Thursday, June 10, 2010

Q & A with Jodi Picoult

From Autism Support Network --

Q&A with bestselling novelist Jodi Picoult --

By: Katherine Olson --
April 4, 2010 --

Q:House Rules follows the struggle of a single mother, her AS son Jacob and her neurotypical son Theo, as they navigate a murder mystery involving Jacob’s beloved friend and tutor. What has been your personal experience with autism? How does it relate to Jacob’s struggle to communicate, such as when he is questioned at the police station in such an aggressive way that it causes a meltdown?

A:Today, everyone has experience with autism. I have a cousin who, when he was young, was found to be profoundly autistic. Police were once called in, with allegations of child abuse. Law enforcement often doesn’t know how to question, or how to deal with autism.

Q:What are some of the rules or prejudices you feel might be broken by parents, educators in order to better reach AS kids like Jacob?

A: For teachers: Don’t assume that a child who thinks “different” is “lesser than.” Instead of teaching to the group, realize that there are multiple ways a child might learn. For parents: Don’t be such an advocate for your child that you forget who you used to be. For researchers: Stop the semantics war regarding autism and vaccines. No, science has not proved causality. But there is a difference between “connection” and “causality.” Vaccines may not cause autism but perhaps it’s worth researching whether, in certain kids, they trigger underlying genetic or mitochondrial issues which then blossom into autistic behavior.

Q: You seem to have perfected Jacob’s voice. How did you nail it?

A: I began my research at a Pennsylvania school for autistic children and interviewed six AS kids and their parents, individually. I also had 40 other teens with AS fill out questionnaires, which gave me hundreds of pages of research. These kids were blisteringly bright, and open when there isn’t social interaction concerned. I also asked one particularly bright girl with AS, who is a great writer, to read through Jacob’s narrative. Because of her incredible attention to detail, I have 100% faith in the validity of Jacob’s narrative.

Q: How has the AS and autism community reacted to your research for this book, and the story itself?

A: I have heard from so many parents thanking me for raising awareness about autism through my fiction. I only hope that when they read the book they find their experiences validated. And for those who don’t have a personal connection to autism, I hope the book can open their eyes a bit and spread a little more tolerance of children who are different.

5 Facts you don’t know about Jodi Picoult

I have two miniature donkeys

I have been skydiving.

I can’t stand custard or crème brûlée.

I met my husband when we were both on the crew team in college (I was the coxswain, he was the stroke of the boat).

In my spare time, I’ve written six original children’s musicals that have been performed to raise over $40K for charity.

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