Autism Through The Ages

Greetings Earthlings! 🙂

In this week’s post I’m going to briefly explore the history of autism.

So gather round for storytime! 😀

fgghd

As autism rates increase, many people have come to believe that the condition is relatively new. Whilst the clinical term may be in it’s infancy, autism can in fact trace it’s genetic lineage back through millennia!

Genetic research has shown that some of the key genes involved in the development of autism came from our shared heritage with the apes, predating the evolution from monkey to man (somewhere in the region of 7 million years ago).

Image result for evolution

Other related autism genes are slightly more “recent” than this, having come into existence over 100,000-years ago.

Whilst a third of autistic genes may come about through spontaneous genetic mutation, from this evidence we can see that autistic genes were inserted into the genetic code of our ancestors for a reason.

Interestingly in ancient times, people that displayed autistic traits were in fact highly revered. Such autistic traits as exceptional memory skills, creative thinking, observational skills, heightened senses and extensive knowledge in important areas such as plants and animals (i.e specialist interests), would all have been greatly valued in an ancient community. The incorporation of these skills within the group would have been essential to their survival.

Experts also believe that autistic skills such as memory and attention to detail may have contributed to the creation of ancient cave paintings such as this one:

How often we focus on the negatives of autism that we fail to stop and consider the reasons these genes exist. If they were a hindrance to the human race, why have they not been eradicated through millennia of evolution?

I think Temple Grandin sums it up pretty well here:

Image result for autism genes memes

And she would be right! 😉 Experts believe that autistic genes have been conserved to advance our intelligence. Variants of autistic genes have been linked to improved cognitive performance and the formation of new brain cells.

Such talented historical figures as Michelangelo, Mozart, Beethoven and of course, Albert Einstein, are all believed to have shown signs of autism- but history remembers them for their esteemed achievements, not their genetic quirks.

Something that we would all do well to think of when we commit autistic people to the annals of history in future.

So there we have it Earthlings, I hope you find this information as interesting as I found it 🙂 I could go on further buuuuttt I think I’ll spare you the clinical history of autism for another day 😉

Have a good weekend everyone! 🙂

Aoife

Autism on Screen-Mozart and the Whale

Greetings Earthlings! 🙂

To mark the end of autism awareness month, today I’d like to tell you about a film that in my opinion, is probably the most realistic representation of autism on screen- the 2005 romantic-comedy-drama film ‘Mozart and the Whale.

Image result for mozart and the whale

(This film is also called ‘Crazy in Love‘ in some parts of the world)

The film follows the turbulent relationship between Donald (Josh Hartnett) and Isabelle (Radha Mitchell)- two adults with Asperger’s syndrome who meet at an autism support group.

Check out the trailer below:

What makes this film stand out from the crowd is that the film illustrates two very different pictures of AS and two different levels of functionality.

Donald, contrary to the OCD stereotype, lives in a hoarders paradise surrounded by birds (and their droppings…), and works as a taxi driver as he is unable to navigate job interviews to make use of his university degree. Isabelle in contrast lives in a highly organized environment, hairdressing by day and painting by night; maintaining a relatively normal social life and appearing to outsiders as merely eccentric.

Mozart and the Whale

In watching their interactions, a clear difference emerges in their expression of  AS. In addition to this, the background support groups also provide us with different pictures of autism with no two characters appearing the same.

Autism is unique, and this film remains true to that.

Another key element to this film is that of gender and autism. Other films such as ‘Snow Cake‘, have a tendency to portray women using the male experience of the condition, however, in this film we can see that there is a clear difference between autistic men and women.

Image result for mozart and the whale

Unlike Donald, Isabelle appears relatively normal to an outsider, albeit eccentric. She performs better socially and in the workplace, and largely appears to be in control. The film also hints at Isabelle’s developed social coping skills when she says:

I can’t keep from shocking people so I make it work for me.

As someone who made great efforts in college to turn qualities that were once perceived as weird into (hopefully) endearing eccentricities, this remark completely resonated with me.

However, like many women with autism, Isabelle struggles with issues of mental health and she is seeing a therapist. This film gives us a true insight into the realities faced by many women living with AS.

This film has divided some critics as to it’s accuracy in it’s portrayal of autism. On the one hand, it has been praised by many critics as one of the truest cinematic representations of autism, however, others have criticized the film for portraying the leads as having savant skills (Donald is mathematical; Isabelle has artistic and musical savant skills).

I know, I sound like a hypocrite as I often give out about this over-representation,

BUT

the characters in ‘Mozart and the Whale‘ are based on a true story!! 😀

The film is loosely based on the love story of Jerry and Mary Newport, two people with AS who are savants!

Image result for jerry and mary newport

You can read a bit more on their story over on Goodreads:

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/163483.Mozart_and_the_Whale

Fun Fact about the Film: The screenplay for ‘Mozart and the Whale‘ was written by Ron Bass- the same screenwriter for ‘Rain Man‘!

This fact is made even more interesting by the fact that ‘Rain Man‘ is often considered inaccurate, while ‘Mozart and the Whale‘ is perceived as the most accurate.

In comparing both films, we can really see a clear change in attitudes towards autism in the intervening 17 years. We move from a dramatic and stereotyped vision of autism to a friendlier, more accurate portrayal of the autistic condition.

If you want to watch a film about autism, this is the one to see.

This film definitely get’s Aoife’s ‘A’ of approval 😉

bitmoji670813364.png

Aoife

Celebrities with Autism

Greetings Earthlings! 🙂

Today we’re going to take a look at some famous people who you may not realize are on the spectrum.

Susan Boyle

Image result for susan boyle

After achieving viral fame in 2009 for her powerful voice and quirky personality in ‘Britain’s got Talent‘, the Scottish songstress was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in 2012. Boyle had in fact spent her entire life believing that she was brain damaged following oxygen deprivation at birth!

If you have a spare hour, I’d highly recommend checking out her documentary ‘There’s Something About Susan‘ where she talks about her diagnosis 🙂

Dan Aykroyd

Image result for dan aykroyd

Whilst never formally diagnosed, actor and comedian Dan Aykroyd of ‘Ghostbusters‘ and ‘The Blues Brothers‘ fame believes he has a touch of Asperger’s syndrome. Having read about the condition, Aykroyd self diagnosed with AS based on certain symptoms and autistic traits he possesses, in addition to his intense childhood obsessions such as ghosts.

Daryl Hannah

365635227_4e9a20c8b8_z.jpg

That’s right- Daryl Hannah, the sexy siren from ‘Kill Bill‘ and ‘Splash‘ has been quite vocal in recent years about her childhood autism diagnosis. So little was known of autism at the time that it was recommended that Hannah be medicated and institutionalized! Hannah suffers from debilitating shyness resulting in her withdrawal from the silver screen in recent years, but has learned to cope with her symptoms better in adult life 🙂

Courtney Love 

Image result for courtney love

Controversial ‘Hole‘ singer and widow of ‘Nirvana‘ front-man Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love was diagnosed with mild autism as a child at the age of 9 according to her biography ‘Courtney Love: The Real story‘.

Other spectrum celebs include actor Paddy Considine, the late socialite and TV personality Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, world renowned autism spokeswoman and animal behaviorist Temple Grandin and indie singer-songwriter Ladyhawke.

In addition to this list of confirmed autistic celebs, there are a number of other famous people whom psychologists have speculated are on the spectrum.

Albert Einstein

download (1)

Considered by many to have been one of the greatest scientists of all time, Albert Einstein is widely believed by experts to have had had many of the traits associated with AS. Einstein reportedly didn’t speak until he was 4, obsessively repeated sentences and was a loner as a child.

Several other renowned scientists and inventors such as Issac Newton, Charles Darwin, Michelangelo and Benjamin Franklin  were also thought to have had some form of autism

Fun Fact:  Microsoft’s Bill Gates is often cited as an example of AS by experts as he exhibits many autistic traits, BUT he has never in fact been officially diagnosed as such!

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Image result for mozart

Many biographical accounts of renowned composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart have made reference to his peculiar behaviours such as frequent facial grimacing, repetitive movements of hands and feet, mood swings and impulse control- traits that are often associated with ASD’s.

Numerous other musical legends that are also believed to be on the spectrum include Michael Jackson, James Taylor and Ludwig Van Beethoven.

Tim Burton

Image result for Tim Burton

Famed for his dark and eccentric film making, Tim Burton has been informally diagnosed with AS by his former long term partner Helena Bonham Carter following research into autism for a role. After watching a documentary about autism, Burton told Carter that “That’s how he felt as a child”, leading Carter to an “a-ha moment”!

Many experts have suggested that creative writers and directors such as as Mark Twain, Stanley Kubrick, Jane Austen, Woody Allen, Hans Christian Anderson, Andy Warhol and Alfred Hitchcock may indeed have some form of autism.

Looking at all of these amazing individuals, we would all do well to recognize that an autism diagnosis by no means should keep you from achieving great things 🙂

Aoife

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑