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PRE-READING ACTIVITY: Use the Autism Fact Sheet to answer the following questions.

1. Autism Spectrum Disorder in General 3. Prevalence of ASDs

a. What is the definition of Autism a. How common is ASDs in the
Spectrum Disorder (ASD)? United States?

b. What are some symptoms of ASDs? b. Who is affected by ASDs?

c. What causes ASDs?

4. ASDs Research
a. What research is being conducted
on ASDs? By whom?

2. Autism as a spectrum disorder

a. Why is autism considered a spectrum

b. What other questions about ASDs

do you have?

b. How are ASDs treated?

Autism Fact Sheet
From <> accessed on June 1, 2010

What is autism?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by
social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of
behavior. Autistic disorder, sometimes called autism or classical ASD, is the most severe form of ASD,
while other conditions along the spectrum include a milder form known as Asperger syndrome, the rare
condition called Rett syndrome, and childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental
disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred to as PDD-NOS). Although ASD varies significantly in
character and severity, it occurs in all ethnic and socioeconomic groups and affects every age group.
Experts estimate that three to six children out of every 1,000 will have ASD. Males are four times more
likely to have ASD than females.
What are some common signs of autism?
The hallmark feature of ASD is impaired social interaction. A childs primary caregivers are usually the
first to notice signs of ASD. As early as infancy, a baby with ASD may be unresponsive to people or
focus intently on one item to the exclusion of others for long periods of time. A child with ASD may
appear to develop normally and then withdraw and become indifferent to social engagement.
Children with ASD may fail to respond to their names and often avoid eye contact with other people.
They have difficulty interpreting what others are thinking or feeling because they cant understand social
cues, such as tone of voice or facial expressions, and dont watch other peoples faces for clues about
appropriate behavior. They lack empathy.
Many children with ASD engage in repetitive movements such as rocking and twirling, or in self-abusive
behavior such as biting or head-banging. They also tend to start speaking later than other children and
may refer to themselves by name instead of I or me. Children with ASD dont know how to play
interactively with other children. Some speak in a sing-song voice about a narrow range of favorite
topics, with little regard for the interests of the person to whom they are speaking.
Children with ASD appear to have a higher than normal risk for certain co-occurring conditions,
including Fragile X syndrome (which causes mental retardation), tuberous sclerosis (in which tumors
grow on the brain), epileptic seizures, Tourette syndrome, learning disabilities, and attention deficit
disorder. About 20 to 30 percent of children with ASD develop epilepsy by the time they reach
adulthood. While people with schizophrenia may show some autistic-like behavior, their symptoms
usually do not appear until the late teens or early adulthood. Most people with schizophrenia also have
hallucinations and delusions, which are not found in autism.
How is autism diagnosed?
ASD varies widely in severity and symptoms and may go unrecognized, especially in mildly affected
children or when it is masked by more debilitating handicaps. Very early indicators that require
evaluation by an expert include:
no babbling or pointing by age 1
no single words by 16 months or two-word phrases by age 2
no response to name
loss of language or social skills
poor eye contact
excessive lining up of toys or objects
no smiling or social responsiveness.
Later indicators include:
impaired ability to make friends with peers
impaired ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others
absence or impairment of imaginative and social play
stereotyped, repetitive, or unusual use of language
restricted patterns of interest that are abnormal in intensity or focus
preoccupation with certain objects or subjects
inflexible adherence to specific routines or rituals.
Health care providers will often use a questionnaire or other screening instrument to gather information
about a childs development and behavior. Some screening instruments rely solely on parent
observations, while others rely on a combination of parent and doctor observations. If screening
instruments indicate the possibility of ASD, a more comprehensive evaluation is usually indicated.
A comprehensive evaluation requires a multidisciplinary team, including a psychologist, neurologist,
psychiatrist, speech therapist, and other professionals who diagnose children with ASD. The team
members will conduct a thorough neurological assessment and in-depth cognitive and language testing.
Because hearing problems can cause behaviors that could be mistaken for ASD, children with delayed
speech development should also have their hearing tested.
Children with some symptoms of ASD but not enough to be diagnosed with classical autism are often
diagnosed with PDD-NOS. Children with autistic behaviors but well-developed language skills are often
diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Much rarer are children who may be diagnosed with childhood
disintegrative disorder, in which they develop normally and then suddenly deteriorate between the ages of
3 to 10 years and show marked autistic behaviors. Girls with autistic symptoms may have Rett syndrome,
a sex-linked genetic disorder characterized by social withdrawal, regressed language skills, and hand
What causes autism?
Scientists arent certain about what causes ASD, but its likely that both genetics and environment play a
role. Researchers have identified a number of genes associated with the disorder. Studies of people with
ASD have found irregularities in several regions of the brain. Other studies suggest that people with ASD
have abnormal levels of serotonin or other neurotransmitters in the brain. These abnormalities suggest
that ASD could result from the disruption of normal brain development early in fetal development caused
by defects in genes that control brain growth and that regulate how brain cells communicate with each
other, possibly due to the influence of environmental factors on gene function. While these findings are
intriguing, they are preliminary and require further study. The theory that parental practices are
responsible for ASD has long been disproved.
What role does inheritance play?
Twin and family studies strongly suggest that some people have a genetic predisposition to autism.
Identical twin studies show that if one twin is affected, there is a 90 percent chance the other twin will be
affected. There are a number of studies in progress to determine the specific genetic factors associated
with the development of ASD. In families with one child with ASD, the risk of having a second child
with the disorder is approximately 5 percent, or one in 20. This is greater than the risk for the general
population. Researchers are looking for clues about which genes contribute to this increased
susceptibility. In some cases, parents and other relatives of a child with ASD show mild impairments in
social and communicative skills or engage in repetitive behaviors. Evidence also suggests that some
emotional disorders, such as manic depression, occur more frequently than average in the families of
people with ASD.
Do symptoms of autism change over time?
For many children, symptoms improve with treatment and with age. Children whose language skills
regress early in lifebefore the age of 3appear to have a higher than normal risk of developing
epilepsy or seizure-like brain activity. During adolescence, some children with ASD may become
depressed or experience behavioral problems, and their treatment may need some modification as they
transition to adulthood. People with ASD usually continue to need services and supports as they get
older, but many are able to work successfully and live independently or within a supportive environment.
How is autism treated?
There is no cure for ASD. Therapies and behavioral interventions are designed to remedy specific
symptoms and can bring about substantial improvement. The ideal treatment plan coordinates therapies
and interventions that meet the specific needs of individual children. Most health care professionals agree
that the earlier the intervention, the better.
Educational/behavioral interventions: Therapists use highly structured and intensive skill-
oriented training sessions to help children develop social and language skills, such as Applied
Behavioral Analysis. Family counseling for the parents and siblings of children with ASD often
helps families cope with the particular challenges of living with a child with ASD.
Medications: Doctors may prescribe medications for treatment of specific ASD-related
symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Antipsychotic
medications are used to treat severe behavioral problems. Seizures can be treated with one or
more anticonvulsant drugs. Medication used to treat people with attention deficit disorder can be
used effectively to help decrease impulsivity and hyperactivity.
Other therapies: There are a number of controversial therapies or interventions available for
people with ASD, but few, if any, are supported by scientific studies. Parents should use caution
before adopting any unproven treatments. Although dietary interventions have been helpful in
some children, parents should be careful that their childs nutritional status is carefully followed.
What research is being done?
In 1997, at the request of Congress, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) formed its Autism
Coordinating Committee (NIH/ACC) to enhance the quality, pace and coordination of efforts at the NIH
to find a cure for autism (
developmental-disorders/nih-initiatives/nih-autism-coordinating-committee.shtml). The NIH/ACC
involves the participation of seven NIH Institutes and Centers: the National Institute of Neurological
Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and
Human Development, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Deafness and
Other Communication Disorders, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the National
Institute of Nursing Research, and the National Center on Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The
NIH/ACC has been instrumental in the understanding of and advances in ASD research. The NIH/ACC
also participates in the broader Federal Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) that is
composed of representatives from various component agencies of the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, as well as the U.S. Department of Education and other government organizations.
In fiscal years 2007 and 2008, NIH began funding the 11 Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE),
coordinated by the NIH/ACC. The ACEs are investigating early brain development and functioning,
social interactions in infants, rare genetic variants and mutations, associations between autism-related
genes and physical traits, possible environmental risk factors and biomarkers, and a potential new
medication treatment.
Do your best to answer these questions. You do not have to answer all of them, they are mostly
serving as a review of the novel and to help you look at the novel more closely so you can write your
essay at the end of the week. Please pay special attention to questions in bold.
General Questions about your Reading Experience
The following questions ask you about your impressions your gut response or your subjective
response to the novel. These questions also ask you to explore how this book may or may not be
different from other stories that you have read. Read the six questions listed here, attempting to
formulate answers, in your mind, to as many as you can.
1. What was your first impression upon reading the first few pages of this novel?
2. In what ways did your first impression about the book change, as you continued to read the
story? Why did it change? If your first impressions did not change, why is this the case?
3. What made reading this book an unusual, engaging, and sometimes challenging experience?
4. It is safe to say that most of you have not read a book such as this one before. Because you
havent, the novel will strike you as different in many ways. In what ways is this novel
different from many of the other novels or short stories that you have read? Examine everything
about the novel, from its style (word choice, voice, sentence structure, and sentence length) and
characterization, to its plot and formatting (e.g., chapter numbers, use of italics, boldfacing, etc.)
and make a list in your mind, or on paper, of all the ways in which this novel does NOT fit your
usual idea of a novel.
5. Despite the novels many oddities, the author of the work, Mark Haddon, has still told you a
story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In other words, The Curious Incident makes use
of literary conventions common to many, if not all, works of fiction or similar genres. 1 What
aspects of The Curious Incident remind you of other stories that you have read, or even films that
you have watched? What conventions of all novels are also followed and developed in this story?
6. Generally speaking, what did you appreciate the most about this story? The least? And why?
Questions about the Narrator
Describe anything and everything about Christopher John Francis Boone that you can remember (and
if you cant remember certain things, then take a few minutes to re-read portions of the story that
strike your fancy, so that you can get a feel for this narrator). Since the whole story is filtered
through his gaze, the more you try to see the world through his eyes, the more youll come to
appreciate the special way in which he tells his story.
1. What does Christopher like? What does he not like? Does he offer any rationalization for his
likes and dislikes?
2. What does Christopher eat?
3. Where does he live? With whom?
4. What kind of school does Christopher attend? Who are his teachers?

We use the word genre to describe certain kinds or classifications of literature. Novels are one genre; short stories
are another; poetry is still another, sonnets are a sub-genre of poetry, and so on.
5. What does Christopher see in the world around him? What details and things in this world does
he share with his readers? What information about the world does he omit? Why does he include
information about some things but omit information about other things?
6. How does he see the world around him? What might be his attitude toward the world
around him: other people, animals, his mother and father, his teacher, nature, the
neighborhood in which he lives, his home, his belongings, etc.?
7. How does Christopher make sense of his environment? What makes sense to him and what
confuses him, and why?
8. To what extent does Christopher change or grow during the narrative?
9. In what ways would you describe Christopher as a static, 2-dimentional character (doesnt
change or interact others) or a dynamic, 3-dimensional character (changes over story, effects and
affects other characters)? Offer some explanations for your answers.
10. How would this story change if we didnt have a first-person narrator but had instead, say,
a third-person omniscient narrator?
Questions about the Plot
A storys plot involves the chronological sequencing of events within the story. Talking about the
plot of a story, as well, often cannot take place without talking about the characters in the story that
give the plot its shape or without discussing the narrator who tells us the story. Finally, we can have
plots and sub-plots, the latter of which may be revealed as the primary plot unfolds.
1. What is the plot of this story? What happens first, second, third, and so on? What is the plot of
this story, condensed into a few sentences?
2. What are a few examples of Christophers digressions from the plot? When he digresses, what
does he talk about? Examine the digressions as a group. When does Christopher digress? Is there
any rhyme or reason to the timing of his digressions? Is there a pattern to the digressions? How
might the digressions relate to the plot in some fashion, or help us understand Christopher better?
3. If the primary plot of the story involves Christophers discovery and solving of the
neighbor dogs violent death, what might the novels sub-plots be? How do these sub-plots
get revealed through the course of the story? How do the sub-plots relate to the storys
major plot?
Questions about Passages and Chapters
23 questions about the story follow below. They take you from page 1 of the novel to the very end.
These questions focus your attention on key events in the plot, on certain digressions in the story, on
certain characters (especially Christopher), on the books style, on some of the books dialogue, and
on important interactions between Christopher and others.
1. Read the first paragraph of the novel (p. 1). What do you learn about Christopher by
reading this passage? What do you learn about what is important to him? How does he see
things? How might he be different from you, or even the same? What kind of narrative
style characterizes this passage?
2. Why does Christopher tear up the piece of paper that Siobhan2 has drawn for him (p. 3)?

Siobhan is a female Irish name pronounced Shiv-awn.
3. Examine the footnote on p. 5 of the book. When does Christopher use footnotes? Page 8
also has an example of numbered lists, and page 53 has an example of boldface. When does
Christopher resort to such additions or flourishes in his storytelling? What do these font
changes, lists, and so on, tell us about this narrator?
4. Christopher provides insight into his behavior on p. 7 when he begins to press his forehead
on the ground, ignoring the policeman. However, the policeman does not have the vantage
point that we have. If we were ignorant about Christopher in the way that the policeman is,
what would we think of Christopher? If the policeman had known what we know about this
narrator, how might he have approached Christopher differently?
5. Chapter 19 (p. 11) provides us with a digression on prime numbers. What do we learn, factually
speaking, about such numbers as we read this chapter? What do we learn about this digression on
prime numbers vis--vis the chapter that precedes it? In other words, how does Chapter 19 shed
light on the subject matter of the previous chapter? What philosophy does Christopher extract
from his digression on prime numbers (read the end of Chapter 19 for an answer to this question.)
6. How would you characterize the relationship that Christopher has with his father? Re-read
chapter 41 (pp. 20-21). Try to see the relationship through Christophers eyes, through his
fathers eyes, and through your own eyes.
7. When Christopher is told that his mother has died, what is his response (pp. 26-28, chapter
53). In this chapter, as in many other chapters, he intersperses short sentences into his
narrative. In fact, some of his paragraphs in this chapter are only one sentence long. What
kind of information is conveyed in these short paragraphs? What is significant about the
beginning of chapter 59, the very next chapter? Where has the discussion of his mother
gone, and why?
8. Everybody processes the ideas of death and dying differently. Christopher, on pp. 33-34,
discusses his rabbits death, his mothers death, and the idea of dying. In what ways does
Christophers scientific, factual interpretation also end up being a kind of consolation for him or
for us?
9. Chapter 67 gives us a wonderful glimpse into the world of non-autistic persons, through the eyes
of an autistic person. Examine, for example, the t-shirt slogan that Christopher quotes on p. 36,
and his comments on the idea of chatting, on the top of p. 40. When you see bits and pieces of
your own world isolated and discussed, in the way that Christopher isolates and discusses them,
how does your own world appear to you now? Discuss other pieces of our non-autistic world
that Christopher points out for us throughout the novel. (See also p. 184 and lots of other pages!)
10. Christopher lists his behavioral problems on pp. 46-7. What do we learn about our own
behavioral problems by reading Christophers list? What do we learn about his parents
difficulties as well?
11. Mrs. Alexander, a neighbor, ends up being quite conversant with Christopher. Describe their
relationship (and check out pp. 56-61 as well). What does Christopher learn not merely about the
dogs murder but about his mother and father as well, from this neighbor?
12. Christopher describes the Monty Hall math problem on pp. 64-5 and he provides us with
a description of clouds on pp. 67-9. To what extent are these digressions unrelated to the
story? What do these digressions tell us about Christopher? Find other digressions that are
interesting to you and/or that may be relevant to the rest of the story (pp. 86, 88, etc.).
13. My memory is like film, says Christopher (p. 76). He continues to say that he never forgets
anything, and from this he derives a great deal of confidence. What other tools does Christopher
have to deal with problems, conflicts, uncertainty, and ambiguity?
14. I looked at the letter and thought really hard. It was a mystery and I couldnt figure it out (99,
referring to a letter from his mother that he finds in his dads room). When do Christophers tools
fail him? When does the world shake up Christopher? Examine the passage on 113 (I dont
know what happened then because there is a gap in my memory, like a bit of the tape had been
erased) and the passage on 120 (I killed Wellington, Christopher) and Christophers
response to these two frightening situations.
15. To what extent does Christopher develop new tools for being in the world, other than the
ones he already has, in order to solve problems that his usual behavior does not permit him
to solve? In other words, can you locate a passage or chapters that indicate that
Christopher is changing in his own way to meet the demands of his life? The mind is just a
complicated machine, says Christopher (p. 116). How does Christopher adjust to the
complicated world around him by also adjusting the complicated machine of his mind?
16. The truth is very important to Christopher. When he shares information with us about
Orion and other constellations, he says, And that is the truth (126). How does
Christopher react when the truth becomes grey or fuzzy?
17. Pages 129 to the end of the book chronicle Christophers journey to see his mother in London.
How does Christopher survive on this journey? What characterizes this journey? Whom does he
meet? How does he cope? What does he learn? What skills does he use in order to arrive safely at
his mothers?
18. Why does Christopher say that he doesnt like new places (140)? See p. 143 as well.
19. This novel contains a great deal of gentle humor -- much, or most, of it unintentional. Take, for
example, the dialogue on p. 150 or Mrs. Alexanders dog poo (p. 56). Locate other passages
that are humorous and share them with others. What makes them funny?
20. What does Christopher learn once he arrives at his mothers house?
21. While at his mothers house Christopher has one of his favorite dreams (pp. 198-200). What
makes it his favorite? And would this dream be a favorite of yours? Why or why not?
22. How would you describe Christophers family, once he moves back to Swindon? What has
changed for the better? How has the mother changed, and how has the father changed?
23. To what extent does the book conclude on a note that ties up all loose ends? Or are there
some loose ends still dangling?
POST-READING: An article of interest

A journey to shock and enlighten learned some things about the routine, the
William Schofield, who has Asperger's syndrome,
tendencies, the lifestyles, and the real-life
gives his verdict on The Curious Incident of the Dog experiences of people with AS, rather than just
in the Night-Time doing his job or reading a textbook and learning
What an interesting title, I thought, when I first
looked at this book. It follows the life of the This book is a good murder mystery story but a
narrator, Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old boy better description of how the mind of a different
who I think has Asperger syndrome (which I person with some kind of special need looks
have). I found it interesting that the author made upon how things work and come about. I think
the decision to say that Chris would never start that there are certain characteristics that show
each chapter continuing an idea or a specific Chris's condition is similar to Asperger
theme from the previous chapter. This is what I syndrome.
think implies that the author wants Chris to be Can you, though, diagnose a fictional character?
perceived as having Asperger's or something My answer to the question is that you cannot. I
different about him. The author must have think that Mark Haddon may not have
thought very hard about this book, which made intentionally set out to write about someone with
me enjoy it even more. this particular condition as he frequently just
The story itself is quite unfortunate for Chris, as describes Christopher as having "some sort of
he is holding a dead dog killed by an unknown disability", but may have ended up doing it
person. Lots of things are unexplained in the anyway; the similarities are very convincing
book; like what Chris is doing outside another between Chris and me especially, in my opinion.
person's house at 12.07am and how he came to These characteristics are:
be holding the dog. This confused and intrigued
me, and kept me reading. I, like Chris, like my food separate.
Chris then decides to solve the mystery of the I don't like big crowds.
dead dog and begins a journey which by the end I don't like new places.
will shock and enlighten him and the reader too.
This book is about the great shocks that can I don't like new ideas.
happen in life. These include things that turn his When unhappy I use my database of films in my
world on its head and cause Chris to comfort head to play a certain scene.
himself the only way he knows how: by doing
multiplication. I find it hard to talk to people and make myself
My favourite parts of the book are where the
author, Mark Haddon, has to predict I would say that Christopher and I are pretty
Christopher's responses to some of the toughest similar but I am older, more mature and more
shocks that can happen to anyone. I can then aware of the way the "normal" world works.
consider how well the author has judged that
Chris - and in the bigger picture, people with William Schofield, 18, is a student at the Interact Centre, a
specialised day college in London for people with
Asperger syndrome - will respond to some Asperger's syndrome. (The National Autistic Society is on
devastating situations (or devastating to those of
us with the condition, anyway). It made me feel Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
happy to know that during his time as a special-
needs helper Mark had actually absorbed and
POST READING: Choose ONE of the following options to show overall comprehension and analysis of
the text:

1. Create a collage of pictures related to the characters and themes from the novel. Include a
short description of why the pictures were chosen and how the pictures relate to the
characters and themes.

2. Rewrite a scene of the novel from a different character's perspective (i.e. Mom, Dad,
Siobhan, Toby). In your rewrite show how their perspective and description would be
different from Christophers.

3. Translate the most important scenes from the novel into a storyboard of at least 10
illustrations and short descriptions.

4. Write the autobiography of one of the characters after the novel took place. For example,
write about Christopher's life after the novel ends. Your autobiography should be 2-3
handwritten pages in length.