ASD IN POPULAR CULTURE, BLESSING OR CURSE?

At the weekend, America hosted the Tony Awards, the theatre’s answer to the Oscars.

This was a big night for the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. The play, based on the 2003 book depicting a 15-year old teenager on the autism spectrum scooped up two of the main awards namely Best Play and Best Lead Actor for Alexander Sharp’s interpretation of Christopher the story’s main protagonist.

On its release the book struck a cord with many and rapidly became a best seller. It then went on to become a successful play in the West End and has now achieved Broadway recognition. There’s even talk of a film by David Heyman and Steve Kloves, the producer and screenwriter behind the Harry Potter franchise.

When it comes to raising awareness it’s difficult to do much better. Whilst the character’s condition has never been confirmed, his social communication difficulties are clear and the success of the book and subsequently the play have given the autism spectrum an unprecedented platform in popular culture. So far so good… Yet telegraph.co.uk reports that the author Mark Haddon has expressed reservations about the novel being used as an autism “textbook” by social workers and police forces.

Whilst this book is clearly a novel, not written by an expert and has therefore no vocation to become an autism textbook, it has undoubtedly lifted a veil over the autism spectrum world. Individuals with no personal interest in this field are unlikely to refer to specialist publications but may read this novel and get an insight of the condition. It is a fiction with a view to entertain but it does help putting the spotlight on social communication difficulties.

So to the question blessing or curse, I firmly believe that the incursion of ASD in popular culture can only be a good thing – and I understand Mr Hatton’s reservations but he has helped many and probably more than he knows.