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The Little Prince: a glimpse into the world of autism?
  1. Jean-Francois Lemay1,
  2. Genevieve Eastabrook2,
  3. Heather MacKenzie3
  1. 1Department of Paediatrics, University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  2. 2Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Western University Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, London, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3Retired PhD, Le Pas, France
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jean-Francois Lemay, Department of Paediatrics, University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine, Calgary, Alberta T3B6A8, Canada; jf.lemay{at}ahs.ca

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Introduction

Both simple and complex, The Little Prince (a book written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in 1943) has intrigued readers for nearly 75 years. Although innocently presented as a children’s book, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novella is one of the best-selling, most widely interpreted books ever published. Its deeper meaning has been scrutinised by scholars over the decades. In this paper, we suggest one more interpretation of the beloved classic: to promote a broader understanding of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), particularly those with what used to be known as Asperger syndrome (AS). Illustrating similarities between the Little Prince (a fictional character in the book The Little Prince) and children with ASD may enable those less familiar with neurodevelopmental disorders to better relate to young people on the autism spectrum. To our knowledge, no other published reports have addressed the relationship between the Little Prince and AS.

AS: in brief

In 1944, Hans Asperger, a Viennese paediatrician, described four children as ‘little professors’ with ‘autistic personality disorder.’1 These children were naive, absorbed in circumscribed interests and egocentric in their social interactions. Despite age-appropriate grammar and vocabulary, their talk was repetitive with unusual intonation patterns, odd body language and poor motor coordination. These shared features became collectively known as AS.2 In the most recent revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, AS was subsumed under the umbrella term ASD.3 ASD includes impairments in social communication and interactions, as well as restrictive, repetitive or stereotypic patterns of behaviour. Regardless of the future for AS as a valid and meaningful clinical construct, its short existence has had an undeniable impact on public interest in autism.4

In order to reduce reader confusion, the term AS has been used predominantly throughout this manuscript.

The Little Prince synopsis

The basic premise of The Little Prince involves a pilot, …

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