‘I Have Autism’ uses the quest narrative to follow the story of three teenagers dealing with their autism as they work toward their individual goals. First, there is 17 year old Jeremy with severe autism who struggles to have the relationships of a typical high school student due to the severity of his condition. He battles his verbal limitations with a tool that speaks for him in order to reach out to and communicate with his peers. The episode also follows 19 year old Jonathan, an artistic savant with a milder form of autism who still faces constant challenges and seeks to overcome the frequent physical and emotional tantrums that have been interrupting his life and his ability to function socially. Finally, there is Elijah, a 16 year old with Asperger Syndrome, a form of highly functioning autism, who aspires for a future in comedy and refuses to allow his condition to prevent him from realizing that future.
All three acknowledge “the sick role” of their condition but aim to not allow that role to define them. The teenagers share the sentiment that they feel trapped within their mind, yet feel they view their surroundings in the same way anyone else would. They feel like outsiders due their condition and simply seek a sense of normalcy, including assuming the responsibilities of a typical teenager, to overcome the expected limitations of autism.
Illness narratives are extremely important in a variety of ways. As stated in the lecture, they can be empowering for the one sharing, and they provide the listener with a new perspective on the illness and how an individual copes with the illness. This can bridge the gap between the family or health care provider and the individual with the illness in understanding how the illness truly affects the individual to better assess, manage, and relate to the illness.