Rain Man

Growing up with Autism.


In the popular movie Rain Man (1988), Dustin Hoffman played an autistic man named Raymond who was an institutionalized savant living in a world of his own.  In this film Raymond’s brother Charlie (played by Tom Cruise) struggled to understand the behavior of mental illness and his brother’s life with autism during a trip together.  Autism is the most familiar form of autistic spectrum disorders (ASD).  Coping with autism is a life challenge for both the patient and people around.

Rain Man presents a largely accurate portrayal of man with autism.  Raymond, a child with autism, grew up and continued to have the same problems: although as an adult, he acted as an overgrown child and showed little understanding of subject matter; he adhered to strict routines and was frightened by change; he showed flat emotional expression and avoided eye contact.

Influenced by autistic condition, Raymond had superb memory recall and could solve complicated math problems precisely in head, thus Charlie used Raymond’s precision memory and took him to Las Vegas to win money at blackjack by counting cards.  Such story implies that there are some advantages of autism that may yield gains in life.  Although some autistic patients do demonstrate unusual intelligence, most of this mental disorder only results in frustrations, struggles, and incompetency in life.  “Contrary to some views, most people with autism also have intellectual disabilities” (Oltmanns & Emery, 2012, p. 389).

According to Oltmanns and Emery (2012), there are many clinical observations of autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) distinguished by dramatic, often severe, and unusual symptoms. Socially, ASD patients live in a world apart. At best, social awkwardness is pronounced; at worst, people are objects, terrifying objects.  Severely disturbed children with ASD cannot communicate. Others speak oddly, preferring unusually focused topics of conversation (for example, how mechanical objects work), speaking with subtle oddities in tone and emphasis, or both. In addition, people with ASD are preoccupied with unusual repetitive behavior. In severe cases, they endlessly perform the same action, for example, flapping their hands for hours on end. Even the high functioning people with ASD, someone approximately like Raymond, struggle to understand emotions and abstractions.

Reference

Oltmanns, T. F. & Emery, R. E. (2012). Abnormal psychology (7th ed.).  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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