Monthly Archives: May 2013

Portrayal of autism in movies and television

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Chad from World of Jenks

Think of a movie or show that portrays autism.

Maybe you thought of the MTV show “World of Jenks,” or maybe you thought Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man.”

Since autism can be shown on such a wide spectrum, it can be difficult to portray. The shows and movies I have seen have all shown a high-functioning autistic. While I do appreciate how much the disorder is being shown, I would like to see a portrayal of someone who is severely autistic, but I digress.

Whenever I watch shows or movies that feature autism, I look for how accurately the disorder is illustrated to the audience. I want people to know that autism can be a challenge, but it has it bright moments. World of Jenks does that well. I want people to see that it’s not this horrible disease/epidemic some groups have made it out to be.

I have watched bits and pieces of Rain Man and I find it to a decent portrayal of the autism spectrum. While Dustin Hoffman’s character, Raymond Babbit, is a savant, he still exhibits similarities with my brother.

VARIOUS OSCAR WINNERS RETROSPECTIVE- 1930 TO 1987One similarity is the schedule. Brian needs to have a schedule to tell him everything that’s going to happen during the day. If he does not have anything on his schedule he will get anxious. Raymond parallels this when he constantly reminds his brother about, “Judge Wapner three o’clock. Judge Wapner in ten minutes.”

A similarity I found between Raymond and Chad from World of Jenks is their need for their specific items. In Rain Man, Raymond wouldn’t wear underwear unless they were his. In my years with Brian I have come to realize that having the same items keeps him calm. It’s like his schedule. The constant item is always there and never fails to do its job. In season one from World of Jenks, Chad forgot to bring his camera when he and Jenks went out. Chad’s personality shifted almost immediately. Jenks told Chad he could borrow his camera, but Chad said, “This one’s nice, but it’s not my camera.”

A week or two ago one of my friends told me about a movie called “The Story of Luke.” I looked into the movie, watched a few clips and really liked what I saw. The director portrayed Luke as an adult with high-functioning autism, but was able to illustrate some of the common symptoms of the disorder. The clip below is a small piece of the film I found accurate.

In this clip, you can see some of the common symptoms of autism.

-Walking through the office, Luke covered his ears because of the noise. Autistic people have heightened senses and can be overwhelmed with sounds, visuals and smells very easily. You can tell Luke is overwhelmed by the look on his face.

-Luke’s supervisor, Zack, told Luke to use figures of speech and irony. This is very difficult for autistic people to do. They are black and white thinkers. Whatever you say to them, they will take in a literal context.

-Finally, autistic people can be very blunt. When Zack asked a question Luke obviously did not know the answer to, Luke responded, “No, how would I know that?”

Autistic people can be tough to illustrate because the spectrum is so wide, but looking through these clips as well as the trailer, I think the film got most of the disorder correct.

H/T to my friend Bert for telling me about “The Story of Luke.”

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Was Albert Einstein autistic?

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Autism awareness did not come into the full public forum until recently.

In the last twelve years, autism diagnosis has increased from 1 in 150 people to 1 in 88. That is a staggering increase when you think about it. This dramatic increase has led me to believe that many more people in the past some form of autism, but never knew it. Some of the most famous people in the world are thought to have had a form of autism. One of those people is Albert Einstein.

Researchers believe that Einstein may have had Asperger’s syndrome. (Before I go any further, I want to clarify that Asperger’s is a high-functioning form of autism and was recently given its own separate diagnosis.)

Einstein displayed many signs of the disorder. He had difficulty with social interactions, was very sensitive to touch and, obviously, was incredibly intelligent but had trouble in school. During his childhood, he spent much of his time alone. He would also repeat sentences, another tell tale sign of autism. He also seemed to not have a concept of time, a common symptom in the autism spectrum.

One piece of information that seems contradictory to the diagnosis is that Einstein did marry and father three children. Although researchers say he loved his children, he did not like them to touch him.

Despite his reclusive personality and heightened senses, Einstein had one of the most brilliant minds the world had ever seen. His work continues to astound modern-day scientists and mathematicians.

Einstein’s incredible computation skills gives us another symptom of autism. Those on the spectrum will sometimes take on very difficult and complex topics. They will obsess over them to the point where their lives were consumed by the subject.

Whether or not Einstein had Asperger’s is still a question up for debating. Maybe he was just a peculiar person who had his own methods and stuck to them. Some people are just naturally quiet and reserved. If, however, Einstein was autistic, then he set a huge precedent for what autistic people are capable of doing.

Autistic people in public

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Public places can be tough for autistic people.

Forums such as restaurants, malls and parks overload their senses and can make it tough for them to cope with their environment. Some autistic individuals try to calm themselves by saying catchphrases from their favorite television shows and movies. Other times they may flap their arms and hands. Despite the challenges autistic people face, it is important to bring them out into the community so they become comfortable with the world around them.

People may stare. Some may even comment, but more times than not, they are ignorant of the disorder. Over the years, Brian has made leaps and bounds in how he behaves in public.

AutismAwarenessMeltdownIn his early years, he would scream and meltdown. It was a tough time, but my parents pushed through. Today neither of us have any issue taking Brian out. Whenever I watch Brian, one of the places I love to take him is the local Barnes and Noble bookstore. Brian and I have also gone to see Beauty and the Beast and The Muppets in theaters. (O.K. maybe I was just as excited to see Kermit as Brian was.)

Taking Brian out into public not only helps him, but also helps the community. In December 2012, ABC aired another version of its popular segment “What Would You Do?” ABC planted a family with an autistic son in a restaurant. Each family member was portrayed by an actor. ABC also planted another actor to play the role of the antagonist. This man was told to make rude comments to the family to incite action from the restaurant patrons.

In two separate trials, multiple people in the restaurant stood up for the family. Seeing how much each person cared about the family showed me that there is hope for autistic people in the community. That ten-minute segment illustrated that while there may be many rude and ignorant people out there, the kind and compassionate greatly outnumber them.

Autism and water

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Growing up with an autistic brother, Brian was always drawn to the water.

Whenever my family and I go to the beach, Brian is never too far away from the ocean. During those hot summer months, not a day goes by when Brian is not in the backyard swimming. If he ever has a meltdown, he will either go into the pool or the shower and within an hour he usually calms down. The water seems to do something to him I cannot explain.

As I have become more and more familiar with the autism spectrum, I have found many other autistic individuals share Brian’s love for the waterOut in Montgomery County, two autistic boys have found peace in the swimming poolsSome have tried to explain the phenomenon, but the reasons vary. 

A few years ago, my mom and Brian went for a walk around the neighborhood. During their walk, my mom stopped to talk to someone. No matter who takes Brian out, he is always within sight, but that day he somehow slipped away. Thankfully, my mom had her phone with her and called my dad and I. We started searching for Brian immediately.

Once I found my mom, we bolted into the woods. Something within my mom told her to head for the water. After what seemed like an eternity, we reached a large creek. I spotted Brian waist high in the rushing water and waded out to help him back to dry land.

I don’t know what drew Brian to that creek, but that story has always resonated with me.

Almost one year ago, a similar story happened to a man with Asperger’s syndrome. William Martin LaFever went missing in Arizona. After a three week search, he was found in a river 40 miles from where he originally set out.

Ray Gardner, a search team member, said recent training had taught him that autistic people are drawn to water. Because of this information, the helicopter narrowed its searching area to the Escalante River.

The idea of autistic people being drawn to water has sparked some discussion. On an autism and asperger’s forum called “Wrong Planet,” some say they love the water. While others are the opposite.

Atomsk said: “I like hearing water, being near it, being in it, but I really don’t like to swim, or often get wet. Even in the shower, with hot water, it feels startling to have the water touch me. I have a lot of issues with tactile stuff. Once I get wet though it’s no problem. However, I still don’t like swimming much, because I’ve come very close to drowning several times. So now I just don’t feel like risking it.”

Joe90 said: “I don’t know where they got this from. I’m not drawn to water, I never even drink water. I prefer juice or milk or coke or other drinks like that.”

While the subject is still up for discussion, the subject itself is intriguing. Some autistic people love taking baths but dislike taking showers. They do not like how the water hits them. Brian and Atomsk differ as well. Brian loves to swim while Atomsk is content listening to the water. Whatever the reasons may be, it is another piece to the puzzle of autism.

 

Autism and faith

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In the ever changing landscape of religion, autism and other disabilities seem to be accepted with open arms.

As I a junior in college, I would not call myself an extremely religious person. Until the past couple weeks, I was a “C&E,” better known as someone who only goes to Mass on Christmas and Easter. Even though I barely stepped foot in a church, I never felt as if I ever lost my faith. I felt as if, once again, I was on my own path.

I believe those prominent in the public eye have the ability to influence people. Their words and actions hold so much weight for so many people. Look at Oprah when she was at the peak of her career.

Barely two months into his reign as head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has already earned an enormous fan in yours truly. Aside from his friendly and approachable demeanor, he seems to have no fear when interacting with the people. This was shown less than a week after his election.

Pope Disabled BoyBefore his inaugural Mass, Pope Francis took a ride in his Pope-Mobile around St. Peter’s Square. As he looked into the crowd, he saw a disabled man and asked for his caravan to stop. Pope Francis walked over to the disabled man and embraced him like a brother.

Only a few weeks later, after his first Easter Mass, Pope Francis stopped his caravan once more to embrace a disabled boy. The boy’s father called the moment “incredibly moving.” It is in these moments where Pope Francis showed, through his actions, that acceptance does not stop at the top.

Pope Francis was applauded by many for his actions. He lived out the words, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” In a pastoral statement from the U.S. Catholic Bishops, the bishops cited the disabled as the true witnesses of Jesus’ power. He did not mingle with the rich and powerful, instead Jesus found the outcasts, the sick and the sinners.

 

 

 

Optimism in autism

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Throughout the many posts of this blog, I try to advocate the positive nature of autism.

I try to let everyone know that it is not a stigma nor a burden.

The other day, I came across a quote from the Dalai Lama. The quote read:

“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.”

 

I feel the same way toward having Brian as my brother. Instead of taking the well-paved trail, my family and I are blazing our own. Hopefully the trail we leave behind will help someone else in their journey with autism.

I constantly talk about how Brian has taught me so much about life. Appreciation is probably the most important. Aside from that, he has taught me patience, kindness and the only way to get the cleanest teeth in the United States.

311506_243785802325875_3599618_nI want to emphasize on kindness. When I think of kindness, I think of helping others when they need it. Maybe it’s opening a door for someone or helping an elderly person with a heavy package. Today I found a post that put an emphasis on kindness. This blogger explained that kindness is not only doing these random acts, but also taking a caring and curious interest in another person. Everyone has a story to tell. We just have to be curious enough to ask about it.

Some autism organizations today are attempting to find a “cure” for the disorder. Many parents of autistic children oppose this. What exactly is there to cure? While reading another blog today, I clicked on a link that lead to a poem called “If You Were ‘Cured.'” The poem expresses the endless possibilities should a cure be found, but what would happen to the person we came to love?

After reading the poem, I backtracked to the original blog and read the post. The author is a mother of a three-year-old autistic boy, who she loves with all of her heart. She doesn’t believe that people should be “sorry” for families who live with autism. Instead she embraces her son’s uniqueness. It is people like her, the blogger of “Flappiness Is” and those who see the bright side of the disorder who should be acknowledged.

We are all on our own path in life. Sometimes we begin on the pavement and all of a sudden life takes us into the forest. No matter where we travel though, we are all going to the same location. Some of us just want to take a more interesting trip than others.