What I Am Reading: Autism Spectrum Edition

Dec 21 2013 Published by under What I'm Reading

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On a trip this autumn, I finished my novels and began scouring Amazon for something else to keep me entertained and sane in airports. Their algorhythm suggested The Rosie Project; once again, an on-target suggestion that did the job.

The book begins with an introduction to Don Tillman, a professor of genetics with a highly-structured routine that does not vary from day-to-day. Despite his self-acknowledged social difficulties, he has decided it is time to find a wife. He approaches this in the same manner as his science- he develops a detailed, 16-page survey instrument to distribute to candidates to find the perfect woman. He shares the survey with his womanizing colleague, Gene, who has been trying to fix Don up for years.

In the first chapter, Gene has asked Don to give a talk for him, a talk to a parents' group about the genetics of Asperger's syndrome. Don constructs a massive technical talk that has to be toned down. At one point, the moderator suggests that he is saying that Asperger's is something intrinsic, that the disorder is nobody's fault. His response, delivered loudly:

“Fault! Asperger’s isn’t a fault. It’s a variant. It’s potentially a major advantage. Asperger’s syndrome is associated with organization, focus, innovative thinking, and rational detachment.”

Simsion, Graeme (2013-10-01). The Rosie Project: A Novel (Kindle Locations 124-126). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

By this point, the reader has figured out that Don falls on this portion of the autism spectrum. His survey would scare off any rational woman, and Gene tries to get him to soften it a bit. Meanwhile, Rosie is directed to Don's office for something else entirely. Rosie pretty much illustrates the opposite of every trait the survey tests, yet somehow she and Don end up dating.

The story of their relationship has the ups and downs and twists and turns of a major roller coaster, but we all know how it will turn out in the end. While we are on that ride, we do get a feel for Don's perpective on life. Since the story comes from his viewpoint, we understand that differences in mental processing are just that: differences, not necessarily errors. These differences can make life more challenging, but it does not mean that life will be less rewarding.

I highly recommend this book if you like a romantic comedy with a twist. It also gives a loving, positive look at the value of living a different life, one complicated by autism.



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