The first time I heard of autism was in a movie, Journey of the Heart; a movie based on the true story of Tony Deblois. Tony Deblois is visually impaired and has autism, but he has savant skills, he has been playing the piano since the age of 2, and can play 19 more instruments.
Years later, I have watched movies like My Name is Khan, Rain Man, and Silver lining by Patrick Speech and Languages Centre. The movie, Joyful Noise that has a character with Aspergers’ syndrome. I have also seen short stories on YouTube such as The Maid and Emere (both recorded here in Nigeria). But none of those movies prepared me for the movie I watched recently, THE ACCOUNTANT.
The Accountant tells the story of a man who had been diagnosed as a boy, as having high functioning autism, who is extremely good with numbers, and of course grows up to become an accountant. He talks to a lady on the phone, who we know simply as the voice, and at the end it is revealed that the voice is a lady who is on the autism spectrum, nonverbal, and uses a computer to communicate.
Although the movie creates autism awareness, I like it because it is very entertaining. Personally, I am a fan of action movies, and Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick are actors I like to see in any movie, any time, any day. For these reasons alone, I would have just been excited about seeing the movie, but the way autism is displayed as a spectrum in the movie; showing different characters, from high functioning autism to severe autism, nailed it for me. I love the fact that the movie shows the challenges parents face raising their child on the spectrum. It also expresses the issue of broken homes, one parent leaving the other because they think they cannot cope with raising a child with special needs. For these reasons, I have not only crowned The Accountant as my favourite 2016 movie, but also my favourite autism movie ever.
As I said earlier, I like the fact that the movie shows autism as a spectrum, without focusing too much on that information. One myth that I am faced with as an autism consultant is that children with autism are geniuses. Although I have worked with some people on the spectrum who are geniuses, I have worked with others that cannot be referred to as geniuses. I have met individuals with autism who have savant skills, but many of those that I have met don’t have. But one thing has been consistent, especially with early intervention, with therapy I have seen these children learn skills that help them with communication (not necessarily speech), behaviour, and social skills. I have seen children that could not hold a pencil writing, and enjoying it. I have seen children who communicated their needs only by crying, or holding an adult’s hand to the need, learn to communicate with speech, pictures, sign language, or devices. I have seen children who would injure themselves because they were angry, find appropriate ways to communicate their anger and deal with it. I have seen some children learn to make friends, go shopping with the family, and picked up many more skills.
The beauty of the first time a child blows a candle in my class; touches the right picture; says the first word; gestures that he wants to use the toilet; identifies a number or a letter; matches the right picture, etc. It is not just about the first time, but the step that leads to progress, independence, and a more successful childhood and adulthood.
I like the fact that The Accountant shows us a child that grew up into Christian Wolff, the Maths genius and accountant, and another child who grew up into Justine, a lady that has learnt to use a device to communicate. It’s wonderful to note that although they have different strengths, Christian Wolff’s being more visible, Justine shows that she is intelligent and is of great help to Christian and many other people.
Have you watched The Accountant? You should watch it if you have not. It entertains you, and teaches you about autism.