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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Popular Culture and the Spectrum

Previous posts have discussed depictions of ASD in television, movies, and novels.  The Canadian Press reports:
... Autism Speaks executive vice-president of programs and services Peter Bell emphasizes that autism is a spectrum disorder that takes many distinct forms. At one end, there are some highly functioning, independent people who can resemble those being depicted on TV. At the other end, there are people with much more significant challenges, some of whom need 'round-the-clock supervision. 
Bell points out that roughly 40 to 50 per cent of the autistic population has communication challenges so significant many are largely non-verbal, and that population is hardly represented on TV at all. ("Touch" casts Toronto's Kiefer Sutherland as the father to a mute son but doesn't diagnose the child). 
"It does run the risk of stereotyping what autism might look like," said Bell, an avowed "Parenthood" fan who even had a cameo on the show. 
"Because I think for the vast majority of people who live with autism, they do have very significant challenges that probably wouldn't play well on the screen."
Tom Angleberger is author of the Origami Yoda  books, a wonderful series of novels for older children.  In an interview with Monica Friedman, Angleberger says that he is on the spectrum, as is the central character of the books, Dwight Tharp.
Tom Angleberger: In many ways I feel like the kids that read the book are understanding Dwight, even if they don’t realize exactly what his condition is. In fact, a lot of kids identify with Dwight, rather than Tommy, which really pleases me.
It is a bit frustrating when a reviewer thinks the book was fluff, when in fact it is my heart and mind laid out for all to see. (But maybe my heart and mind are fluffy.) 
MF: Thirty years ago, there was no such thing as ASD: a kid was either too “special” for mainstream or else just weird. How does an Asperger’s diagnosis change things for weird kids like Dwight? How would you project his long-term prognosis? 
TA: Well, Dwight has NOT been diagnosed in the story. Not yet, at least. I know that he’s an Aspie, just like I know I am. But neither of us has been officially diagnosed.
Long-term...Dwight is awesome and will be just fine...unless Harvey and Darth Paper foul things up.