The Episode of True Life I watched was The Benjamins. The illness narrative shared the quest narrative of two brothers, named Kenny and Brad, on the autism spectrum. Essentially, this story is told to show what it is like to be in your twenties with autism. The narrative emphasizes how hard it can be for someone with autism or Asperger’s to cope with new experiences, and how that influences people around them (e.g. their parents). The main quest shows that through repetition and exposure to social situations, the brothers can learn to be more social while still living with autism. Medically speaking, autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a spectrum of social, communication, and verbal skills. Meaning, there is a wide range in the severity of the disorder and what symptoms manifest. Within Western culture, autism can be socially debilitating. Those with autism, often have a very difficult time communicating and understanding the perspective of others – which can make seeing new medical professionals difficult. For this reason, Kenny and Brad have a trusted social worker that works with them. For people without autism, and who do not understand the disorder, communication can be extremely frustrating. This miscommunication can isolate people with autism to an even deeper level, and make family members feel defeated on the quest to help with symptoms of autism. In the case of the Benjamins, they are lucky enough to have a very supportive family, friend, and social worker who wants them to branch out of their comfort zones (at their own pace of course). Their sick role makes them aware of the fact that they are different from the average twenty year old. Within this, their parents and the brothers know that they need special care. Everyday things, such as baking a cake, can be a huge struggle for the brothers if their mother is not there. Therefore, they are excused from the responsibilities of the average twenty-something (learning to drive, moving out, going to college, etc). For Kenny and Brad it is highly difficult to adapt to big changes and can be mentally overwhelming. I think this autism narrative is useful, because it showcases that people with autism are not as socially inept as people may think. The Benjamins’ narrative proves that. These two young adults want socially interaction, however, they just do not understand how to go about it. I think this story shows that with support of friends and family, people with autism have a much better chance of leading more normal and independent lives. Which is not only beneficial for the wellbeing of the brothers but for those who care about them and for others who are living with and influenced by autism.
Lecture 4.1 Experiencing Illness. Week 4: Experimental Approach.” ANP 204 course website. http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp204-us14/week-4-lecture-1
Lecture 4.2 Illness Narratives. Week 4: Experimental Approach. ANP 204 course website.http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp204-us14/week-4-lecture-2/
MTV. Accessed July 23, 2014. http://www.mtv.com/shows/truelife/true-life-presents-the-benjamins/1726860/playlist/#id=1726860.
Wikipedia. Accessed July 23, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autism.