For such a short book, this really packs a punch. I’m enjoying learning from it and it’s not so bad to have a short, easy read either. I hope you’re all liking it so far too! If you want to jump in on the discussion, the google doc is here. Be sure to vote for next month’s read too and let me know if you have any suggestions for books for next month’s poll (picking the June read). Here are some discussion questions for the first part of this book:
- Is the tone of the book what you expected, from someone with autism and/or from a thirteen year old boy?
- Have you learned anything that has surprised you so far?
- Do you think that you would interact with someone who has autism differently after reading this book?
- David Mitchell says that the problems of socialization and communication people with autism display “are not symptoms of autism but consequences.” What does he mean exactly…what is the difference as Mitchell sees it? (source)
1. Is the tone of the book what you expected, from someone with autism and/or from a thirteen year old boy?
Not at all! I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, but as I was reading, I was surprised by Naoki’s perceptiveness of other people’s feelings and of the way other people might see him. I think I did have an impression of people with autism as not being very aware of other’s emotions. Doing more reading online, I’m guessing this is because in books, it often isn’t made clear if a character has Asperger’s or Autism and so the two have become mixed up for me. This makes me wish fiction authors would provide better descriptions of their characters at the same time that I can understand them wanting to avoid labels for fear of causing offense. I’m also surprised that any thirteen year old boy can write so well and so thoughtfully. I’m sure I couldn’t have written a book like this at thirteen!
2. Have you learned anything that has surprised you so far?
Pretty much everything, actually. I haven’t done any nonfiction reading about autism before this and I don’t know anyone who has autism. I also have never thought about what it would be like to have autism, in large part because I wouldn’t know where to start imagining that experience. As I mentioned above, I was surprised at Naoki’s perceptiveness. This also meant I was surprised by the guilt and sadness his interactions with others can cause him. I thought that was heartbreakingly sad. I was glad to learn, at the end of this section, about the things that give him joy and they surprised me too.
3. Do you think that you would interact with someone who has autism differently after reading this book?
Definitely. I am fairly certain I would have assumed that someone with autism needed to be talked to as though they were younger than their actual age and I’m glad that I’ve read this so I can avoid the mistake of being condescending to someone with autism in the future. I can’t imagine having people assume you needed to be treated younger than your age all the time, but I doubt it’s a pleasant experience.
4. David Mitchell says that the problems of socialization and communication people with autism display “are not symptoms of autism but consequences.” What does he mean exactly…what is the difference as Mitchell sees it?
I chose to pull this question from a discussion guide about this book because this is a distinction that really struck me reading the first half of the book. Prior to reading this book, I did imagine that the symptoms of autism where particular behaviors, because these are the visible, outward signs that someone has autism. I think this is another reason I never thought more about what the experience of someone with autism is like. I assumed having autism was an explanation for the behavior of people with autism and didn’t look deeper, to try to understand motivations for their behavior. I think understanding that, given how someone with autism experiences the world, the way people with autism behave makes complete sense is critical. It would be underestimating someone with autism to see their behavior as nonsensical, instead of as a logical reaction to the way they experience the world.