By Dan Clendenin
Autism in Love (2015)
This seventy-minute PBS documentary features four adults with the autism spectrum disorder who share their life experiences about love and romance. In Los Angeles, Lenny wishes for a girl, but he is painfully self-aware of his differences and is very down on himself because of them: “I would give anything to be a normal person and not have autism.” In Washington, DC, Dave and Lindsey have been together for eight years and are trying to decide whether to get married. “I always knew I was different,” says Lindsey, “and was ashamed of that.” In St. Paul, Stephen now lives with his aging parents after seventeen years of marriage to Gita, who died of cancer. In all four cases, we see home movies of the people when they were kids, and expressions by their parents of knowing very early how different they were. This is a fascinating film about an abstract concept (love), and about how people for whom communication skills and nuanced social interactions are inherently difficult negotiate that experience. It’s a call for compassion for people who have a psychological disability that expresses itself in sometimes extreme social differences. For an article that reviews the history and most recent research about autism, see Steven Shapen, “Seeing the Spectrum,” The New Yorker (January 25, 2016).
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