Just Like Me: When Research is Real Life

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It is very common for writers to discuss their research for a novel. For some, that may involve reading all about Hermes Trimigestes and the Emerald Tablet, or sword play, or police procedures. I’ve researched subjects that have dragged me down into a rabbit hold from which I took hours to emerge. I’m lucky to be able  to learn so much all the time.

The research for Just Like Me was very different. My son has autism, so I spent quite a bit of time looking at personal photos and videos, as well as reading stories by and about people with autism. I admit, after years of knowing people with autism and raising a bright, personable child with autism, I still learned things I didn’t know. Some facts about autism:


  • Autism now affects 1 in 59 children and 1 in 37 boys
  • Mutations on chromosome 16 have been tied to some cases of autism. The glitch is in a DNA region that contains genes which historically have changed very rapidly as humans evolved. In other words, the same method that helped evolve human intelligence may contribute to autism.
  • From the Greek autos meaning “self,” autism literally means “alone.”
  • Researchers have found that the area of the brain called the amygdala was on average 13% larger in young children with autism compared with children without autism
  • If one identical twin is diagnosed with autism, the other twin has about 90% chance of develop an autistic disorder.
  • Dogs have been shown to improve autistic children’s quality of life, independence, and safety. The presence of a trained dog can reduce aggressive behavior, calm the child, and serve as a link to the child’s community

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