Thursday, July 2, 2009

Rain Man.

After much reading and discussing, today we concluded our lesson of autism with a great 1988 movie called Rain Man. Since many others have already given a short summary of the plot, I'll skip straight to my opinions of it and what I learned. First of all, even though the attitude of Charles (played by Tom Cruise) towards his autistic brother Raymond changed for the better too quickly to be realistic, I was very moved by the ending. Although Raymond did not stay with his brother and had to return to the mental institution where he had been living, the fact that the two were able to bond on a deep level was truly touching. I hated how Charles abused his brother's abilities with numbers and memorization, but I especially loved how Charles's insults went to heart-felt loving remarks. As he began to spend more time with his autistic brother, he began to understand him and even want to help him. I truly hope that something like that does occur in real life with the family members and friends of not just autistic children and adults but of people with any type of mental illness-- that eventually they are able to look past a simple problem and truly connect with their loved ones. I'm glad we saw this movie today because Thinking in Pictures basically gave me facts, but Rain Man gave me a visual. With this movie, I was able to see his outbursts and other actions.

But in addition to my comments on the movie, I also wanted to share what I have learned about autism as a whole this week. Even though Temple Grandin's book, Thinking in Pictures, was not my favorite, I still feel like I learned a lot from it. Grandin gave me a deeper look into the life of autistic people through both direct information and her writing style. She taught me that their way of thinking, learning, and developing is very different, but more importantly, about the duality of autism. By duality I mean the fact that though it is perceived as a "curse" by many, it can in fact be a blessing for some who have mild autism. Temple Grandin is one example of that. She is a high-functioning autistic whose visual thinking and connection to animals has distinguished her from the rest. 


Don Gosney said...


I'm sorry but I just can't agree with you that mild autism is a blessing in any way, shape or form.

Even amongst those with mild autism, there are sacrifices that have to be made.

There are some researchers that theorize that each of us has a limited amount that we can accomplish with our brain. Most people spread that limited amount amongst a wide variety of tasks—most of which they’re not even aware of eating, walking, feeding ourselves, remembering to breath…).

With autistic people, the theory contends, they have the same limited amount of mental power but their minds direct a larger percentage to go to specific tasks (or talents). With those deemed to be autistic savants (sometimes referred to as idiot savants) it’s as though their brains are directing a very large percentage to go towards their talent (music, math, counting toothpicks, etc.) with a lesser percentage going towards the mundane and commonplace.

What this means, though, is that they have virtually nothing left for simple everyday tasks like speaking, walking or feeding themselves.

It’s as though their system is in a state of equilibrium and balance but because of their overloading in one area there’s a shortfall in others.

I tend to agree with this theory and although possessing those talents may seem like a blessing, I think the price is too much to pay. Being able to compose a symphony is wonderful but if you’re unable to enjoy the touch of a loved one as the price for your talent, then the world will just have to do without another symphony.

Cynthia Fong said...

I beg to differ. I agree with Courtney in that mild autism can be taken as a blessing. It all depends on how you view the situation, as with most things.

Like Temple, the author of 'Thinking in Pictures', she wouldn't trade it in for the world and she's learned to adapt and treat autism as part of her. I admire the way she's taken her situation and how she's learned to see it as a blessing.

Don Gosney said...


With all due respect, what does she have to compare it with? Because of her autism, she has limited mental reasoning capacity and since she's been autistic her whole life, what does she KNOW that's different?

Some blind or deaf people will tell you that their other senses are more acute because of the loss of one or more of their other senses but few would ever count on that loss as a blessing.

If autism is such a blessing, I'm not sure we would be spending billions of dollars each year trying to find a cure and a way to prevent it.

We may have to just agree to disagree with this but I've been around too many autistic people to ever believe that it could be counted as a blessing.

Charles Tillman Ramsey said...

This conversation is way above my pay grade. In the end, we all have to live with what God gave us and in the end we have to shape our future by our own devices. Whether it is a blessing or not, what is the true point of the work. The true point is that we have to support each other and come to understand our strengths and weaknesses.

I hope the time with the ILC has helped each of you do more self reflection and have a chance to see what it is like to live on a University campus. I do hope that both of you will consider applying to Brown. I knowt Courtney still has UPENN in her thoughts and I wish her well.

My only question is to learn more about the student population on campus and how each of you are integrating with students from different backgrounds, both academically and socially. What do you here about the select private schools that these students attend and how do they view the Ivy League Connection?

Let me know.

Charles T. Ramsey, Esq.
School Board Member
West Contra Costa
Unified School District

Cynthia Fong said...

I think we will have to agree to disagree on this one, Mr. Gosney.

Many things will happen in life, whether you deem them a blessing or not. I agree that autism isn't an easy disorder to learn how to live with but it all depends on how you handle the situation. She could see it like you do, but she chose not to which makes her an admirable person, in my opinion.