Tag Archives: Autistic

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.

Autism and water

Water Drop

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.

 

Families of autism, it’s not your fault

Connor and Cayden Long. A true and inspiring relationship of brotherhood.

Connor and Cayden Long. A true and inspiring relationship of brotherhood.

For years I heard a common phrase about parents with autistic children.

“It’s your fault.”

“It’s your fault your child is autistic. You didn’t love your son or daughter enough nor did you show them enough attention during their early childhood. ”

“It’s your fault they are not ‘normal.'”

Well to those “experts” who said that, you can take that opinion and shove it because I’m willing to bet most of you don’t know the first thing about connecting with autistic people. Sure you can give us a lecture on all of the symptoms, but when it comes to forging a trusting relationship, where do you begin?

For some parents who are raising an autistic child, it is not your fault. You were given the instruction manual for a Ford, but you were given a Ferrari instead. This makes your child no different than anybody else. It just means you will have a much different experience than everyone else. It also means you will have one hell of a ride ahead of you. When children are first diagnosed with the disorder, some parents feel anger, denial and guilt.

“Why did this happen to me? Is there anything I could have done to prevent this from happening?” 

In the tougher times, remember you are the expert of your child. You brought him/her into this world. You know what they like, what they dislike. What makes them tick. What makes them feel like they are on cloud nine. 

Today, while browsing around on the Internet, I found a TED talk video about a woman named Alicia Arenas. Arenas is a “glass child.” A glass child is someone who has a special needs sibling. Arenas’ brother, Mario, was severely autistic and violent. He would hit and bite her on a daily basis.

Arenas spoke of being a glass child from first-hand experience. I disagreed with her overall belief of glass children, because experiences with autistic people differ so greatly. While I disagreed with the tone of Arenas’ talk, I respect her for having the courage to talk about her experiences as well as some of her statements.

Arenas said the reason siblings of autistic individuals are called glass children is because people look right through us. We become the caretakers of the family. The needs of our parents and our special needs sibling come before our own. When we are asked how we are doing, most of us say, “I’m doing fine,” when we are not.

Maybe some siblings feel this way, but I never once felt neglected by my own parents. My parents explained Brian’s autism to me and I knew there would be times he would need my parents’ full attention. I understood it and accepted it, but I cannot say my parents looked right through me. They made sure to put aside time for me, to let me know that while Brian may need their full focus for hours at a time, they still loved me.

Brian and I are a year and a half apart. As we grew up, yes I did feel like I had to take on the caretaker role. When I grew old enough, my parents would ask me to watch Brian so they could go out for a few hours. I had a small idea about their daily lives, but I knew enough to recognize they needed a well-deserved break.

I still recognize that today, but now I enjoy spending time with Brian. He’s helped me appreciate the little things in life. Maybe it’s a walk in the park. Maybe it’s playing in the sand at the beach. Maybe it’s just realizing how lucky I am to be the person I am today.

 

Autism on the tracks

Photo via Reddit

Photo via Reddit

Very few things seem to be universal in the autism world.

Symptoms, personalities and place on the spectrum vary so greatly, that fully understanding the disorder can be a challenge.

Over the past few days, I have found a couple different stories about autistic people and their love for trains. These stories intrigued me because my brother Brian also has a liking for trains as well. My dad and him go out to train museums several times a year and spend the entire day there. Brian has also received several train sets for Christmas and once I grew out of my Thomas the Tank Engine toys, he picked up right where I left off. I wish I had taken pictures of some of the trains he laid down because they were remarkable. A few took up an entire room.

Aside from Brian, it seems like Thomas the Tank Engine is a favorite among several other thomas-the-tank-engineautistic individuals. One blogger believes it may be because of the limited facial expressions of the characters. Another reason is because the background is always still. There is little distraction, so if an autistic person is watching, they can focus more on the characters.

Trains may also appeal to autistic people because there is always order. A train will never start with the caboose and have the engine in the middle. I cannot speak for other autistic people, but this parallels the daily planner for my brother. When Brian wakes up, he almost immediately asks for his schedule. In this breakdown of the day, there is structure and order. It leaves little room for guessing.

Up in New York City, the New York Transit Museum has seen a significant rise in field trip requests for autistic classes as well as autistic customers. Seeing how popular trains have become, the museum founded an after-school program called “Subway Sleuths” for 9- and 10-year-olds. The program focuses on the history of New York City trains while working on the social skills. The program became so popular, it needed further expansion.

Successful autistic people: Satoshi Tajiri and Asperger Syndrome

Autism is just another obstacle in life.

I always have and always will continue to advocate that autism does not mean limitations. There are countless stories of autistic individuals building successful lives and careers. The key element with autistic individuals is to find their niche. Do not force anything on them they do not want to do. If they enjoy reading encyclopedias, then let them read away. It’s a comfort for them. An escape into their own world, which they need from time to time.

Some of the most famous people in history have been speculated to be autistic.

Like everyone else, autistic people have their own special interests and passions. I’m sure most of you are familiar with the product Pokemon. Created in 1996, it’s creator, Satoshi Tajiri, came up with the idea from his childhood hobby of collecting bugs. Tajiri was also an avid video game player in high school. His constant play would ultimately pay off. The Pokemon game series has sold more than 200 million copies. Only the Super Mario game franchise has sold more. 

To create and work at this concept, Tajiri had to have a brilliant mind, right? Well he does. *Tajiri has a form of autism called asperger syndrome. Because he is autistic, Tajiri’s mind is much different in comparison to our average human brain. Our brains process about 13 to 30 cycles of brain wave energy per second. Individuals with autism far surpass that. Their brains can process up to 250,000 cycles of brain wave energy per second. Quite remarkable, eh? 

(*I should note that Asperger Syndrome is not the same as autism. It is very similar. Asperger syndrome was originally seen as high-functioning autism before being recognized as it’s own disorder separate from autism)

Asperger syndrome is a high-functioning form of autism. His peers have described him as incredibly creative but “eccentric” and “reclusive.” These are common to those with aspergers. While they are high-functioning, social interaction is difficult for them. Despite these obstacles, Tajiri has not let it affect him. He found his passion in life and made an incredibly successful career out of it. 

 

Autism – fact or fiction?

 

fact-or-fiction_hAutism has given way to numerous myths about the disorder. Its origin is still debated today and researchers continue to try and find an exact cause. Many statements about the disorder exist. Some are based in fact, while others are fictional. Below are ten statements. Can you separate the truth from inaccurate?

1) Autism occurs more in boys than girls. – Fact

Recent findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that 1 in 88 children are diagnosed with autism. According to the CDC, 1 in 54 boys are diagnosed with autism. That figure is five times higher than girls diagnosed with autism, about 1 in 252.

2) Autistic individuals have increased senses. – Fact

No I’m not talking about Spider Senses, although if my brother could spin webs and swing from building to building that would be awesome. People with autism are much more sensitive to their environments  Fluorescent lights bother them, while those same bulbs are invisible to us. During family parties, my brother will often put cotton in his ears to soften the noise. Common chatter is normal to us, but autistic people are much more reactive to these every day noises.

3) All autistic people are savants. – Fiction

Not every person with ASD is Rain Man. Savants are people who have incredible minds.

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To watch the Deck of Cards scene, fast forward to 1:40

Rain Man was a savant. If you took out the Ace of Spades in the deck of cards and showed the remaining deck to Rain Man, he would know the Ace was missing.

4) Autism is a disease – Fiction

Autism Spectrum Disorder is not a disease. Cancer is a disease. Alzheimer’s is a disease. Diseases kill you. Last I checked, autism does not kill.

5) You need a sense of humor when interacting with autistic people – Fact

This may be the most true item on this list. Your sense of humor will get your through some rough days. Do you have any smart-ass friends? Keep in touch with them. A good laugh everyday is healthy.

6) Autistic people can read social cues. – Fiction

People with ASD have tough time reading social cues. It is one of the tell-tale signs of an autistic person. Social interaction is the main obstacle of autism, but just because they have difficulty interacting does not mean they do no want to be your friend. You just have to open the door.

7) Autistic people will listen to everything you say in a literal sense. – Fact

Autistic individuals understand black and white directions. Sarcasm, puns or cliches will confuse them. If you say, “Rule of thumb,” to an autistic person, they will be confused. Speak in sentences where they will not be confused. For example, “Go hang your coat in the closest, Joni.”

8) Early treatment is a cure for autism. – Fiction

There is no cure for autism. Early treatment can help an autistic person develop the everyday skills they will need as well as improving their social interaction among other life skills.

9) If a couple has one autistic child, the chances of them having another autistic child increases. – Fact

One study revealed that if a couple has one autistic child, the chances of their next child having autism increases by 19 percent.

10) Autistic people are not intelligent. – Fiction

Everyone is intelligent in their own way. People with ASD just have a different way of showing their own intelligence. One blogger quoted one of my favorite sayings from Albert Einstein.

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