Geneticist, Wendy Chung, shares the knowledge that we have on the autism spectrum disorder. Many upset parents approach Chung seeking answers for why their child developed autism but autism is not a single condition, it could range from Justin, a thirteen-year-old boy who only communicates through pictures and can get so frustrated and violent that he can cut his head open and require stitches, or it could be Gabriel, another thirteen-year-old boy who has great difficulty in having a conversation with someone but is brilliant at maths. 1 in 88 children now a days will be diagnosed with autism, far greater than the number only a few decades ago. Chung explains this apparent increase in the disorder as not an epidemic but just caused by doctors widening the definition of autism to allow people who only have slight autism to seek the proper resources required to aid them. There is no one cause of autism as there are many different types which means that there are many theories, such as having an older father, valproic acid consumed while being pregnant, as well as being in their genes, one of the causes for autism is in no way correlated to vaccines. As we work harder to find a cure or a prevention for the autism disorder, we need to work harder to understand how to deal and aid the development of affected children because when looking back only a few years we can see the gigantic progress we have made to support and educate these children to allow them to function at their maximum potential in society.
Temple Grandin, diagnosed with autism as a child, talks about how her mind has the ability to "think in pictures", and compares the way we understand autism to the way we understand art and animals, to essentially get away from verbal communication. Grandin states that the autistic mind attends to details which was a huge asset in her career designing livestock facilities as she could "test run" a piece of equipment in her mind, being able to provide great insight into the animal mind. The autistic mind tends to be amazing at one thing while bad at others, where Grandin's bad is algebra as she is a Photo Realistic Visual Thinker rather than a Pattern Thinker or Verbal Thinker. "The world needs different kinds of minds to work together." All minds, whether autistic or not, have their own flaws and great aspects and if we use all our minds to our potential without segregating or discarding those with autism or other disabilities, we can really create change and further advance our society into the future with new innovations and theories. This message of unity and collective thinking really resonates with what Christopher is looking for in his life with his mind set on university and contributing to society in great ways such as becoming an astronaut.
Rosie King is a 16-year-old autistic woman that believes people shouldn't diagnose autism with specific checkbox descriptions and requirements but rather take into account that everyone diagnosed can be vastly different to each other, for example, Rosie's brother is also autistic but non-verbal while Rosie apparently loves to talk and discuss her ideas. Rosie describes how she has thousands of secret worlds all going on at the same time inside her head, which allows her to be more creative and imaginative. This can have its disadvantages such as in a school setting where she may not be able to concentrate, as well as when something exciting happens in her dream world she might have the urge to run, rock forward or even scream, which has it's obvious drawbacks. "Stereotypes of things are often, if not always, wrong." Rosie hates conformity and being normal as people are so afraid of variety and diversity. "Instead of punishing anything that strives from normal, why not celebrate uniqueness and cheer everytime someone unleashes their imagination?" Conformity is truly non-desirable as when we are all equal none of us can be special or innovative which will cause the world we live in to never take that step forward towards advancements in technology, more efficient practice, or ways to think of society. Christopher, in the book, is definitely unique and different in the way he acts and thinks which can be seen through his detective work on the murder of Mrs Sheer's dog throughout the book, as well as the way he has no filter when asking people questions.
A mother of an autistic boy discusses her true emotions and thoughts on raising an affected child and how it is "...one of the hardest things you could ever do." Hearing her child speak for the first time at the age of three and a half was a true miracle as for a long time she faced the possibility that he may never speak in his entire life. Small achievements and milestones that kids without autism experience are far more insignificant and unimportant compared to the same feat performed by an autistic child as they struggle far more in completing some seemingly simple tasks, such as learning how to have a conversation with someone. The mother tells a story about how one time at a cafe, her child went off and became disinterested in listing to her and became a nuisance to the cafe goers, who thought that he was an inconsiderate irritating little kid, but they did not know what he was going though and they did not know how much he struggles to be like everyone else. People shouldn't judge others based on single interactions with them without knowing their underlying story, as in this case, it wasn't the child deciding to be disturbing on purpose, it was him not knowing any better and his mind not allowing him to learn basic social skills for this circumstance. Christopher, in the book, is very similar to the child in this story as they both are compassionate kids who are misjudged by society because sometimes they can't control themselves in public or don't recognise facial expressions to be aware of a persons emotions. In the book for example, Christopher physically assaults a police officer just because he was getting too close to him, which we all know is an over exaggeration as well as completely not appropriate for the situation as it caused big consequences, but Christopher couldn't rationalise or control himself.
This speaker, Alix Generous, is diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome and discusses how people with autism think differently from a personal level. Alix describes how she is an extremely visual thinker, thinking in pictures rather than words, which is more primitive and allows her to be more creative, as well as how she struggles with her impairment of basic social skills. She grew up quite shy and awkward but due to influences such as Steven Colbert, her personality switched to defiant and humorous, which was very prevalent while she was speaking with all the jokes and one-liners she was telling. Difficult times arose which caused Alix to seek help at a treatment center that understood her aversions and trauma, where she recovered and went on to win a research competition on coral reefs, speaking at a U.N. conference, and went on to co-found a boi-tech company. Alix is very inspirational to everyone diagnosed with autism as she has proved that just because she struggles with certain personality traits doesn't mean that she is worthless and can't be a productive influential woman in society.
Faith Jegede Cole discusses the struggles, complications and incites she has regarding her two autistic brothers, Remmy and Sam, and reveals the true amazing qualities they possess. Although they find it difficult to have compassion or emotion for their sister, Faith explains that this caused them to be very innocent in nature, without prejudice, unable to lie. Throughout Faith's childhood at times she wished that they were just like her and weren't diagnosed with autism but she often looked back and realised all that they had taught her about individuality, communication, and love which they wouldn't have if they were 'normal'. Just because people who have autism are different doesn't make them wrong or lesser, it just means that they are right in another way that we don't fully understand. Our craving to be like everyone else makes us not unique and sacrifices our ability to be great and cause change. Although autistic people can lack some essential social skills it doesn't mean that autistic people are inherently less intelligent, as often the opposite is true in some areas, such as in maths and creative thinking, which means that it isn't fair to discard or give up on diagnosed people as they can still contribute greatly to the betterment of this world and advancement of society. In the book, Christopher is looking forward to applying for university and hoping that he will eventually become an astronaut, a very unique and different profession, which is truly contributing to the advancement of our society the way Faith explains people with autism can do.
Daniel Tammet is a 28-year-old savant diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome who has an extraordinary intelligent mind but greatly struggles with his ability to interact socially with other people. Tammet can speak 10 different languages, one of which he created called Manti. In 2004, he raised money for an epilepsy charity by publicly reciting pi to 22,514 digits. He also has a rare gift called synesthesia, which allows him to see numbers as having shapes, colors, textures and personalities. Many inspirational quotes involving people with disabilities can be read in his book titled, "Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant" where he discusses the difficulties, challenges and the mind of a person suffering from autism. Tammet truly allows people to understand that people with disabilities aren't inferior to us as they can possess amazing gifts that we can never imagine to obtain which makes them special and a very important part of our society. Christopher, in the book, maybe either be a savant or just a really intelligent child due to his ability to think about complex mathematical equations, such as the goat behind the door problem, as well as focus and remember minuscule details of his day, such as how he remembered exactly how many coins he had and what they were made up of at the time he was arrested.
Steve Silberman, an American writer, relays the history behind Autism going all the way back to the 40s, discussing the acceptance and seemingly increase in the disorder. Silberman explains the shame involved with having a child with Autism all the way up to the 90s, as doctors didn't really understand how to diagnose or treat it. Advances in teaching autistic children and us about the disorder, accommodating employers, parents having faith in their children, as well as supportive communities has helped society truly accept and allow people with this syndrome work at their maximum potential, as our world is not suited for their understanding or way of life. Silberman hopes that future progress in our knowledge of autism will allow us to fully integrate suffering people into our society, as, "We can't afford to waste a brain." which means that we all have something special inside of us that can't be discarded and that every human must use all of their potential. In the book, Christopher is gifted with the ability to perform extraordinarily well in mathematics, which can be seen in the way he speaks, as well as the fact that he is the only student that is completing the most advanced course of maths that his school offers.