A Review of the reviews of The Good Doctor on ABC by an autistic (savant)

Subtitle: and my personal review of the show as well

Let’s be succinct: Storyline=(doctor(young), autistic, savant syndrome), Challenges=(getting hired, being accepted, value appreciated), Results=(saving lives, period).

If you saw the premiere on ABC the other night, then you already know the storyline and don’t need a brief KetchUp.

I found out about this show via my Google Alerts. I have one set up for the term ‘Savant Syndrome’ and I received a ton of links to click in order to read about this new show in advance.

My only predicament to watch the show initially was living south of the border without US network TV. However, I overcame that obstacle pretty easily with the help of a VPN service and ABC’s free view of Episode 1.

My first thoughts, “They did a pretty good job showing autism and showing savant syndrome without reading definitions from a textbook.” And they also did a good job showcasing the ‘human condition’ which is very important in storytelling.

First a review of the reviews. I’ve read several so far and the writers are all over the place with their angles and opinions.

One writer wanted to show off some technical knowledge and gave us a list of the ‘Myths’ regarding autism and savant syndrome. [INSERT YAWN HERE]

Another writer caused me to cringe when they inserted “…suffering from autism…”! [INSERT WTF WERE YOU THINKING] [Answer: NOT]

To expand on that one, most autistics don’t feel like they are “suffering”, we just feel that we are different, period.

Since I’m very critical of both script writing and acting, I was very impressed with both in the first episode. However another writer was not, and criticized the “flatness” of the dialogue. I assume they were referring to both the lines and interpretation by the actor Highmore.

If so, guess what? That is a very typical way that many of us autistics interact both verbally and in body language, FLAT, period…GET OVER IT!

And finally the most important review that I read stated that the ratings for this show were the highest for ABC with any new series premiere in over eight years!

Thank God, because maybe they won’t cancel it before there’s an ending. That’s one aspect of US TV that I deplore. If the ratings aren’t there along with the advertising bucks, shove it out the window and bring in repeats of something else.

Those were the reviews by others, now a review by an autistic with Savant Syndrome [ME].

First, they NAILED IT and so did Highmore with his acting ability. Anyone that is familiar with autism or that is autistic themselves knows that we are all different, and there is no “one way” that we behave nor communicate.

Therefore both the writers and Highmore took the middle approach by showing just enough unusual physical movements and communication style along with the deadpan facial expressions of the character. It was very believable to me and I could relate as an autistic.

Second, without giving the viewer boring technical details related to Savant Syndrome, they showed them through the actions taken by the character in a medical emergency, and supported those actions with clever holograms that implied his thought processes.

The technique of using holograms that the producers used got some really cheesy criticism in more than one review.

Guess what? That’s sort of how it works for us folks with Savant Syndrome [SURPRISE]!

Often we are visual thinkers and use instantaneous visual recall to solve problems, very similar to how a computer works or your ‘smart phone’.

Therefore I give this prop a ‘thumbs up’, it worked for me, I understood the intent, and it weaved well with the actions taking place without being distracting.

Finally the infamous use of flashbacks on the screen in storytelling, either it works or it’s confusing. Again, there was just enough to give the viewer the true sense of pain that the character endured as an autistic child, along with the main crux of the story, his reason for becoming a doctor.

I’m hooked and I hope the writers are able to develop this story with authentic details as well as keeping us interested so that we want to see the next episode.

Time will tell…

“Wizard, why is April Autistic Blue Month?”, asked Dorothy

Subtitle 1: “Dorothy, because the color gold is too bright for PSA commercials on TV.”, answered the Wizard of Oz

Subtitle 2:  I’ve been on an autistic vacation for the past six months, I’ll explain…

Fortunately the dreaded month of April for most autistics is half over, and we can go back to being just autistic and not feeling compelled to explain ourselves to those that have suddenly become “aware” of autism.

What really annoys me about the annual “awareness” campaign is that it loves to draw attention to those autistics that cannot fend for themselves, often referring to those that have severe comorbid conditions such as Intellectual Disability..

Consequently non-autistics who have a very cursory understanding of autism get the impression that “all” autistics fit in that category when statistics show that it is actually a small percentage. In fact there are a plethora of non-verbal autistics who are brilliant contributing members to society and yet they are considered severely autistic and disabled, it doesn’t make sense to me.

The flip-side to this conundrum are the radical opinionated autistics that love to shove their opinions in everyone’s face whether accurate or not, and paint anyone including autistics as “ableists” if they don’t agree with them. I ran across an autistic blogger today that fits that profile when they blasted Dr. Temple Grandin for saying that “autistics should get their butts out of the house and get a job.” What’s wrong with that message? Nothing in my opinion. Sometimes we need a push to better our lives or explore avenues that we haven’t in the past that might lead us to new discoveries about ourselves as well as bettering our lives. I think that’s what the point was by Dr. Grandin.

If we listen to some of the other pearls of wisdom that Dr. Temple Grandin repeats constantly, one is to help that autistic person find what they are good at and build on it. That message is normally directed at caregivers but it applies to us autistics who have the capacity to process that message. Sometimes a little bit of self introspection to discover our assets and refrain from thinking about our deficits can go a long way to finding our place in society where we feel whole and not “weird” which is a basic human need.

And this brings me back to Autistic April and my six month autistic vacation.

Over the past six months. I took a very deep breath, stopped dwelling on being autistic and different, and focussed on my other passions besides writing. I came to realize that for the past several years my obsession with learning about autism and interacting with fellow autistics on Facebook impeded my time to focus on day to day living in real time and making progress with other personal goals that are important to me.

During this process I noticed a curious thing that happened. Some of my quirky autistic habits that can annoy me seemed to diminish like making sure various objects in my house are lined up correctly as well as a few others. That caused me to ponder whether being so in tune with my autistic deficits was actually preventing me from overcoming some of them. I’m always going to be autistic and I’m glad about that, and most of my autistic traits are not repairable, but if I can make just a little progress so that some of them don’t interfere with my life on an hourly basis then for me that’s a good thing.

And then comes April…

Every year when this month rolls around I tend to revert to feeling different and “weird” again. Maybe that’s just my problem but that’s what it does to me. I normally view my circumstances as if  “the glass is half full and not half empty,” focusing on the good parts of my life and not the negative.

That basic philosophy along with laughter has gotten me through a lot of adversity in my life. Therefore, when a sledge hammer comes down like a brightly blue lit White House or Empire State Building that pops up in my news feed, I forget to invoke either one of those personal helpers and I’m back to being an old autistic fart with lots of baggage.

So thank you blue puzzle piece, Autism Walk invites, and blue lit buildings everywhere for reminding me that I’m autistic and “weird,” and that I along with countless others need help via donated dollars to one US organization to save the day by throwing us a Pity Party that we didn’t ask for.

By the way, I won’t be attending…

Article Mother Jones: The White House Turned Blue for “Autism Awareness.” That’s Actually Bad for Autistic People.’


The Way I See It: “Wizard, rumor has it that Autism Speaks has finally listened to us autistics. Is that true?

Subtitle: “Dorothy, it was only a matter of time…” – answered the Wizard of Oz

Two words that are considered really profane by autistics are “Autism Speaks”, and the reason for that is very complex. They have a history of painting Autism as a horrendous “disease” that needs to be eradicated, and the majority of autistics that I know view that as euthanasia or eugenics research in process.

I get that, but I also realize that if Autism Speaks had not formed a little over a decade ago, the world public would still be in “ignorant mode” regarding the word Autism and what that entails.

My biggest beef with them over the last (x) amount of years has been the way that they spend their donations, basically large salaries and marketing, a reasonable portion for research grants, and very little left over nor allocated for the benefit of us living with autism on a daily basis.

I will give that organization some credit, they have a wonderful website that does provide lots of tools to enable the parents of severely or recently diagnosed children with autism to empower themselves with a variety of knowledge, and about a year ago they introduced a database for helping autistics find employment. Whether or not the latter has had any success or not I have no idea.

This past week two blogging websites noted that Autism Speaks has finally modified their mission statement to exclude that hurtful four letter word “cure”. We autistics have known for quite a long time (our entire lives) that curing autism is an absolutely ridiculous objective.

Furthermore, Autism Speaks has introduced several “words” in their new mission statement that autistics have been championing and one of them is the magic word “acceptance”.

The international autism community which includes autistic bloggers are focusing on the declining revenue donations as an impetus that sparked this change in direction, and others are noting that about a year ago Autism Speaks added two well known autistics to their board of directors. I suspect both aspects are true along with many others.

How was this change received by the international autism community?

Not very well. They still view that organization as a “HATE GROUP”, and I doubt that any modifications in a mission statement will change that. However, future actions by Autism Speaks that reflects this new mission statement might, and only time will tell.

In the meantime, we have a split population that either believes in and supports that organization, and then the rest of us.

Those that view Autism Speaks as a noble nonprofit organization are primarily the parents of severely autistic children with hardly anywhere else to go for help but to their website, along with attending the various Autism Speaks Walks that seem to occur all year long now in lieu of just April, the Blue Month. 🙂 Those Walks are big donation vacuums and I assume a great place to meet other parents of autistics, and a person to person venue for commiserating or sharing personal stories.

Over the past few years I have read many stories written by parents about their autistic children whether it’s an article or a post on Facebook, and when I take the time to do that, I also utilize “empathy” to project myself into their position in order to contemplate how I would feel and what I would want for my child if he or she was severely autistic.

“Thinking Autistics” (bloggers etc.) often view those parents that write about their experiences as selfish or self-centered as if they are only concerned about how their lives have been impacted by having a severely autistic child.

And guess what? Their lives have been severely affected by raising and caring for a severely autistic child and they have every right to express their feelings as individuals. By writing about it doesn’t mean that they do not love their child nor want the best for him or her, it’s simply their method of venting in dealing with their own personal stress experienced on a daily basis.

That’s my opinion and it’s based on a deep reflection of my own life and the challenges that my mother had raising and caring for me, a severely autistic child.

My mother didn’t have an Autism Speaks nor a website of any kind to go to for information or support, she used her own intuition of what might work, what tools might help her severely autistic child, provided immeasurable support to that autistic child, and it paid off because that autistic child graduated to Asperger’s Syndrome as an adult.

What really annoys me about some of my fellow tribespeople (autistics) that criticize parents is their propensity to be extremely narrow minded with their viewpoints which demonstrates that they might be in the minority of autistics, those that lack an abundance of empathy for everyone.

What about the severely autistic child? What’s their point of view?

If that child happens to be blessed by not having the co-occurring condition of Intellectual Disability, I suspect they would have a lot to say about this, and often they do in writing whether they are verbal or not. I doubt the majority view their parents as villains but loving caregivers that are doing the best that they can in a difficult situation.

And what opinion(s) would that severely autistic child have about Autism Speaks? That’s what I would really like to know.

I doubt it’s the same opinions that adult autistics have which are quite vocal about their animosity towards that organization. I suspect that many severely autistic children would in fact like their lives to be improved as much as possible in order to integrate with society using whatever tools, methods, or drugs that are available or being developed which might make a small positive impact on their lives.

In order to do that, medical research and medical care are necessary. And guess who’s been at the forefront of pushing for that since 2005? That villainous organization called Autism Speaks.

Whether you like them or hate them, one thing that Autism Speaks successfully did for all autistics and their families is push for mandatory paid autism related healthcare services by US medical insurance companies, and that was a major lobbying expense that took a lot of their donated dollars to accomplish.

And this leads to the final contentious subject of what medical services should autistics receive whether severely autistic or not, which is the second most hated set of words or acronym by most autistics called Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy (ABA).

The history and application of ABA is not a good one, but it has transitioned for the most part from the original cruel behavior modification approach which often included physically painful methods such as electric shock therapy. A lot of autistics equate ABA therapy to dog training, and I’m usually one of them, however there is a flip-side to the concepts and application of it.

ABA no longer equates to the concept of “behavior modification” or “dog training”, and has been replaced with individualized behavior analysis that focuses on the triggers associated with antisocial behavior. This is where it gets sticky, what autistic traits are considered antisocial? A couple are at the forefront and that includes aggressive behavior and self-injury behavior.

Furthermore, ABA has morphed into a plethora of tools and methods that target the spectrum of what are considered autistic deficits, and as an example that includes severe communication problems, whether verbal or implied by actions, and helping an autistic child learn and improve their ability to communicate with a variety of tools which often includes technology such as iPads.

Like Autism Speaks, ABA is either a “love” or “hate” acronym and concept, and it’s almost an impossible challenge to change opinions on either side of that issue.

There are a lot of stories in writing by parents of severely autistic children that swear by ABA and are quite vocal about the positive aspects and results. I have read many of those stories over the last few years, but I have also read a few horror stories about ABA. Therefore I have to conclude that it all depends on who the ABA therapist is, their training and philosophy, along with their skills at working with autistic children.

As that famous phrase goes, “If you’ve met one autistic person, then you’ve met one autistic person,” and each autistic child is unique with their own gifts and their own challenges in learning to adapt to society in general. And the goal of adapting to society is leading productive lives as an adult focussing on one’s strengths and not one’s deficits.

Whether a child is autistic or not, most parents spend the first (x) years of a child’s life trying to teach their children good manners, proper social behavior, the difference between right and wrong, and a list too long to put here but all of this is done in order to help that child morph into a good person and a productive adult who makes the most of their potential no matter how limited that might be.

Most parents are not equipped nor trained to deal with little humans that do not necessarily function like the majority and this is why early intervention is so critical, so talked about in the autism world, and why therapies such as ABA continue to strive in spite of a very tainted past because there are not a lot of options for parents to choose, and this is one option that health insurance companies will pay for.

Will I start donating to Autism Speaks? Never, nor would I consider it unless I saw visible results that correspond to their new mission statement, and most importantly a radical change in their financials that demonstrates their donations are being spent on helping those ‘living with autism’ and not fat salaries and marketing.

Autism Speaks’ new mission statement is a first step, but they have a very long road ahead to garner any support from the international autism community if that is remotely feasible, and frankly I doubt it.

Unfortunately, they are still the ‘brand name’ for all things ‘autism’ just like Apple is for smartphones and tablets, and they’ve done a pretty good job marketing that blue puzzle piece that drives most of us autistics bonkers! 🙂

I hope this is truly a first step in the right direction which very loud autistic voices have been demanding for a very long time.

We will find out in the years to come…

Autism Speaks No Longer Seeking Cure

The Way I See It: “Wizard, how many friends do you have?”

Subtitle: “Dorothy, I’m lucky. I have you and all of the creatures living in Oz.” – answered the Wizard of Oz

Sometimes a story grabs my attention, provokes a reflection on my own life, and the attached article about an eleven year old autistic boy did just that.

No matter what age we are, we humans need other human connections because we are social creatures, and our own internal emotional energy is fueled by the energy given off by others that we encounter on a daily basis.

That’s why we need friends and love from family members in order to validate our existence and provide us with a sense of worth that are own lives matter.

As a school project, the little boy in the article was asked to fill in the blanks on a questionnaire, and one of the questions was to list who some of his friends are.

His write-in answer, “No one”.

When I read that, an extremely powerful electrical charge went through my entire body because I could relate to that when I was a child and also as an adult.

As a severely autistic child I was lucky, I always had at least one and sometimes a few friends while growing up, but those relationships always had a short duration.

As an adult, I’ve tried to analyze why that occurred, and the only answer that I can come up with is what most kids called me, “weirdo” and “retard”. In essence, being ‘different’ precludes one from being a member of the “pack”.

As a young adult things changed. I gradually learned how to mimic “normal” humans and their behavior in communicating, and by the time I was a teenager, I had overcome my language disorder enough to have conversations with them.

However, it took another decade or two to consciously stop interrupting other humans with my own stories or “special interests” which is a common trait of autism. I finally learned “how to be a listener” and I came to realize that most “normal” humans prefer to talk about themselves anyway. 🙂

Although I managed to learn some of the skills to having friends, I’ve never really learned how to make friends from scratch. The majority of my friend relationships as an adult happened by accident in whatever place that I was working at, and I suppose the catalyst for those intermittent friendships was the commonality that we had as working partners in the computer industry.

Here I am today, an ancient autistic in his sixties, and I’m still almost friendless. I use the word ‘almost’ because I do have two close friends that could care less if I’m autistic, they accept me for who I am as a person, and I suspect that I entertain them occasionally with my sense of humor and my autistic personality which gives me a chuckle sometimes as well.

Excerpt: Cornelius said that he doesn’t blame the kids themselves for not befriending his son. “They were clearly not taught to embrace and accept the differences of others. Not by their teachers, which would have been nice, had they thought to do so, but by their parents,” he wrote.

“…accept the differences of others” is the key phrase in this article and the lives of anyone who appears different from others, whether autistic, disabled, of a different race, or even of a different religion.

Excerpt: Addressing readers directly, Cornelius (the father) urged his fellow parents to teach their children empathy.

‘Empathy’ is defined as the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions. It is purported to be an innate characteristic of humans, but maybe that emotional response or feeling does not manifest itself until we’re adults. That might explain why children can be so cruel to their peers that appear different, and maybe he’s right, parents need to teach their children ‘empathy’ early on.

Up until recently, it had been documented and written about that we autistics lack the capacity of ‘empathy’, and that is one of the reasons that we are often locked into our world or reality.

We now know that this assertion is false, and in fact we autistics may have the ability to manifest more ‘empathy’ than non-autistics.

When I think about this eleven year old autistic child that wrote in “No one” for his fill-in the blank answer to name some of his friends on that questionnaire, my thoughts are that he might be extremely ‘empathetic’ to his classmates’ behavior of excluding him because of his difference, and in turn accepting that reality as part of life.

However, neither he nor any autistic child should have to accept being disenfranchised from peers and society, and it’s the responsibility of teachers and parents to change this paradigm.

And the prescription for that change is being accepted, included, befriended, and loved by others so that we (anyone that’s different) can feel validated as fellow humans and part of society on this tiny round planet.

Therefore, I propose some new required classes starting in kindergarten called ‘Empathy 101’, ‘Human Disabilities 101’, ‘Anthropology 101’ (race relations), and finally ‘How to Make Friends and Influence People 101’.

The latter course is probably the most important because that’s a basis for surviving childhood, adulthood, making a living, and avoiding conflict with other humans.

I hope you get something out of the attached article like I did, and the subject needs to be talked about a lot more with actions to implement as part of the solution.

Article: Dad Writes Heartbreaking Post About Son With Autism Who Has No Friends

The Way I See It: “Wizard, what was the latest ’cause du jour’ of autism last week?”

Subtitle: “Dorothy, that’s a no-brainer, Emily Willingham’s article on PCB’s, also known as polychlorinated biphenyls.” – answered the Wizard of Oz

Article excerpt: “Autism research generally falls into one of three categories: cause, treatment or what autistic people want and need, with representation and attention in roughly that order.”

If you’re not familiar with Emily Willingham, she’s a biologist and writer for the Forbes magazine and online website, and in my opinion, one of the most courageous and common sense writers about autism with a slant towards supporting autistics and neurodiversity.

In this particular article of hers, she references a 35 page research study published last month that explicitly implies that PCB’s which were banned in 1979 and used for over one hundred years are another major ’cause du jour’ of autism. This particular research report/study concluded that higher levels of some organochlorine compounds during pregnancy are associated with ASD and ID. The ‘ID’ pertains to Intellectual Disability.

To be fair, PCB’s have been proven to be neuro-developmental toxic agents, and unfortunately it takes months to years to dissolve those from one’s system, and in this study the authors concluded that pregnant women exposed to these were more likely to be at risk for birthing an autistic child.

However, they are more carcinogenic (cancer) than triggers for autism, and that was Ms. Willingham’s point.

Article excerpt: “The autistic children in the study also were far likelier to have older parents and mothers with a higher education, both already established factors in autism odds.”

The above excerpt was Ms. Willingham’s rebuttal to the article. It has already been established that ‘older parents’ and ‘highly educated people’ seem to have a disproportionate amount of autistic offspring and I’m one of them.

Ms. Willingham went further to reference a study of the Inuits of Northern Quebec and a Finnish study that concluded there were no connections of PCB’s and abnormal neuro-development in offspring such as autism. The Inuits ingest high concentrations of PCB’s due to their high fat diet which is how PCB’s continue in the food chain, so they are a great reference population for pursuing this potential ‘smoking gun’ of an autism cause.

Article excerpt: “They cite typical equivocations scientists use when they want to rationalize the work they’re currently doing: designs are flawed, populations are small.”

So what does this all mean?

We autistics are fuel for scientists to explore, research, and report on, often with flaws, trying to explain why we exist and unfortunately how to make us ‘normal’ or to ‘cure’ us.

The one area of science which rarely gets talked about is the evolution of humans, and how autism might be a snapshot in time of the normal evolutionary process of humans, i.e. autistics often have larger brains at birth, autistics often have an excess of brain neurons, and autistics often have unusually high sensitive responses to stimuli which in turn can either aid the individual or drive that autistic person slightly bonkers as it does me! 🙂

There are a couple of reasons that I decided to write this post.

First, my objective is to introduce you to Ms. Emily Willingham if you’re not already familiar with her writings about autism. She is one of the best scientists/writers about current autism issues available on the internet, and I suggest that you follow her to stay current on either interesting stuff or the nonsense which she often picks up on as well and writes about.

Secondly, most autistics get annoyed and are basically fed-up with the plethora of autism ’causes du jour’ and are simply looking for acceptance and support in order to co-exist with our fellow humans as equals. Whether or not PCB’s that were banned in 1979 contribute to autism is irrelevant, it’s not going to change anything nor prevent another birth of an autistic baby.

And finally, I hope enough autistic voices get loud enough to eventually change the paradigm of research from causes or cures, to focusing on enabling us to be equal partners in society through new research that improves our lives such has been done via tools like the iPad which functions as a communication device for those of us that cannot speak.

That is what Autism Research should be about, improving the lives of the living and not attempting to reengineer nature.

Article: Researchers Looking at Links Between Banned Chemicals and Autism