A chat with Kathy Lette

Kathy Lette is a writer who is witty, not afraid to speak her mind and is straight to the point on any subject that she chooses to talk about in her bestselling books.

Because of this, I was drawn to The Boy Who Fell To Earth, a book which has been written by Lette that tackles the relationship between a mother and a son who lives his life with autism by his side.

By being so straight and honest in the way that the lives of Lucy and Merlin are depicted, I was intrigued to find out why the decision was made to write about such a relationship and by finding out Lette’s reasons, the story becomes much more beautiful.

Resplendent in blue for World Autism Awareness Month 2013, Kathy Lette is aiming to educate others through The Boy Who Fell To Earth. Credit - Woman & Home, Liz McAulay.

Resplendent in blue for World Autism Awareness Month 2013, Kathy Lette is aiming to educate others through The Boy Who Fell To Earth.
Credit – Woman & Home, Liz McAulay.

The Boy Who Fell To Earth is a story that is based on real life, and on the love for a child who struggles to develop in the modern world.

It is a “celebration of eccentricities, idiosyncrasies and being different” as Lette’s autistic son, Julius, says so brilliantly and it is a chance to share experiences as writing is “cheaper than therapy” to the Australian author.

Through saying this alone, it is clear to see that the autistic spectrum is something which everybody doesn’t have to be so serious about in conversation.

When a diagnosis is first made, whether you are told that you have autism yourself or whether you are told that a loved one has it instead, it is understandable that fear may play a part in building a first impression but Lette’s story could alleviate concerns.

While admitting that she never wanted to talk about Julius and invade his privacy, her thoughts changed when she was directly asked if the book was based on the life that her son has given her.

“Trying to cope on your own with such a condition, is as effective as standing up to Voldermort with a butter knife”, according to Lette, and this is why she wants to promote autistic people and embrace all of the beauty that they can bring to the world.

She isn’t afraid to admit that she didn’t know too much about the effects of being autistic before Julius was born, but now a desire to educate as many readers and cinema-goers as possible has taken over.

On her early understanding, Lette says: “All I knew about autism is that it’s a life long disability chiefly characterized by an inability to communicate effectively and compulsive, obsessive behaviour.

“I now know that it means not getting a joke, not knowing what to say, then saying the wrong things, being told off but not understanding why, doing your best but still getting it wrong, feeling confused, frightened, out of synch, all day, every day. But there are positive sides too.

“People on the autistic spectrum see life from the other end of the telescope. They possess a literal, lateral, tangential logic which can be charmingly disarming.

“When he was about four, while doctors were telling me he was ‘retarded’, Jules was bubbling with the most interesting questions, like “What is the speed of dark?” and “If onions make you cry, are there vegetables that make you happy?”. All great questions! He keeps me on my mental toes.”

After learning so much herself, Lette believes that an upcoming film version of The Boy Who Fell To Earth will be the trigger for others to learn too.

She says: “There’s no doubt that movies and novels highlighting the condition will make people more understanding and less judgmental. Because people on the autistic spectrum are unique and original.

“We now know with diagnostic hindsight that Einstein, Mozart, Van Gogh, Andy Warhol and many great artists, virtuosos and scientists were most likely on the spectrum.

“And yet, just 15% of those with autism have full time jobs, according to research by The National Autistic Society, while only 9% work part-time. These figures compare with the 31% of disabled people in full-time work in the UK.

“With the right help, people with autism could go on to contribute to society in the most extraordinary ways. And it’s up to us (loved ones of autistic people) to help them flourish.

“I believe that there is no such thing as normal and abnormal, but ordinary and extraordinary. Without more understanding from mainstream society, most of these kids will just waste their lives away in bedsits surviving on benefits.

“With support, encouragement and love, these unique individuals can fulfill their exceptional potential.”

Hoping that Lucy and Merlin’s journey will “de-stigmatise the condition of Asperger’s while also promoting tolerance, understanding and acceptance with a lot of laughs along the way”, Lette is full of love for people on the autistic spectrum and hopes that they can one day be treated fully as equals.

Public response to the story has left her feeling proud of writing about a disability that is so close to her heart and on the final day of World Autism Awareness Month 2013, it only seems right to end a great 30 days of awareness being raised for those who struggle to make themselves heard on such a positive note.

You can make up your own mind on the messages within The Boy Who Fell To Earth by buying it on Amazon or from any other major bookseller.

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