Monday, April 1, 2013

Asperger Syndrome & Picoult's House Rules

From yesterday's NYT article "Books of Hope, Found in Newtown Gunman’s Home:"
Words of comfort, encouragement and empathy had been available to Nancy Lanza and her son, Adam, within a pair of books that were found by the police during a search of their home in Newtown, Conn., after Mr. Lanza’s murderous rampage on Dec. 14. It is all but impossible to know if mother or son were helped by the books, “Look Me in the Eye: My Life With Asperger’s” and “Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant,” or whether either opened, or even had use for, them. While those familiar with Mr. Lanza and his family have said he had an autism variant known as Asperger’s syndrome, investigators have not confirmed the diagnosis... 
Over the same period, Mr. Robison has been worrying about an ill-informed rush to judgment. “Reporters are saying the killer had Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism,” he wrote on his blog on Dec. 20. “Every time a news story does that — by tying ‘killer’ and ‘Asperger’s’ in the same sentence — they are at some level implying that there is a connection between autism and mass murder. “There’s not,” he continued. “Statisticians have a phrase for this situation: Correlation does not imply causation.”
For a novel about Asperger Syndrome, try House Rules by Jodi Picoult:
When your son can't look you in the eye...does that mean he's guilty? Jacob Hunt is a teen with Asperger's syndrome. He's hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, though he is brilliant in many ways. But he has a special focus on one subject - forensic analysis. A police scanner in his room clues him in to crime scenes, and he's always showing up and telling the cops what to do. And he's usually right. But when Jacob's small hometown is rocked by a terrible murder, law enforcement comes to him. Jacob's behaviors are hallmark Asperger's, but they look a lot like guilt to the local police. Suddenly the Hunt family, who only want to fit in, are directly in the spotlight. For Jacob's mother, Emma, it's a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it's another indication why nothing is normal because of Jacob. And over this small family, the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder?

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