Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition. Individuals with autism usually face difficulty to communicate, to socialize. They often have restricted and repetitive interests. Manifestation of Autism might vary at different stages and for every person it is different.
A mother, of one of my autistic patients, once shared with me that she felt that she could relate to the mother of the autistic child shown in the film she watched. She said that she learned a lot from that film. Then I started wondering about how films can further help all of us to understand autism better… .
Here are a few films and web videos that I found to be really interesting and insightful in that respect.
- Atypical (available on Netflix).
What I liked? Strong storyline, detailed characterization and equal importance to main characters. We see parents going to support group, a boy with autism going to regular therapy sessions and how supportive his sister and a friend are trying to help him out.
- Temple Grandin (Available on Hotstar):
In this one we see a journey of a famous animal behaviorist. Temple is a woman with autism. Ambitious since beginning, she pursues her career in building better animal chutes. How she coped in college with the help of pressure? How she used her visualization ability as a strength in her career? Do watch this fascinating story to know more.
- The good doctor (Available on Amazon Prime): Here also we see how a doctor with autism uses his strength of visualization in his career. Some struggles from his childhood are also shown where we see a family member being apathetic towards him.
- Rain man: It is one of the sweetest depictions of Autism. Savant skills are observed in this one as well. Savant skills are the skills at which the person is exceptionally good despite having lags in other skills. Examples can be of rapid calculation, artistic ability, map making, or musical ability. Concerns of family dynamics are beautifully portrayed.
- Extremely loud and incredibly close: We see a boy around 10 years, having specific interests, disliking or finding socialization difficult. He is emotionally more attached with his father. The plot develops as such that Mother has to spend more time with the child. Mother struggles to establish that connect and it is the time when they are the only people for each other, but we also get to see how Mother overcomes it.
- From the heart (Japanese short film, on YouTube: Search-Inspiring Short Film “From The Heart” Based On an Emotional True Story): Creator of this short film seems to know Autism really well. Small incidences in school reflect on the sensitivity of a film maker and surely it will touch your hearts when you watch it.
- Barfi (Available on Netflix): A treat to our mind, truly! Innocent Barfi and Jhilmil make us smile and feel in awe of their bond of understanding. Apart from sensory and other difficulties what stands out is the strength! Strength of holding on to people they develop trust with.
- My name is khan: It may not be the best portrayal of Autism but some aspects are covered beautifully. Echolalia, speech type, sensory difficulties have been shown. How he copes with challenges and the role of others around him is watch worthy.
- In a different key: It is a documentary based on a book. It covers the history of Autism very well. It is through a parents’ journey they take us through the entire history of assessment of autism, how acceptance developed in the society and the role of parents in Autism community.
- Ted talks: If you search ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder’ on Ted Talk app, you will find at least 15 videos of successful speakers who have Autism. These videos are short but full of insights.
There are overlaps in all of the films mentioned. You will see use of ‘calming toys/objects’ across almost all the mentioned ones. You will see struggle to socialize in all these films, but in different age groups, in different cultural settings. Yet, every film brings us a new something that stays with us.
More details on what and how these films speak about autism is covered in our video. Do visit our channel ‘Speak with Sonali’ and hear our candid conversation about these films. Also don’t forget to let us know your experience after watching these films.