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Merging into Mainstream

adam Raw. That’s the operative word of the moment to describe my general emotional state. It’s approaching seven on a Sunday evening. It was one of those days with which the weather gods decide to bless us minions every now and then. A day where the heart and soul soar into a blue and puff-cloud expanse, the sun smiling down just enough. The air had a sudden quiet and there was that crisp and a slight crunch beginning to appear as the sun’s heat begins to back off, leaving tale-tale signs of summer’s leaving and a fall coming. Yet, instead of frolicking in it all, I spent two hours of that precious gift in a dark theater in front of movie screen.

Really. I don’t write here about every movie I see. But, as a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, I must write about “Adam.” I did get in a walk in the glorious weather late morning before I went to see the just-out love story of a young man living with Asperger’s.

I won’t give away the plot. No worries. But, I’d recommend catching it soon because Hollywood’s priorities are the biggest bang for our bucks and that means it won’t be around two weekends from now, I predict, when would be the next chance I have to see it. It’s a must for anyone with a family member who has any form of autism.  It’s a “should” for educators and others working with our population. And for the rest of the lot, thank you for going.  Hollywood has gifted us with a prime-time platform of awareness and exposure that could and will go a long way.

I can’t say the movie was stellar. There were moments that seemed a bit slow. Moments that were a bit awkward, and not because the lead character’s disAbility. In fairness, I cannot be a judge for this movie because I am so immersed within the autism community.

After it was over, The Fiance poked me and said, “you cried at least six times.”  He told me later he cried at least four. I left the theater with mixed emotions. Why had I cried so frequently and so early into the movie? I could not say I LOVED this movie. But, it touched me deeply.  In the parking lot, the biggest gush of tears came when I was able to sum to The Fiance that my tears came from a place of knowing. Knowing the journey’s pot holes and rough patches. I didn’t pity the character. I just knew all too well the experience of his life. And, it’s hard. Really hard. I cried tears for our journey.

Kudos to Hollywood. There was nothing glamorized, exaggerated or inaccurate within the story’s portrayal. Anything in this movie can and could and does happen. And that should give some families, unaware of the possibilities, hope.  Plus a few tips.

I was curious about who were the other people peppering the seats around us. The Fiance and I weren’t the only theater occupants laughing knowingly at scenes. We understood perfectly. We’d been there, lived that. I asked a mother and her adult daughter, as we exited, if they had a family member with autism, and they said they did not. They came because of the actor line up. They liked the movie and, like myself, thought is was fair and not a romanticized depiction.

Within the last two months, I’ve begun to think of Asperger’s — a high functioning form of autism predominantly marked by a lack of social ability — as becoming mainstream. Two days apart I heard Asperger’s referred to in NPR clips without missing a beat. First, author and literary reviewer Alan Cheuse  described a character in a novel he praised as “a little bit Asperger-ish.”  Wow! And then two days later there was a reference about a criminal case involving a man with Asperger’s. And, thanks to Hollywood’s portrayal of the disorder in “Adam,” our community will continue to merge more and more into the mainstream of our society’s vernacular and consciousness. I have to believe that. I know it. And this merger deal — it’s a very good thing.

Pssst! If you have a loved one who is in denial about having Asperger’s — usually an adult and often the father of a child on the autism spectrum — it could be a friendly wake up call to see characteristics they may share with the film’s lead actor.

photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures

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