The poignant yet humor filled story about a single mother of a teenager severely impacted by autism, forced to reckon with her daughter's future. As her child becomes an adult, what used to... See full summary »
A small town waitress gets a nail accidentally lodged in her head causing unpredictable behavior that leads her to Washington, D.C., where sparks fly when she meets a clueless young senator who takes up her cause - but what happens when love interferes with what you stand for?
David O. Russell
Raymond L. Brown Jr.,
Having autism myself, I really have been touched by this movie. I liked each and everyone of the children; I'd like to meet them and help them. Unfortunately that will not be possible (I guess). So, I'm going to write the following in the hope that some parents will read it, and help in that way.
What did strike me, often, is that these children are not understood. The parents love them very much (in most cases) and that is good; but they have no real clue what is going on in the minds of their child.
One of the parents said that she tries to 'crack open' a door to get her kid to develop. While I completely agree that lack of development will be the result of the kids shutting out others / the world around them, and living in their own world, often the shutting out has a reason and forcing yourself past that is harmful (or at least extremely stressful). I think that the right way to get these kids to learn something is to do that without force; thus, not for "5 minutes", but through getting them be interested. During the two months they worked on this project they have a learned a LOT, AND had fun doing it.
One of the main problems that people (especially the children) with autism have is dealing with incomplete information. Making a choice while the choice is not 100% obvious. Normal people constantly process incomplete information and just guess, or randomly make choices, drop in formation etc. They don't mind being inaccurate, illogical or even wrong. They prefer doing SOMETHING over taking more time to come to a decision, or even not do anything. A child with autism is aware of all the possibilities, consciously, at the same time-- and is not able to make choices-- to throw away data "randomly" for the sake of getting to a conclusion or decision.
Here are my takes on the respective children:
Henry is doing very well. The main thing he has to do is learn things about social interaction. Someone will have to teach him this like others learn to play a piano, he won't pick it up himself. At the very least he should start to realize that others cannot read his mind (you need to tell him that once (saying ANYTHING just ONCE is enough; even if the kids don't react, they heard you and they will process it in their own pace), just like he can't read the minds of others: therefore it is better to communicate about things that he and the one he is communicating with have in common: the surrounding world, instead of communicating about what he is thinking of. I know that the process of becoming interested in what moves OTHERS is very hard and a long road, but I believe he can be taught that putting time into listening to others and trying to understand THEIR thoughts can be rewarding in the end.
Neal has problems with formulating sentences. This is probably caused by not being able to throw away data (as I said before): thoughts are NOT words. You need to project the multidimensional "thought" space onto the "one dimensional" speech. This process is highly inaccurate and therefore impossible for him. More importantly however, his perception of the world around him is probably very unreal. The processing of his perceptions are distorted, not coherent. When the input can't be ordered and given a place, uncertainty about the perception translates to a feeling of de-realisation: the feeling that things around him do not relate to him as they do in fact. That is a direct reason (because it gives a lot of stress) to disconnect himself from that world: it is often easier to throw ALL data away, instead of making the decision about what to throw away and what not. I think that him not speaking is a direct result of his forced disconnection from the world (or at least, how he perceives it). He is still a normal, intelligent boy however, in there. And he will be very lonely without communication and understanding. It seems that the only person he every communicates with is his mother and that is NOT enough. Even more, she talks too much!!! Neal wants to tell you that he wishes you to be silent. Use less words, more like he does. "Listen" to him by observing him instead of talking an endless stream of words; that does not given him the feeling of contact. The contact, the true "togetherness" is one of emotional understanding; and that needs silence. Long silences will also give him time to find a way to express himself, a chance he doesn't get if you keep talking. Finally, you might want to consult a psychiatrist (or whatever is needed for this) and try a doses of Ritalin: it might help him to concentrate more and to filter better. Here's a story of another boy that needed Ritalin: at one point he told his mom, while brushing his teeth in the bathroom in front of a mirror: I have X-ray eyes! "What do you mean?" his mother asked. "Well, I can see the toothbrush and myself at the same time." His problem, she realized(!) was that he wasn't able to concentrate on one thing at a time: he saw EVERYTHING at once. They started with Ritalin and his condition improved a lot because now he could finally concentrate on one thing at a time for some period of time. Of course, it would just be an experiment and ultimately you'll have to ask Neal himself if he likes the effect or not.
Unfortunately, I had to remove the comments on the other kids because of IMDb's word limit (would have been nice to have known that up front).
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