By Linda Lovely
I've listened sympathetically to friends discuss the difficulties in dealing with autistic family members. However, my ability to relate to the challenges of grandparents, parents, and teachers who interact daily with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) sufferers is limited by my lack of personal experience. It's hard to understand what we haven't encountered in our own narrow lives.
Providing insights into the minds and hearts of people we may not meet in our day-to-day existence is one of the great gifts of literature and movies. In my case, a 1988 classic movie, Rain Man, and a 2013 novel, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, have helped me better fathom the triumphs and fears and joys and frustrations of both autistic individuals and the people who love and care for them.
What is ASD? The term groups together a wide range of development disorders. Symptoms typically include difficulty communicating and interacting with others and a compulsion to repetitive actions. According to my limited internet research, Asperger's Syndrome, the diagnosis assigned to Max, the little boy in author Matthew Dicks' Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, is now considered a part of the ASD spectrum.
I loved Dicks' novel because it helped me imagine what it would be like to BE autistic and "different" from other children. Budo, Max's imaginary friend, tells the story. Budo loves Max with all his heart and tries to protect him from the raft of dangers that can befall an eight-year-old who attracts the attention of class bullies.
I might never have picked up this novel if it weren’t for my book club, which (thank you) forces me out of my mystery and romantic suspense comfort zone. However, I heartily recommend this adventure for its lively point-of-view, intriguing characters, and solid plot.
If you haven’t seen Rain Man, I urge you to track it down on one of the services that catalog older movie treasures like this one. This film’s ASD sufferer is a grown man, Raymond Babbitt, played flawlessly by Dustin Hoffman. Tom Cruise plays Ray’s materialistic younger brother Charlie, who didn’t know he even had a brother until the senior Babbitt dies.
Both the book and the movie show us love’s many guises and the value of relationships that can be as difficult as they are rewarding. Humor is the added ingredient in both works of art.
If you’ve read the book or seen the movie, do you agree with my five-star ratings?