This book is a funny, brilliant, and heartwarming memoir of sorts. It does a lot of explaining about the different types of behavior that Alex (the individual with autism in this family) displays and what other individuals with autism display and their possible triggers. Anyone who has autism or cares for someone with autism will end up with neck soreness from nodding his or her head all the way through this book!
Early on readers are introduced Dasha; how she came to adopt her humans; she introduces the family members, and lists three of the four reasons she had for writing the book. She also offers her viewpoint on Dr. Temple Grandin’s work which inspired this book. Readers will have to wait until the end of the book to find out her fourth reason, as Dasha explained, because it was just too selfish for her to share up-front!
Dasha wants to return Grandin’s favor by using her “catness” to help others understand autism since Grandin uses her autism to help others understand animals.
“What I’m trying to meow is, like Temple Grandin, who proves that being autistic makes it easier to understand animals, I, being an animal, will try to make it easier to understand autism.”
Dasha not only tries this but succeeds!
Using examples of blindness and deafness, Dasha illustrates the cases of misunderstanding autistic behaviors. She explains the science behind the triad of impairment and argues for the case of finding cause of autism and the case for offering accommodations while accepting diversity. Dasha makes a strong argument for approaching the neurodiversity versus cure debate with a common middle ground and that a compromise can be reached.
Here is an excerpt that highlights the accurate and yet funny aspects of daily life with an individual who has autism:
“Alex (having learned his ‘social interaction lessons’ of being polite) approached the lady [the family were on a walk and met a stranger with a dog], pointed his index finger (it had taken his tutor several months to teach him pointing) and said (very politely):
‘What’s your name?’
Research note: Perfect! You mustn’t talk to strangers. You have to know their name first.
The dog sat down and waited politely for her owner to enjoy this pleasant encounter. However, the lady’s face turned red, her eyes opened wide, while her mouth remained shut.
Research note: I wonder why. She wasn’t a secret agent. Why was she reluctant to tell the boy her name? Why did she look frightened? – I have to think about this later.
Dad interfered immediately. His face turned the same colour as the lady’s:
‘I’m sorry. He’s handicapped.’
Research note: Wrong! Actually, two ‘wrongs’: (1) Dad shouldn’t have interrupted the conversation. He should have waited for his turn. (2) Alex didn’t seem to know the meaning of the word ‘handicapped.’ (I’d never heard it in our household. They used to talk about ‘autistic’ or ‘disabled’ persons.)
Alex (having assumed that his Dad knew the lady and her name was ‘Handicapped’) happily continued.
‘Hello, Mrs. Handicapped.’
Research note: Good boy. A nice start in social interaction. But why did the whole group of my subjects look as if something dreadful just happened?
…Research note: Conclusions of experiment in ‘social interaction’: (1) Both the lady and Dad have impairments in social interactions; (2) Teaching methods are inadequate. Alex followed all the rules of ‘social interaction’ he had learned at school, but they didn’t work.”
Dasha also asserts “… the best joke created by non-autistic [HomoSapiens] is that ‘autistic individuals lack sense of humour’! Are you laughing out loud? I am.”
Indeed there has been much buzz about this ‘joke’ in the autism community on discussion boards and the like. Many individuals with autism can not only appreciate and understand jokes but often make jokes themselves. Brandon, who is 7 and has PDD/NOS type of autism, loves to tell and hear knock-knock jokes. His brother Thomas, age 11 with Asperger’s, also likes to make jokes that poke fun at other people’s lack of literalness.
There are many more examples to pull from this book to prove why one should read it. However, it would be best if you just read it for yourself! Click here for more details on the book.