. Shears flat, but friction caused by his presence shortly results in his mothers decision to leave Mr. Shears to return to Swindon. Christopher moves into a new apartment with his mother and begins to receive regular visits from his father. When Christophers pet rat Toby dies, Christophers father gives Christopher a puppy. At school, Christopher sits for his A-level math exam and receives an A grade, the best possible score. The novel ends with Christopher planning to take more A-level exams in physics and further math, and then attend a university in another town. He knows that he can do all of this because he solved the mystery of Wellingtons murder, was brave enough to find his mother, and wrote the book that we have read.

How the book portrays the disability?


In my opinion, I think this book really portrays the disability in that the symptoms that we see in Christopher are the ones that we see on autistic people. Although the novel never mentions autism, Christopher, the novels protagonist, displays several of the symptoms that characterize the disorder, such as difficulty reading facial expressions, preoccupation with certain topics, and behaviors like rocking back and forth.

On the other hand we also have people who say that the book offers an inaccurate depiction of the condition. Haddon, however, says he intended his book only as a work of fiction and not a medical treatise on living with autism. And I agree with him in this, but at the same time I cannot imagine Christopher not having autism because part of his character, at my interpretation, was being an autistic child. My knowledge of autistic kids is in a way short because, even though I have some acquaintances that have autistic children, I have not lived a day-to-day life with one person who has this disorder. I think it would be interesting trying to live with one of them because I consider myself as a kind of autistic in that sometimes I rather be alone than socialize with other people. But just for feeling that, it does not mean Im autistic, and I think this is what Mark Haddon was trying to explain when he said the book was not supposed to be about a child with a psychological disorder, it rather to be a novel of mystery and action. I think the book was seeing as harmful, someone could say, because the media and the people, who read the book and knew also about autism, automatically thought that this book was about the disability. This makes a stereotype out of Christopher because now, at some level, we connect the story with the disorder. I dont like that aspect of the media because it was supposed to be a novel about a different child who saw the world different than us, and was trying to survive in a society that treats him differently just because how he behaves. Some of the aspects that the people thought were symptoms of autism were that Christopher was always trying to have a plan and a routine all the time, if that routine broke, Christopher felt anxious and started to hit himself. Another behavior Christopher did was that he did not like people to touch him, and he could not understand facial expressions, in this way it was difficult for him, and the ones around him, to communicate. For example, his father could not hug him; instead they open their hands as a fan and touch only the tips of their fingers. Another important fact about the novel was the capacity of Christopher to do math. I was surprise to find out that even though they have difficulties with other things, most of the autistic children have a one thing that they are good at, even with nobody helping them. I also think this is a stereotype because I dont believe that all of them have an autistic savant, and actually I found out that an

estimated of 0.5% to 10% of individuals with ASD show unusual abilities that over pass their capacity. With all of these facts about the novel and about the media sharing their opinion about the novel and the author, I think this is a good book to give you an idea of how autistic people, or just different people than us, behave and act around. It is also good to understand that Mark Haddon was not trying to portray or stereotype an autistic kid in his novel. Even though he worked with autistic children, the people he inspired to create his character of Christopher had nothing to do with the psychological disorder of neither autism or Asperger disorder. The ones that portrayed the character as autistic were the press itself and some publishers, as well as packaging of certain editions of the book who describe Christopher as an autistic child.

References
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autism -Research of the disability. http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/the-curious-incident-of-the-dog-in-the-nighttime/summary.html - Synopsis of the book.