Monday, December 5, 2016

Rain Man

Good Evening!

One thing that I have been asked many times over the years is if Tyler has any special skills like "Rain Man".  The movie happened to be on tonight and it was astounding to realize it is nearly 30 years old!  For as limited as our knowledge of autism is today, I'm pretty impressed by the portrayal from that long ago.  It also means I'm getting OLD!

Now, back to the question.  Raymond was actually an "autistic savant".  In times past this was known as an "idiot savant", so thank goodness for some political correctness. Interestingly about 10% of the autistic population has a specialized ability which would by definition make them a savant.  In the non-autistic population this is prevalent in less than 1% of people.  To my knowledge there is no known explanation for this.  It shows that we really do not know much about how the autistic brain functions.  Tyler never exhibited any particular savant tendencies.  But at the same time, there were stark inconsistencies in his skills.  For example, Tyler could shoot hoops with a great deal of accuracy, he could do multiple shape puzzles with relative ease, and yet he would often forget how to get from one room to the next.

I saw a great deal of Tyler in Dustin Hoffman's portrayal.  And I saw a fair amount of myself in Tom Cruise's character as well.

Ironically, Tyler and I touch foreheads like this as a sign of love and respect for each other. He is no longer comfortable with hugging but he has always been comfortable with this. 

During the movie you watch an interesting dynamic...Raymond doesn't change a bit, he is what he is no matter what, but it's Charlie that DOES change.  Charlie becomes more willing to come into Raymond's world instead of trying to force Raymond into his.  Where Charlie hated trivial things in the beginning, he learns to understand the importance of them by the end.  Charlie goes from living for his own agenda to making decisions that are selfless and hard.

And there are the funny parts too.  I enjoy watching the People's Court (its my daily guilty sin) and if I am running late my wife will mock me..."they are making legal history Ray...LEGAL HISTORY!".  

There are sad parts that really hit home.  Charlie teaches Ray to dance and begins to feel this tremendous connection, so in the end he asks Ray if he wants a hug.  Ray reacts extremely defensively and Charlie is abruptly reminded that there are limits to even the good moments.  This is an amazingly accurate depiction of the relationship between caregiver and autistic person.  The target constantly moves and you can never become absolute about anything or else you will be snapped back to reality.

If you happen to have the chance to watch Rain Man I would encourage you to do so, and carefully watch how Cruise's character changes and evolves.  As a caregiver I promise you will see yourself in more spots than one.  Also try to find some takeaway items.  For me it is a reminder that my job is to help Tyler grow and be as secure as possible, but that I cannot CHANGE his true makeup.  I must also continue to grow and understand his needs and see the world from his point of view.  

Be well and God bless.


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