Upon reading chapter 9 of Silberman’s Neurotribes, I was surprised to see how society has progressed in diagnosing and treating autism. Sure, people may not be fully equipped to correctly handle autism yet, but we are much better suited now than we were 100 years ago.
I was surprised and disappointed by how Bill was treated by his own family, his mother mainly. She did not want to associate with Bill, and she didn’t want any part of him to affect his sisters or their lives. I am glad that this story, as well as Kim Peek’s were used to create a storyline for a film with leading actors that would make forever make an impact on how autism was viewed and described, and how people with ASD were treated from there on out.
Rain Man influenced the way individuals with ASD were treated because people began to realize that these people didn’t have to be institutionalized and sent away from their families to be able to live their lives, they could do it from their homes with some help and patience from family members. Throughout the film, we see how the characters, both Raymond and Charlie struggle to keep up with one another. It is sometimes humorous to see Raymond’s reactions to the world he has been secluded from, but often times stressful to see how Charlie treats his brother. He uses derogatory terms when Ray can’t keep up, and he also cannot contain his anger when Ray does something that Charlie views as incredibly stupid and childish. Now, we can better and more respectfully describe mental illnesses and disabilities and refer to them in correct terms. For example, we no longer call people with psychological illnesses or autistic people “imbeciles” or “retards”, we refer to them as being autistic, or someone with ASD- by using psychological and medical terms (Brown).
The film ends on a happy note, the brothers learn to have a sense of respect for each other, as they have learned more about each other. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Dustin Hoffman, who portrayed Raymond in the film, actually worked in a psychiatric institute for some time, but was disgusted to learn that he had to helped to administer shock treatments for patients (369). Spending time in this place helped him develop for one of his most recognized roles ever. Also, we must recognize that in the film, Raymond is not admitted in a mental hospital/asylum/institution, instead he lives at a center for mentally disabled individuals (Treffert).
This role helped to normalize autism for those unaware of what exactly this disability entailed, but it also dramatized certain abilities. For instance, the ability for Raymond to be a numerical savant is uncommon in about ninety percent of autistic individuals (Treffert). Usually only ten percent of autistic individuals portray this incredible skill.
Hollywood can only do so much in helping us adjust to this disability, but it is up to us to continue to research and develop in order to be more accepting for individuals with ASD and other disabilities.
Brown, Lydia. “Identity-First Language.” Autistic Self Advocacy Network. http://www.autistichoya.com/2011/08/significance-of-semantics-person-first.html, n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2016.
Silberman, Steve. Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 354-380 Print.
Treffert, D., MD. (n.d.). Rain Man, the Movie / Rain Man, Real Life. Retrieved September 12, 2016, from https://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/professional/savant-syndrome/resources/articles/rain-man-the-movie-rain-man-real-life/