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Hints of Autism in ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime’

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is about Christopher Boone a fifteen-year-old boy who has autism, who tries to solve the murder mystery of Mrs. Shears poodle, Wellington. Christopher lives with his father who has been taking care of him ever since his mother left. Christopher wants to find out who killed Wellington, so he begins to write a book about his investigation. His father does not want him to investigate the death of the dog, but Christopher does it anyway.

While asking some of the neighbors on his street, Christopher begins to get somewhat friends with an older lady named Mrs. Alexander, who tells him of the affair his mother and Mr. Shears had. Later in the book, Christopher’s father finds out he is still trying to investigate Wellington’s murder by finding the book Christopher wrote.

Christopher’s father took his book, and hid it in his closet. After a few days of looking for it, Christopher finds it and a bunch of letters his mother, who his father told him she died at the hospital, had written him.

Christopher reads some of the letters before his father gets back from work. After Christopher learns that his father killed Wellington, he sets out with Toby, his pet rat, to go live with his mother in London. Christopher has to overcome many obstacles to get to London to find his mother.

Christopher shows many different characteristics of autism on the DSM-5 list. The first characteristic he meets is deficits in social-emotional reciprocity.

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This means that Christopher does not like telling people about himself, or cannot start or respond to conversations. In the book, Christopher says it takes him a while to actually get to know people and get used to them. He would ask them a bunch of questions to familiarize himself with a new person. “So talking to other people in our street was brave. But if you are going to do detective work you have to be brave (p.35).” Christopher gets a leap of faith to go ask some of his neighbors on his block if they knew anything about the murder of Wellington. That being said, Christopher half meets the criteria of deficits in social-emotional reciprocity.

Another criteria Christopher meets is the insistence of sameness. This means that if something small changed in Christopher’s routine he did not act well towards it. In the book, Christopher says: “ And when I am in a new place because I see everything, it is like when a computer is doing too many things at the same time and the central processor unit is blocked up and there isn’t any space left to think about other things.(p. 143)”. Being in a brand-new place and not knowing anybody there made Christopher feel very overwhelmed. The only way he could calm down was by solving math problems in his head, like Conway’s Soldiers. “I said I like things to be I nice order. And one way of things being in a nice order was to be logical (p.24).” Christopher would determine how his day was going to be by the colors of cars he would see on his way to school. Everyday Christopher would do this it was part of his routine when he went to school. Thus, Christopher meets the insistence of sameness criteria.

The next criteria Christopher meets is he is highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in the intensity of focus. This means that he has a strong attachment to unusual objects. Christopher has a strong attachment to his Math A level. Once Christopher got to his mother in London, he kept on telling her he needs to get back to Swindon so he could take his Math A level. “I’m meant to be doing my maths A level tomorrow (p.208).” Then later Christopher asks his mother again about his A-level maths, and she tells him that he is going to take it next year because he went to London. This causes Christopher to pout, not eat, and not sleep. “Can I do my maths A level?…..I told you. I rand your headmistress. I told her you were in London. I told her you’d have to do it next year (p.209).” Similarly, Christopher meets the criteria of having fixated interests.

Another criterion Christopher meets is hyper/ hyporeactivity to sensory input. This means that Christopher has a strong negative response to specific sounds. For example, when he got to the train station Christopher was becoming overwhelmed by all the new noises, faces, and the new place. He had to hunch down by a wall to compose himself and cover his ears so he could focus on where he was going. “So I put my hands over my ears to block out the noise and think (p.145).” Later in the book after Christopher gets off of the first train, he looks up, and sees a bunch of signs. This caused him to become overwhelmed again, but after a while he calmed himself down and kept on going. “… because there were too many and my brain wasn’t working properly and this frightened me so I closed my eyes again and I counted to 50 but without doing cubes (p. 170).” Because of this, Christopher meets the criteria of hyper reactivity to sensory input.
In conclusion, Christopher meets some of the many criteria for the autism spectrum disorder according to the DSM-5 list. The criteria he meets is deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, insistence of sameness, highly restricted/ fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity of focus, and hyper/hypo reactivity to sensory input.

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Hints of Autism in ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime’. (2020, Sep 28). Retrieved from

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