WINK News (CBS affiliate in the Fort Myers/Naples area of Florida) revealed that age means little when it comes to educating autism. WINK profiled a 10-year-old boy who published his first book, Reno’s World, a compilation of thoughts and facts Reno Williams learned when he discovered that he was on the autism spectrum (Asperger’s to be specific). The book turned into a reality via grant money from a local autism group in southwest Florida.
Most ironic about this story is the subject, since the market WINK is a hot spot for retirees to reside part-time or full-time. That doesn’t mean families don’t take up space though. The characteristics Reno shared are actually very similar to other people with Asperger’s or another form of autism spectrum disorder, such as hand flapping, lack of eye contact and light sensitivity. The true selling point of the story is the author’s age, since others acutely aware of their autistic symptoms often don’t discuss them until adulthood. While many autism resources are available now, there’s still a lack of material offering direct insight from people on the spectrum. A lack of communication skills can be attributed to the dearth of knowledge coming from those who know best, which makes media such as Reno’s a fascination for journalists and the rest of the population.
Coincidentally, this could fit a few points made by Ari Ne’eman in his Wired interview. Most notably, that people can learn about autism from anyone on the spectrum or working with autistic people, and not just celebrities within the community.
The story’s structure is nothing new for journalism followers, profiling someone with an accomplishment via assistance from another person or organization. While the format is common, Reno’s story can remind its audience and other journalists that behavioral patterns associated with autism are best learned directly. As alternative communication methods increase, what we’ll learn from the spectrum’s inhabitants will follow accordingly.