Related to: 'Asperger Syndrome and Anxiety'

Julie Sarkissian blogs about the problems facing the protagnist of her debut novel, DEAR LUCY

Something's Wrong With Lucy - But What?

Lucy is different – that much is clear. She speaks like a child, doesn’t recognize social boundaries, flies into rages, and treasures rotten food. Her cognition is impaired, her vocabulary is very limited and she cannot read or write. But what – precisely – is wrong with her is left up to the reader. Lucy is the protagonist of my novel, DEAR LUCY, and from the first sentence of the book I ever wrote it was obvious that Lucy was cognitively different. The way Lucy describes herself is as “missing too many words.” Her mother calls her “difficult.” Readers of early drafts of the book had a few theories as to Lucy’s condition; autism, Williams Syndrome, Down Syndrome. But Lucy’s mother has kept her from going to school and Lucy has never seen a doctor. So in the fictional reality of the book there is no official diagnosis. But as the novel progressed I wondered – should I have one? I was torn. If Lucy was presenting enough symptoms to point to a real condition, was I ignoring the obvious not to fold that condition into my development of her character? Was it insensitive of me to allude to aspects of certain real, life-altering conditions but not assign a specific condition to Lucy? I worried about appropriating aspects of serious conditions without treating those conditions with proper respect and acknowledgement. And though any clinical diagnosis would probably not be explicit in the novel, I wondered if I would be ignoring an opportunity to bring attention to a real disorder when people asked me about Lucy’s condition, the way The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-time did for autism. On the other hand, I had concerns that if I chose a diagnosis for Lucy, I would be ascribing to her qualities that she wouldn’t have otherwise presented. Lucy had her own will over my writing and over the novel. I didn’t want to yoke Lucy’s expression by keeping her behavior and abilities consistent with a clinical condition. Accuracy would also become a critical issue if Lucy’s condition was named. Ultimately I chose not to diagnose Lucy, though I worry the artistic freedom provided by that decision comes at the price of being judged for being too liberal with my treatment of cognitive disorders. Now that publication is a few months away, I am apprehensive of how my treatment of Lucy’s cognitive limitations will be judged. I have yet to talk to a reader who has a learning different child, or works with learning different people, and that conversation is one I will be honored, and not a bit anxious, to have.

Brenda Maddox

Brenda Maddox is an award-winning biographer whose work has been translated into ten languages. NORA: A BIOGRAPHY OF NORA JOYCE won the Los Angeles Times Biography Award, the Silver PEN Award, the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger and was shortlisted for the National Book Award. Her life of D.H. Lawrence won the Whitbread Biography Award and GEORGE'S GHOSTS, on the married life of W.B. Yeats, was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize.

Christine Wilding

Christine Wilding's (Kent, England) books on CBT have sold over 50,000 copies. She holds a postgraduate diploma in CBT from the University of London, is an accredited member of the British Association of Counselling, is a member of the steering committee set up to develop guidelines for the treatment of depression within the NHS, and is in-demand as a leader of CBT-based training courses.

Daniel Tammet

Daniel Tammet is an essayist, novelist and translator. He is the author of Thinking in Numbers, Embracing the Wide Sky, and the Sunday Times bestseller Born On A Blue Day. Tammet is Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA). He lives in Paris.

David Mitchell

Born in 1969, David Mitchell grew up in Worcestershire. After graduating from Kent University, he taught English in Japan, where he wrote his first novel, Ghostwritten. Published in 1999, it was awarded the Mail on Sunday John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. His second novel, number9dream, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and in 2003, David Mitchell was selected as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists. His third novel, Cloud Atlas, was shortlisted for six awards including the Man Booker Prize, and adapted for film in 2012. It was followed by Black Swan Green, shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year Award, and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which was a No. 1 Sunday Times bestseller. Both were also longlisted for the Booker. In 2013, The Reason I Jump: One Boy's Voice From the Silence of Autism by Naoki Higashida was published in a translation from the Japanese by David Mitchell and KA Yoshida. It was an immediate bestseller in the UK and later in the US as well.

Dena Michelli

Dr Dena Michelli is a specialist in personal and professional transformation. She works extensively with leaders in commerce and industry, not only through programmes offered by international business schools but also as an independent coach and consultant. She has written extensively and runs seminars and workshops on subjects pertaining to leadership and personal development. She is often quoted in mainstream media on these issues.http://www.denamichelli.com/

Donna Dunning

Donna Dunning, PhD, is an author, consultant, certified teacher, and member of the MBTI ® International Training Faculty. She worked as a psychologist for over 20 years, specializing in the areas of career development, learning, and work performance. Donna is the author of more than a dozen publications. Her newest books are 10 Career Essentials and What's Your Type of Career? 2nd edition.

Emma Young

Emma Young is an award-winning science and health journalist now based in Sheffield. She has a BSc (Hons) in psychology from the University of Durham and 20 years' experience on titles including the Guardian, the Sydney Morning Herald, and New Scientist. She also writes for Mosaic, the new Wellcome Trust magazine.

Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin is one of the most influential writers on the linked subjects of habits, happiness, and human nature. She's the author of many books, including the New York Times bestsellers, Better Than Before and The Happiness Project. A member of Oprah's SuperSoul 100, Rubin has an enormous following, in print and online; her books have sold more than 2 million copies worldwide, in more than 35 languages; and on her popular daily blog, gretchenrubin.com, she reports on her adventures in pursuit of habits and happiness. She also has an award-winning podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin. She lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.gretchenrubin.com twitter | facebook | instagram

Harry Judd

Harry Judd is a member of the hugely successful bands McFly and McBusted who have headlined Hyde Park, notched up 19 hit singles - of which 7 went to number one - and 2 number one albums. He is a much-loved former Strictly Come Dancing champion.

John Powell

Dr John Powell is a physicist and a classically trained musician, with naturally curly hair. He has given lectures at international laser conferences and played guitar in pubs in return for free beer. He prefers the latter activity. He holds a master's degree in music composition and a PhD in physics, and has taught physics at the universities of Nottingham and Lulea (Sweden) and musical acoustics at Sheffield University. He lives in Nottingham.

Joshua Wolf Shenk

Joshua Wolf Shenk is an essayist, author, and curator based in Los Angeles. He is a contributor to Atlantic, Slate, Harper's and other magazines. His first book, Lincoln's Melancholy, was a New York Times notable book and won prizes from the Lincoln Institute and Mental Health America. Shenk directs the Arts in Mind series on creativity and serves on the general council of The Moth.

Judy Bartkowiak

Judy Bartkowiak's training courses and coaching practice have helped thousands of people to apply the skills of NLP in their everyday lives. She is a qualified NLP Trainer, NLP Master Practitioner, NLP Sports Practitioner, NLP Business Practitioner and NLP Children's Practitioner.

Martin Seligman

Martin Seligman PhD, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of the Positive Psychology Network, gave the Centennial address to the British Psychological Society in 2002 and is an Honorary Professor at the University of Cardiff. A former President of the American Psychological Association, he has written over 20 books including the bestselling Learned Optimism and Authentic Happiness and in 2009 was awarded the British Academy's Wiley Prize in Psychology. He is widely considered the pre-eminent expert on applied psychology in the world.

Mary Aiken

Dr. Mary Aiken is the world's foremost forensic cyberpsychologist. She is the director of the Cyberpsychology Research Network, an advisor to Europol, and has conducted research and training workshops with multiple global agencies from INTERPOL to the F.B.I. and White House. She is a Distinguished Professor of the Practice of Cyber Analytics at the Asia-Pacific Institute for Resilience and Sustainability (AIRS) anchored at Hawaii Pacific University. Her research interests include cyber security, organized cybercrime, cyberstalking, human trafficking and the rights of the child online. She is a member of the advisory board of the Hague Justice Portal, a foundation for International peace, justice and security. Her groundbreaking work inspired the CBS television series CSI: Cyber. She is based in Ireland.www.maryaiken.com

Matthew Syed

Matthew Syed is a leading columnist and feature writer for The Times and the host of the UK's biggest podcast: Flintoff, Savage and the Ping Pong Guy on BBC Radio 5. Matthew also gives business talks to major international corporate clients including. Before becoming a writer Matthew was the England table tennis number one for almost a decade, three times Commonwealth Champion, and he twice represented Great Britain in the Olympic Games.Matthew Syed's first book, Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice, was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year. His second, Black Box Thinking, was a Sunday Times No.1 bestseller. He has also published a collection of his award-winning sports columns in The Greatest.

Megan Hine

Megan Hine is a British adventurer, wilderness expedition leader and survival expert. She also acts as a consultant for private individuals and on television shows around the world including Bear Grylls: Mission Survive and Running Wild. With a lifelong thirst for travel and adventure Megan has amassed a huge amount of expertise in all aspects of the outdoors. By pushing her mental and physical limits in extreme environments Megan has explored remote jungles, arid deserts and high and cold mountains; taking private clients, celebrities and television crews to extreme and beautiful places they didn't even know existed.

Naoki Higashida

Naoki Higashida was born in Kimitsu, Japan in 1992. He was diagnosed with severe autism in 1998 and subsequently attended a school for students with special needs, then (by correspondence) Atmark Cosmopolitan High School, graduating in 2011. Having learnt to use a method of communication based on an alphabet grid, Naoki wrote The Reason I Jump when he was thirteen and it was published in Japan in 2007. He has published several books since, from autobiographical accounts about living with autism to fairy tales, poems and illustrated books, and writes a regular blog. Despite his communication challenges, he also gives presentations about life on the autistic spectrum throughout Japan and works to raise awareness about autism. In 2011 he appeared in director Gerry Wurzburg's documentary on the subject, Wretches & Jabberers.

Ranulph Fiennes

Sir Ranulph Fiennes was the first man to reach both poles by surface travel and the first to cross the Antarctic Continent unsupported. In the 1960s he was removed from the SAS Regiment for misuse of explosives but, joining the army of the Sultan of Oman, received that country's Bravery Medal on active service in 1971. He is the only person yet to have been awarded two clasps to the Polar medal for both Antarctic and the Arctic regions. Fiennes has led over 30 expeditions including the first polar circumnavigation of the Earth, and in 2003 he ran seven marathons in seven days on seven continents in aid of the British Heart Foundation.In 1993 Her Majesty the Queen awarded Fiennes the Order of the British Empire (OBE) because, on the way to breaking records, he has raised over £14 million for charity. He was named Best Sportsman in the 2007 ITV Great Briton Awards and in 2009 he became the oldest Briton to reach the summit of Everest.

Siri Hustvedt

Siri Hustvedt's first novel, The Blindfold, was published by Sceptre in 1993. Since then she has published The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, What I Loved, The Sorrows of an American, The Summer Without Men and The Blazing World, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2014 and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction. She is also the author of the poetry collection Reading To You, and four collections of essays -Yonder, Mysteries of the Rectangle: Essays on Painting, A Plea for Eros and Living, Thinking, Looking, as well as the memoir The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves. Born in Minnesota, Siri Hustvedt now lives in Brooklyn, New York. She has a PhD in English from Columbia University and in 2012 was awarded the International Gabarron Prize for Thought and Humanities. She delivered the Schelling Lecture in Aesthetics in Munich in 2010, the Freud Lecture in Vienna in 2011 and the opening keynote at the conference to mark Kierkegaard's 200th anniversary in Copenhagen in 2013, while her latest honorary doctorate is from the University of Gutenburg in Germany. She is also Lecturer in Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and has written on art for the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph and several exhibition catalogues.

Susan Greenfield

Baroness Susan Greenfield is Professor of Pharmacology at Oxford University and Director of the Royal Institution. She is also an Honorary Fellow of the College of Physicians and has received 24 honorary degres from universities all over the world.Neuroscientist, broadcaster and author, she has received the Michael Faraday medal from the Royal Society for developing public understanding of science and made the Daily Mail's 100 Most Influential Women in Britain list in 2003. She is based in Oxford.