Thursday, February 2, 2012

Limited Autism Discourse

The Yale Daily News is the nation's oldest college daily newspaper. Columnist Marissa Medansky's column runs on alternate Thursdays. 

"Touch,” a new television series premiering this week on Fox, centers on the experiences of Jake, an enigmatic 11-year-old boy endowed with dazzling mathematical abilities and a profound sense of isolation. He doesn’t talk, either; Jake’s father must navigate his son’s world in silence. Previous descriptions of the show explicitly described Jake as autistic, but no more: Fox seems to be moving away from an explicit diagnosis. Even so, the implications surrounding Jake and his condition remain clear: Jake is autistic, and his autism has endowed him with an unique understanding of the world around him.
And so “Touch” joins the ranks of what came before it: “Rain Man,” the final episode of “St. Elsewhere” and so on. Writing for Think Progress, Alyssa Rosenberg brilliantly dubbed the genre a “magical alternative to autism” — an alternate fantasy world that recasts autism into, quite literally, a superpower. 
This narrative of magical exceptionalism seems to be rooted in a blend of discomfort and optimism. As blogger Shannon Rosa writes, “people can’t handle the fact that some people are just different without having something fabulously acceptable as balance, because otherwise we’d just have to accept autistic people on their own terms.” 

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