Learning by reading

Doctor illuminates issue through books

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I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Patricia Davis of the Integrated Center for Child Development outside of Boston recently. She was visiting the Keys with my sister, and we had an in-depth conversation about autism. The place she works, the ICCD, is a multidisciplinary center which offers medical care, education and neuropsychology for families with children and young adults with autism or other learning disabilities. What sets it apart is its focus on neuropsychology. Davis is one of the medical doctors on a staff of about 15 overall.

“We provide a medical home for the patients and also provide psychopharmacological consultations,” Davis said. “The patients might need help with sleep or attention or behavior or depression. They send them to us and we can talk about medications.”

While she was visiting, our conversation naturally progressed to how children with autism learn. In passing, I mentioned that the best way I learn about topics is when they are wrapped up in a story … or fiction. And so Davis sent me these three books. They arrived in my mailbox on Friday and, since I hate delayed gratification, I read the first one that very night.

“The ‘Rosie’ books are just fun reads,” Davis said. “But ‘The Curious Incident’ author had to project and guess at the internal working of the main character’s mind. It felt authentic to me.”

  • “The curious incident of the dog in the night-time,” by Mark Haddon.

This is a sort of murder mystery told by the main character, Christopher Boone. In the first few pages he discovers a neighbor’s dog impaled with a garden tool. He is, of course, accused and sets out to find the truth. But his efforts are hampered by his interactions with everyone else as he takes everything at face value. The book touches on how the boy is overwhelmed with situations and the challenges his mother and father face in raising him. It’s at times stark, and a very good read.

  • “The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simsion

Simsion has written a fantastic novel that touches on autism, romance and comedy. The main character, Don Tillman, is on the search for the perfect mate, something he calls “The Wife Project.” The genetics professor attempts to use logic in finding a love match, which of course ends happily. I don’t believe Asperger syndrome is overtly mentioned in the narrative, but the author does mention it in the Q&A at the end of the book. What sets this story apart is the multi-faceted main character who recognizes his challenges and sets about overcoming them with sometimes original, sometimes wacky methods.

  • “The Rosie Effect” by Graeme Simsion

This book picks up with characters Rosie and Don Tillman and the challenges of fatherhood. An innocent mistake snowballs into marital discord, deception and doubts. One reviewer wrote, “(Don) is well-meaning and loyal but awkward, totally logical but sometimes only in his own head, always honest and forthright and so very funny without meaning to be. I like that his Asperger’s/autism is never clearly defined or labeled but is simply what makes him unique.”

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