Story of autistic boy is best book

Dog in the Night

A murder mystery with a disabled teenage boy as its hero last night clinched a £30,000 literary award. Mark Haddon won the Whitbread Book of the Year for his debut novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. One of the nine judges said: "Haddon uses disability to throw light on the world."
It tells the story of an autistic 15-year old who investigates the murder of a neighbour's dog with a garden fork. The boy has a vast knowledge of maths but little understanding of people.The book also won Best Book award from the South Bank Show last week. The runner-up was a volume of poetry called Landing Light, by Don Paterson,who critics said was "one of the best poets writing today."

A super day

The Metro Jan 28 2004


Don't blame autism

Convicted: Paul Smith

I got the impression from your article that Paul Smith had killed ten-year-old Rosie May Storrie because he suffered from Asperger syndrome (Metro, Fri). My brother has this syndrome and, yes, some sufferers do have a terrible temper that they find very hard to control. But this alone does not lead to murder. I feel it is an unfair characterisation of Asperger's. There are many sufferers who lead, on the surface at least, normal lives. For such people, everyday life is already a struggle - without having to worry that people will also be scared of them. People should be a little more understanding of this debilitating condition. Maybe then, my brother (who is only ten years old) will grow up in a more sympathetic world.

Laura Langley, Manchester

I have a brother with Asperger syndrome - and he can control his temper. The syndrome has many different forms according to the individual and sufferers have to deal with a lot of unnecessary prejudice.

Stella Crew,London WC2

The Metro Nov 2 2004

Don't sensationalise autism

Metro Jun23,2005

I would like to add my comments with regard to the case of Paul Smith (Metro, Fri), who killed Rosie May Storrie (pictured). Having a moderate form of Asperger syndrome myself, the diagnosis earlier this year has brought a lot of understanding after 26 years of confusion.

But, in spite of being one of those individuals who has managed to lead a near-normal life thus far, the syndrome and all its associated problems (such as motor control, balance and co-ordination issues attentional difficulties, tics and obsessive-compulsive behaviour) making life enough of a struggle without the added danger of bullying and public misrepresentation of what Asperger's is or isn't.

Contrary to popular misconceptions,most people with autism and AS do have feelings and we can feel empathy, even if in any are not always able to express these appropriately.

I feel for everyone involved in this tragedy and was deeply saddened by the way autism and AS were portrayed.

I can only hope that, in future, the media will be a little more considerate before latching on to a sensationalist take on autism.

For anyone who is interested in well-researched  and balanced information on the subject, I recommend the websites of both the National Autistic Society ( and that of O.A.S.I.S (Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support) at

Name and address supplied

The Metro Nov  3 2004

Jacqui Jackson, a single mother of seven, and her son Luke, 15, who has Asperger's syndrome. Interviews: Caroline Scott.
Portrait by Claire Wood

Jacqui Jackson, 38, has seven children. Matthew; 19, suffers from dyslexia and dyspraxia (a motor-control impairment);Joe, 10, is autistic;Ben, 6, has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD);and Luke, 15, has Asperger's syndrome (AS), a form of autism. The boys have three sisters: Rachel, 18,Sarah, 16,and Anna, 13. Jacqui's book, Multicoloured Mayhem, is out on October 16.The family lives in Blackpool.

As a small child, Luke screamed constantly. In retrospect, I dealt with it very badly. I either held him or had him in a sling so he was close to me. Given what I know now; it probably made everything worse.As a toddler, he hated being touched. When he started walking, you couldn't hold his hands to support him - he'd go berserk.
I coped in a haze of exhaustion, surviving from one minute to the next. I was married then, and that was when the rot set in. My husband would get in from work and I'd hand Luke straight over and go and sit outside,just to have some peace.
When my husband left, my resources somehow stretched. You cope because you have to. I'm not saying my patience is endless. The other night, Luke was still up at I am and I desperately wanted a bit of peace before Ben got up at 3am. I tried all the usual AS tactics to get him to go to bed, giving him instructions in sequence.All he'd say was: "Are you going to make me?" So finally I said:"Yes, I damn well am" And I frogmarched him to his room. Then I had to sit there, talking to him all night while he cried.
You have to keep putting so much information into these kids about how other people feel, because there's nothing there to begin with. I try to explain to Luke that I love him but that he has to learn to see others' point of view. Of course, he doesn't get it:AS kids are hyper-rational, they have extremely poor imagination and no empathy whatsoever. Luke has to learn communication as if it was a foreign language.
Luke met two other AS teenagers at a conference recently and said:"Hi. I'm Luke. Have you got a computer?" One lad said "Yeah, but I really like cars."And he started on about cars. So Luke turned to the other lad and said "Have you got a computer?"And this lad says:"Yes,but what I really like are trains"And off he went about trains. At 15, all of them have learnt that they have to pause and smile and wait for the other to finish talking, yet none of them was really listening.

I've no idea how to show Mum that I love her. How do you do that?

The worst thing is the feeling that your child is being rejected. Luke has been bullied all his life. He's been relatively happy this year, always talking about his "mates" as if he belongs to a gang. But when I went into school for a parents' evening and Luke was waving to these "mates" they were making sneery faces back at him. Luke was completely oblivious. On the last day of term, all these kids were hugging each other and saying goodbye, but nobody came near Luke.When one girl said, "What about Luke?" they all laughed and said: "Who's going to miss him?"
I very rarely mix with people with ordinary kids, because that way it's easier to cope.When we're on our own,we're normal. It's the outside world that makes life difficult.
Luke and Jacqui
I explain to Luke that I love him, but that he has to learn to see others' point of view. Of course, he doesn't get it

LUKE: I've been trying to behave normally since I was about 10. Before that, I thought I was the only normal one and everyone else was weird. The realisation that I'm a freak hit me like a flash and it was horrible.That's when I decided I had to learn what to do to appear like everyone else.
To me, the world is a really difficult place. Just trying to understand what's going on around me is hard work. You try not to get it wrong,but mostly you do, and it's exhausting. I always feel left out at school, because everyone instinctively seems to understand the unwritten rules.
There are all these social groups and I'm not in any of them. I just watch them.They could be talking in a foreign language, because it's all a mystery to me. I tell myself it doesn't matter,not belonging,but it does. Not five minutes go by without someone saying: "God, Luke,you're such a freak" I don't know why they say it when they do: It must be because I've done something that they think is odd. I don't get them, either. They talk about clothes all the time, flick their hair and roll their eyes.To me, they're all freaks.
Mum doesn't talk in code or try to confuse me. She gives me advice about how to cope with bullying and how to fit in. She asks me about what happens at school, so she can explain what it means. One of the problems with having AS is that you take everything literally. Speech is very difficult to interpret when everything someone says could have a different meaning, depending on how they say it. I find it extremely hard to interpret facial expression. It's there one minute, gone the next. I'm left thinking: "What was that about?"
When I found out I had AS, two years ago, I trained myself to make eye contact, even though I find it uncomfortable.And I try to alter my voice because everyone says I drone. Mum is completely blunt. I'll be talking about computers and she'll go:"Luke? Shut up." It sounds horrible, but it's actually a good thing. I wouldn't know when to stop otherwise. I would just go on and on, boring everyone to death.
I do try to think:"How does Mum feel?" But I can't take it any further. Other people's emotions are a totally alien concept.With Mum, I can sometimes understand. I've looked at my own face in the mirror when I'm feeling sad and I've seen her look that way too. Most of the time I get it right, although Mum says she'd have to collapse on the floor so I tripped over her on the way to the computer before I noticed anything was wrong. We argue about the computer constantly. I just find them easier than dealing with life.With a computer, you do something and another thing happens - it's totally reliable. Mum thinks 15 hours a day on the computer is excessive; I don't agree.
She says having teenagers is the hardest thing she's ever done, even compared to having Ben and Joe, who are so bonkers they're more work than the rest of us put together. Joe is completely wild - he's either charging around or ripping up bits of paper obsessively. I try to help. I take Ben on Cartoon Network on the computer, which calms him down. He's six, yet he's still in nappies. He can't read, he doesn't speak, but he's fantastic on the computer. The rest of the time, he flicks his fingers in his face and spins round and round.
I think I understand Mum to the same extent she understands me She doesn't know it, but I do. She can put on a social face,just like I do.As well as looking after us, she's got a first-class degree, works as a volunteer on an autism helpline and does loads of writing. I think she's brilliant, but I've no idea how to show her that I love her. How do you do that? I really don't know but I'd like to learn.

Weird behavior, creativity linked

Sept. 6, 2005

By Melanie Moran/Vanderbilt University and World Science staff

People called “weird” by their peers may have a leg up in life, at least in one respect.

Researchers have found that a quirky or socially awkward approach to life, often considered a hindrance, may be a key to becoming a great artist, composer or inventor.

The researchers studied people with “schizotypal” personalities—who act oddly, but aren’t mentally ill—and found they’re more creative than either normal or fully schizophrenic people. To access their creativity, these people rely heavily on the right sides of their brains.

The work, by psychologists Brad Folley and Sohee Park of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., was published online last week by the journal Schizophrenia Research.

Psychologists believe a number of creative luminaries had schizotypal personalities, including Vincent Van Gogh, Albert Einstein, Emily Dickinson and Isaac Newton.

“The idea that schizotypes have enhanced creativity has been out there for a long time,” but no one has studied how their brains work, Folley said. He and Park conducted two tests to compare the creative thinking processes of schizotypes, schizophrenics and “normal” people.

In the first test, participants were shown pictures of various household objects and asked to make up new functions for them. Schizotypes were found to be most creative in suggesting new uses. Schizophrenics and average subjects performed similarly to one another.

Schizophrenia has also often been linked to creativity, but many schizophrenics have disorganized thoughts “almost to the point where they can’t really be creative because they cannot get all of their thoughts coherent enough to do that,” Folley said.

“Schizotypes, on the other hand, are free from the severe, debilitating symptoms surrounding schizophrenia and also have an enhanced creative ability.”

In the second test, the three groups again were asked to identify new uses for everyday objects, as well as to perform a non-creative task, for comparison. During all tasks, their brain activity was monitored using a brain scanning technique called near-infrared optical spectroscopy.

The results showed all groups used both sides of the brain for creative tasks. But activation of the right sides of the schizotype brains was dramatically greater than that of the schizophrenic and average subjects.

“In the scientific community, the popular idea that creativity exists in the right side of the brain is thought to be ridiculous,” since both halves of the brain are needed to make new associations and perform other creative tasks, Folley said.

But he found something slightly different.

“All three groups, schizotypes, schizophrenics and normal controls, did use both hemispheres when performing creative tasks. But the brain scans of the schizotypes showed a hugely increased activation of the right hemisphere compared to the schizophrenics and the normal controls.”

The researchers said the results suggest schizotypes and other psychoses-prone populations draw on the left and right sides of their brains differently than the average population. This use of the brain for a variety of tasks may be related to enhanced creativity.

Folley cited work by Swiss neuroscientist Peter Brugger, who found that the left side of the brain controls everyday associations, such as recognizing the car key on your keychain, and verbal abilities; whereas the right side controls new associations, such as finding a new use for a object or navigating a new place.

Brugger speculated that schizotypes should make new associations faster because they are better at accessing both sides of the brain – a prediction verified in a subsequent study, Folley said.

The theory, Folley added, can also explain research showing that a disproportional number of schizotypes and schizophrenics are neither right- nor left-handed. They instead use both hands for a variety of tasks, suggesting that they recruit both sides of their brains for an array of tasks, more than the average person.

“The lack of specialization for certain tasks in brain hemispheres [halves] could be seen as a liability, but the increased communication between the hemispheres actually could provide added creativity,” Folley said.#

Daniel Tammet

Daniel Tammet has savant syndrome, a very rare type of Asperger's syndrome (high-functioning autism). He can perform complex maths calculations at incredible speeds and holds the European record for reciting pi to the furthest decimal point. Daniel speaks ten languages - learning Icelandic in a week. His biography, Born On A Blue Day, is published by Hodder.

  • Can you explain how you do such complex sums so quickly?
    When I think of a number, I see a shape in my head. Every number up to 10,000 has its own shape, colour and texture. For example, 37 is lumpy like porridge, whereas 89 is very fine, like mist or falling snow. When I multiply numbers together, I think of the two shapes side by side in my head. In between the two shapes there's a space that the two shapes create, almost like a negative space. I visualise that space as a shape and that's the answer to the sum. I can translate that picture.
  • This interview runs on July 17, 2006. What does that look like?
    I'd think of it as very small and as a dark purpley colour. The purple comes from the day of the week, Monday. I was born on a Wednesday, which is where the book's title comes from. Wednesdays are very blue. July is compact, but wavy, and the six from 2006 makes it small. All these influences pool together in my head and show me a new shape or colour.
  • And numbers also help you to understand emotions?
    When adolescence began creeping up on me, I started to develop feelings for people and I wanted to understand them. For the first time, I wanted to be part of the normal world and my love of numbers gave me something I could use as a handle. For sadness, I would think of the number six, which is a very tiny number, like a black dot. When I think of it, it makes me feel sad because there's nothing there, just a hollowness. So I think ot myself inside the number six.,crouched inside the darkness and it helps me to have that emotional feeling of sadness that a person is describing to me.
  • You set a European Record by reciting 22,514 digits of the number pi,taking more than 5 hours.Didn't you drift off?
    It was almost a kind of religious experience for me.I did it for the National Society for Epilepsy.I had epilepsy as a child. I gave myself two months to learn pi,spending most days just gorging on the numbers.When I came to recall the sequence,I just visualised a lanscape of numbers. I never felt bored.
  • You're developing your own language,Manti.Why?
    Since childhood,I've often had experiences or feelings that I couldn't find a word for, so I'd invent my own. It's quite common with autistic people - they love to play with words. The word Manti comes from Finnish. It means 'pine tree'. And I've created my own words, such as 'kellokult' which means 'lateness' - it literally translates as 'clock-debt'
  • When did you first realise you were different?
    At primary school. I didn't have any interest in mixing with other children and the feeling was mutual. In a sense, I learned from other children's reactions to me that I was different in some way. Whenever I felt anxious I would count to myself in powers of two. Or I would walk around the playground, which was dotted with trees, and count the leaves. Numbers are very beautiful to me and they're around me all the time, like constant friends.
  • Is savant syndrome a blessing or a curse for you?
    It's a mixed thing. There are many pluses. The downsides are that I can't drive a car, my coordination isn't very good and I find emotions difficult. My childhood was traumatic, too, for me and my parents. I cried constantly as a baby. And later, I would walk up to a wall and bang my head repetitively against it, to relieve the tension.
  • How does it affect your daily life?
    Routine is important to people on the autistic spectrum. I spend a lot of my time at home, running my website and teaching language courses. In the morning, I weight my cereal  - 45g of porridge - and have my breakfast. Then I shower and check my e-mails. People write to me from all over the world about their autistic children and how my story has helped them.They feel a connection to me.What used to be a barrier is now a bridge.


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