Author Archives: danielbowengv

Bowen: Analysis 5

Full disclosure, this was hands down the most enjoyable novel that I’ve read all semester. It was funny, emotionally investing, and at times distressing to read. It’s a novel that really isn’t afraid to push the boundaries and explore some of the darker aspects  of both familial relations and raising a neurodivergent child.

The part that hit me the hardest was whenever Christopher was interacting with one of his parents and they wanted to hug him. “Christopher, let me hold your hand. Just for once. Just for me. Will you? I won’t hold it hard” (Haddon, 194). It must be very difficult for his parents holding back on contact because they know that he doesn’t like to be touched. Even with this, however, they find a way to communicate their affection that Christopher can agree upon with a “Hand-hug”.

This emotional aspect of the novel is the strongest part of the novel and it’s the redemptive portion also.

Now the portrayal of an autistic character in Christopher is probably the weakest part of this novel in that there are numerous times in the novel where I felt Christopher was acting unrealistically for a character with ASD. For one thing Christopher by his own report has an eidactic memory, able to recall in the most minute detail every day of his life. This is an unrealistic stereotype in much the same way that Rain Man’s Raymond Babbit was able to count cards with little difficulty (Greg Olear).

This novel is an extraordinarily conflicting read for me, because while I absolutely love the writing and plot of the book it has darker implications in the real world. Redeemed by showing an accessible portrayal of a family with a neurodivergent child it still monetizes upon and sets dishonest standards for ASD individuals.

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-olear/curious-incident-dog-night-time_b_1099692.html

 

Bowen – Analysis 4

Late to the party, but here is my post pertaining to the final segment of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

One of the interesting things that I found throughout the novel is the consistent and quite unregulated nature which mental institutions prescribed treatments to their charges. Over the course of the novel treatment is more of a punishment to discourage bad behavior by the inmates rather than a way to try and honestly treat mental conditions. Much like the poorhouses of Yor that sequestered the ill and unproductive of society away to reduce the inconvenience they cause so too are the asylum workers taking steps to sequester and pacify the chronics they deem incurable.

The methods employed in this endeavor are recognized as fairly barbaric in our times. Being that they were in large part employed to rob what little agency the mentally ill still maintained and reduced them to a state which couldn’t justifiably be called life.

Scanlon, Martini, and Chief all appear to recognize this when McMurphy  returns from his lobotomy with all of them maintaining that whatever the thing that returns from the operating table is, it isn’t McMurphy. Rather than taking an approach to actually helping and remedying his obviously deep seated psychological problems are Nurse Ratched and the Doctor take the easy route and simply destroy him.

Too often this appears to be the case with mental institutions, especially in the past. And though by and large it seems that this pernicious aspect of mental treatment has been eliminated in the United States I feel that we’ve returned to the days of the poor houses where we condemn those among us who suffer from mental illness and mental maladapted to modern society to suffer on the fringes with no hope of remedy.

Statistics show that roughly 1 in 5 Americans suffers from mental illness, and of those roughly 40 million Americans 56% don’t receive treatment (MHA policy data).  If we want to honestly confront and understand the nature and workings of our minds we need to take adequate steps towards treating those who suffer due to mental illness. Not by sequestering them in poor-houses, not by lobotomizing and robbing them of sentience, and not by ignoring their struggles and leaving them to fend for themselves. We need to expand our outreach in communities and families affected to bolster our understanding of mental health. To provide treatment where we can and giving accommodations where we need to; that we may integrate the neurodiverse into our society so that all may benefit from their presence.

 

Sources:

http://www.nmha.org/issues/state-mental-health-america

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/05/12/mental-health-system-crisis/7746535/

Bowen Analysis 3

Silberman reading and Current Education in America

Of all of the material that we’ve covered and studied by Silberman this semester I must confess that the portion that has most captivated me was the material for this week. More specifically the studies conducted by Hans Asperger and others at Erwin Lazar’s Heilpadagogik Station. What struck me in particular was the unprecedented ways in which they studied the neurodivergent and the specific care that they took when caring for their patients. They recognized that each of their individual patients had their own idiosyncrasies, limitations, strengths, and needs. This view allowed them to constructively work with patients to glean a better understanding of the neurodiverse and how to give them the best lives possible. During the time this was a revolution and in many ways today it would be a revolution by today’s standards as well.

This understanding and flexible element to Asperger’s research is one that I fear that we have lost when it comes to education in America. So focused are we on fixing the things that we see as “broken” within the neurodiverse that we often lose sight of the end goal: having all students reach their potential. I feel that while this ought to be the fundamental goal of education that this goal has been supplanted in recency.  In its place, we’ve aboved the conviction that all students ought to reach established educational standards, no matter their condition. In other words: all students ought to achieve the potential of the average neurotypical student.

For many students, both neurotypical and neurodivergent, this  invocation to meet standards is an unrealistic and suffocating goal. As  Lishing Wang states in her analysis of the American educational system, “One-size-fits-all standards either dumb down instruction to the lowest common denominator or condemn low-ability students to frequent failure.” This isn’t the recipe for a healthy and diverse society in which a multitude of views and ideas are valued but instead one that is rigid and inbred with the knowledge and views that it instills. Obviously, it would be casuist of me to assert that there is no value to standardized goals and attainments in education but I think that its overemphasis is potentially just as harmful as its absence. Our educational system, I’m afraid is leaning towards the former; and it is suffering for it.

To create a society where all citizens are able to reach their full potential we must take lessons from our predecessors in Lazar and Asperger and teach each child according to their ability. In doing this we will not only benefit from a diverse pool of viewpoints and abilities but we will also not disadvantage the neurodivergent away from success within our country.

Sources:

Controversies of Standardized Assessment in School Accountability Reform: A Critical Synthesis of Multidisciplinary Research Evidence,” Lishing Wang, Gulbahar Beckett and Lionel Brown, Applied Measurement in Education Volume 19 Number 4 2006 pps. 305-328.

 

Bowen Analysis 2: Sherlock Holmes

I think that you would be hard pressed to find any other character in literature that has had more of an impact upon contemporary media than Sherlock Holmes. I myself first came into extensive contact with the character in an animated show called “Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century”. A show complete with all of the most beloved of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories and a cyborg John Watson.

It’d probably be more difficult to find a year where there wasn’t a tv show that has included the character of Sherlock than years when there was. It seems that at any one time there are multiple iterations of the character on the silver screen or otherwise in a prime time slot. Clearly, there is something about the character that fascinates an extraordinarily large portion of the population and has for centuries. Something puzzling about the character that draws you in oftentimes more than the mystery relevant to the text.

I think a large portion of this has to do with our fascination with things that we as people cannot understand. Sherlock being the almost perfect example of this as his mind baffles and amazes us as well as his actions and characterization in a way that, I’d argue, no other character is as good at. I maintain that a very large portion of this fascination and what makes Sherlock, Sherlock is that he exhibits many qualities that are extremely suggestive of ASD.

It would seem that in the creation of his titular character Sir Arthur Conan Doyle drew upon a number of real life influences as well as fictional ones. Given that the very nature of ASD seems to be genetic I think it a reasonable assumption that in his lifetime Doyle may have had contact with someone on the spectrum. Considering also the ways that Sherlock so fits the bill of a person with ASD (of which there are numerous enumerations on this blog already) it seems rather reasonable to conclude that one of these people from whom inspiration was drawn was also on the spectrum. And while obviously seems quite ridiculous to express authoritatively that Sherlock is on the spectrum it would also seem to be an act of sophistry to ignore the sundry diagnostic criteria that he meets. As summarizes quite potently:

“ultimately, no one representation can ever encapsulate the incredible diversity of the spectrum—and while Holmes is probably an autistic character by most definitions, he is not an autistic person.”

This seems to me an extremely persuasive argument for the retroactive classification of liturgical characters. This argument isn’t without its faults of course but given that ASD has only been defined in recency and that it was undoubtedly present in the past it appears to be a valid conclusion to an important question. Is it valid to retroactively label liturgical figures under contemporary labels? To which the answer I feel is a resounding yes. Provided that sufficient evidence is given it seems perfectly legitimate to define a character in contemporary terms. So long as those affixing the label to the character presents the caveat that contemporary terminology and diagnosis weren’t established at the time of the character’s creation.

Sources:

Sonya Freeman Loftis: The Autistic Detective: Sherlock Holmes and his Legacy

 

 

 

 

Bowen, Analysis 1

Of the range of topics that I thought that we would be covering in this class it had never occurred to me that the focus would be ASD. That said I think that it is a wonderful topic of focus and though I am not yet steeped in the literature of this course that it will be rife with interesting representations. Obviously in a field as young and as complicated as neurosciences there will be many misrepresentations of what ASD actually is and errors in how it is portrayed. While interesting I find the more compelling subject is how the characters are viewed within the story and their characterization. Having read the background for “Rain man” in Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity I now have a much better grasp of the reason why Raymond was depicted the way that he was in the film. Barry Morrow seems to be a rather amazing man who has a great deal of passion for both his fellow man and the work he does in cinema. Despite this, however, he appears to have fallen into the pitfall of portraying

Barry Morrow seems to be a rather amazing man who has a great deal of passion for both his fellow man and the work he does in cinema. Despite this, however, his film and characterization of Raymond appears to be informed by a more mysticised and less honest take on ASD. Given his interaction with the American savant Kim Peek he can be recused of this but it has lead to what I think is a very ungrounded expectation of those who have ASD, being a savant.

“Rain man” is a cultural touchstone and I think that it functions very well as a gateway into further understanding of ASD and other mental illness. For example, Dustin Hoffman does an excellent job as Raymond portraying   “Insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualized patterns or verbal nonverbal behavior” an aspect of ASD as defined by the DSM- 5. Though the film won the ASD community a lot of attention and support it cannot stand on its own and we must be honest about its shortcomings.

These shortcomings being, I think, no better exemplified than how Hoffman treated the man from which he drew his inspiration, Kim Peek. As Mr. Peek’s late father attested:”I tried to call him several times, but I could never get through,’ says Mr Peek. ‘After we met him at the studios in Hollywood, when he studied Kim’s behaviour, we heard from him only once more, four or five years ago, when Kim won an award from the Christopher Reeve Foundation for helping other people with disabilities, and he sent a video lasting 30 seconds, congratulating Kim.”

I feel that we as a society must treat those that have ASD and other disabilities in the same way that we do those we define as “neurotypical”. I think this begins with having respect for what ASD is and what it isn’t, and sadly I think that “Rain man” falls tragically short of this.

Citations:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1238386/Did-Dustin-Hoffman-exploit-rainman-After-death-week-father-makes-startling-accusation.html

Neurotribes:The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman

https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/diagnosis/dsm-5-diagnostic-criteria