Friday, July 12, 2013

An Autism Novel Worth Reading

How much has our society developed in terms of awareness and acceptance of autism?

The fiction novel entitled HOUSE RULES written by Jodi Picoult is about the struggles of a differently able person and of selfless people around who embraced Asperger's Syndrome, a high functioning developmental disorder often included in the autism spectrum.

Such is the condition of Jacob Hunt who lives with his mother Emma and brother Theo. He resists changes in routine, a typical characteristic hard to deal for persons with autism and often causes tantrums and aggressions. He is also obsessed with forensic investigations, a bee in the bonnet that later brought him into a conflict.

Jess Ogilvy is a college student whose field involves children with autism. She worked for Jacob as a social skills therapist and the two later formed a genuine friendship. When she was killed, initial evidences like fingerprints led to Jacob pointing him as the murderer. A case went to trial. The prosecutor, having little awareness, misconceived the symptoms of condition of Jacob like little eye contact as signs of guilt.

At the peak of the story, Jacob confesses to having been involved in the case by moving the body of his tutor and setting the scene anew to lead the investigation to a different direction. A form of satisfaction to his innate obsession on crime scenes aside, Jacob realizes that it was a part fault of his brother Theo.

Personally, having had encounters as a SpEd teacher handling children with autism, I could relate so much to the characteristics of Jacob like hand flapping, picky eating, literal understanding, unusual fears, etc. I've had a student before who, like Jacob, exhibit jargoning, a language mostly picked from movies used by children with autism when they are at loss for words to express.

My heart honestly goes to the genuine presentation of the character of Emma for her struggle in raising a child with autism and a single working parent at that. It was a mother's compassion and strength that she could selflessly exchange her own life for the person she calls her family.

The novel is also a very timely enlightenment. It showed the bare bones of what really the persons with autism and their families experience in reality. The misunderstanding and discrimination brought by the condition of Jacob are still very true of today's attitude of the society toward persons with autism. And these all has to come an end.

However, while the author obviously made an extensive and careful study in order to understand the special condition and make Jacob a realistic character, it turned out that her attempt to expound the world peculiar to the condition sounded too much of a lecture rather than an implicit conversation between the writer and the reader.

As much as the author also wanted to give a background on each manifestation of the symptom for readers who might not understand the pieces of the disorder, she almost attributed all the manifestations to the extreme, crafting a character in double emphasis - too not typical of the too not typical persons with autism.

As a whole, this novel will surely touch the hearts of parents, siblings, teachers and therapists of children with autism. It particularly showed the impact of autism in the family life and the effort of people around to stand above the situation. 

I encourage not only the people acquainted to the special community, but also the general populace to read this wonderful novel. We need more hands in spreading the autism awareness and acceptance of them as special pieces of our diverse society.

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