“I Have Autism”

*In the “I Have Autism” episode three male teenagers were talking about their lives with autism.  The first one, Jeremy, has autism that greatly affects his daily life.  It keeps him from being able to talk.  However, he learned to use a new device called a Lightwriter.  He could type what he wanted to say and the lightwriter would speak for him.  He was able to make friend, go on a date, and even attend a community college, thanks to the lightwriter. 

The second teen, Jonathan, has mild autism.  He can speak but has problems putting words together and thinking of what he wants to say.  He is also what we call an autistic savant.  He is autistic yet is an amazing artist that actually has his work shown in art galleries throughout New York.  He is currently trying to take control of the tantrums he has randomly. 

The third teen, Elijah, has Asperger’s syndrome.  This is a high functioning autistic condition.  He learned to talk by making people laugh.  He loves comedy and even says his purpose in life is to make people laugh.  He travels to Los Vegas for a comedy festival.  He meets with professional comedians and they offer the idea of him making his autism into a joke.  He is terrified of the reactions he may get from the audience but goes for it anyway.  It turned out to be a hit.  He now takes one day off school a week to perform in comedy clubs in New York. 

*Each of the three narratives covered in this episode are quest narratives.  Each teenager sees an opportunity in which to improve themselves.  They know they will never be a normal teenager (even though they each do wish they could be) and are primarily focused on their emotional wellbeing and happiness. 

*The use of these narratives is mostly to help the outside world understand autism and what autistics go through on a normal basis.  It also benefits the teenager so he does not feel so isolated and alone. 

*I was personally shocked as to the culture and stigma of these three teenagers.  The culture is that of an American but there was little negative stigma toward the autistics.  Jeremy attends mainstream schooling and has classes with other ‘normal’ teenagers.  They seem to really like him and don’t seem to put him down because of his disease.  With his lightwriter it becomes clear that they didn’t really understand the ability of his brain as he does understand the world around him, he just can’t verbalize anything.  Jonathan, however, was seen as an artist and people really seemed to like him for who he is and didn’t put him down for his autism.  In fact, I think he was able to get away with more because of his autism than he would have if he didn’t have the illness.  Elijah was afraid people would not like him because of his illness; I also expected the same.  He was terrified of bringing the autism out verbally on stage.  However, he turned out to be a hit and he even verbalized his surprise and joy that no one stood up and walked out. 

*During the episode the only teen that showed any experience with medical professionals was Jonathan.  The doctor seemed very understanding and supportive even though they cannot seem to pinpoint a cause for his tantrums. 

*The sick role in these cases included not having to do house hold chores like putting away laundry, doing the dishes, and cleaning.  However, in Jeremy’s case, he was expected to help feed the dog.  Also, all three teenagers attended specialized classes in school.  Jeremy attended a mainstream school but mainly went to special education classes.  Jonathan and Elijah both attended special schools for persons’ with autism.

*Illness narratives are extremely useful to patients, family, and healthcare providers.  This is seen in Werner’s “Illness stories on self and shame in women with chronic pain”.  The narratives the women give help others around them realize they are not alone, help themselves feel part of something, and helps medical professionals see the emotional impact illness have on people.  In ‘A Dad’s Story of Male Post-Partum Depression’ the writer hopes to share his story and allow others to see that they are not alone in the way they feel.

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