How Autism Can Be Misrepresented in the Media?

Nowadays, media is a channel where every human being is addressed. Sometimes it could be a sound, sometimes image, or sometimes a text to communicate within every field! It is not difficult to reach information, but it is difficult to reach quality information, to obtain qualified data, and to reach reliable sources.

We need to start seeing characters on media who reflect the breadth of experiences of people who are in bad circumstances. It is important to demonstrate especially people with disorders. Otherwise, people who are highly challenged and struggle every day are at risk of becoming invisible. In this article, I will try to explain media effects on Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

The media is the most important tool that enables us to get information from outside the world. We see, recognize, and learn the outside world with what it gives us. The source of the information about disorders that reaches us shapes our way of looking at the world, we make sense of the external environment from the spectacle of reality and develop ourselves by adding newness to our vital experiences. Because it is a very important topic that relates to every human being.

Every tool that enters into the concept of media is actually a means of influencing society away. While the function of a digital game and the effects of artistic activity on the media are not the same, the general purpose is based on the concept of influence other people.

When media is used for unqualified and malicious intentions, it acts as a knife in the hand of the killer. It makes a mountain out of a molehill. The power of the media, which can make an innocent person’ as a killer and also can show the killer as an innocent man, can also be used for mass lynching. When it comes to people with ASD’s problems, it becomes more vital than other issues in terms of health conditions.

The concept of “reality” refers to all the things that are actually happened and used. The concept of reality, which is thought, designed, and imagined is the fact that is actually present and independent from the planning on the computer. On the other hand, the concept of “true” is the fact that reality is shown as it is, without being distorted. So, we can say that the media has to reflect what is real for people with the disorder.

The media is a tool that shapes the social memory accumulation of today’s people consciously and shapes their culture. The media makes a great contribution to the change of people with the perception of reality.

After all this information, now it is time to mix them up. In media, most of them do not give people a chance to see what is real. Even if it reflects reality, it could not be 100% or it could be distorted.

In the case of disorders or distortions, many news is about the exaggerated ones or about extraordinary ones. In this article, I will try to explain what kind of disorders can be misrepresented or already are misrepresented. Especially, I will try to explain in terms of Autism Spectrum Disorder. When it comes to ASD, what it is and how it can be represented are a very important issue. However, firstly I will go with the definition of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Does your child behave differently from their peers? If the child doesn’t make eye contact with you, doesn’t talk, doesn’t respond when you call by name, doesn’t listen, doesn’t understand, always repeats the same things and after these circumstances, you may suspect Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Autism is a life-long developmental disorder that occurs in the first years of life. In the individual with autism, verbal and non-verbal communication is impaired, the interaction with the outside world is at the level of emergent needs, and behaviors are limited to solid forms.

Children with ASD may have different levels of learning disabilities and mental retardation. Besides mental retardation, sometimes they may have superior intelligence, but it is at a very low level.

Today, the awareness of autism cannot reach the desired levels, that’s why many of the individuals with autism experience social problems. Moreover, individuals with ASD cannot benefit from basic human rights, such as education and travel, due to their inadequate level of consciousness in the society.

However, what children with autism spectrum disorder need most is understanding and patience. Children who have lost the chance of early diagnosis in families without awareness have great problems in non-aware societies.

Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Media

Autism is a subject that scientific studies have been going on at great speed, on the other hand, it has become a subject which is frequently used not only in science but also in media. There are lots of books, films, and series which are about how different symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder occur in different people. These are quite diverse.

Autism has started to take place in the media more than before. The opportunity of reaching large communities has increased with the help of media such as television, newspapers, the internet, and radio. Moreover, media can help to raise awareness of people with ASD, who can be adapted to the community with enough education, make their lives easier.

Apart from the positive aspects of the media for ASD, also it can exaggerate the disorder itself, dramatizes the symptoms, and humiliates the individuals with it. When we watch them, we are watching an overly positive depiction of autism that doesn’t reflect reality for most of the people on the autism spectrum.

We need to start seeing characters on media who reflect the breadth of experiences of people with autism. Otherwise, people who are highly challenged and struggle every day are at risk of becoming invisible.

“Temple Grandin”; As a Scientist

Temple Grandin, who is an American animal science specialist and professor, author, autism activist, and Colorado State University professor, was very lucky in her childhood because of having a conscious family.

Temple Grandin as one of the most famous people with autism, tells her story to help others, but only explains what’s going on. She never explains what she feels or what others feel. Because she cannot use feelings and cannot understand the emotions of others. What she tells about herself sheds light on the world of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

One day, she was telling a story about how she perceived the noise. She said that her ears, like a microphone, are picking up and raising sounds. In this case, she had two options; either her ears will be open or she will be exposed to the sound storm or close her ears. Her mom thought she was deaf sometimes. However, hearing tests were normal. She can’t adjust the external auditory alerts. After some point, she has discovered that she can eliminate these disturbing voices with rhythmic behavior. Sometimes she shuts her ear off. For example, by listening to a beautiful song on the radio, she realizes that she closed her ear and missed half the song.

When this information is published in the media, scientists and parents can become aware of these symptoms and gave a chance to act according to that.

“Atypical”; As a TV Series

It is a comedy series in which the story of a family with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder is described. Sam is an 18-year-old teen with autism. The desire to live like his peers is in search of independence and he wants to have a girlfriend. While his therapist is challenging Sam to overcome his personal problems, Sam’s story around his family and friends is told.

Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder have greatly different senses and attention from us. For example, they cannot enter into noisy, social environments. While we can focus on the conversation of a person in an audible environment, they see and hear everything in the environment. Therefore, their focus becomes extremely difficult and even impossible. The series “Atypical” has told us about Sam wonderfully how he acts in these minimal details.

People with autism do not understand touching. In general, they are not big fans of unnecessary effort. They prefer to maintain life with a minimal sequence of movements. However, when they are touched because of greetings other than their wishes and desires, they cannot understand why. Because their ability to empathize is limited. Sometimes they just stay unresponsive. Sam is an uncomfortable individual when others touch his belongings. These are common symptoms of autism and Sam is very successful to demonstrate these symptoms.

In media, generally high function ASD is described. Sam’s autistic portrait is very successfully told, however, he should have difficulties with asking women to go out with him. He asked without hesitation in every episode, without shaken and stress. In normal life, it does not happen like that with individuals with autism.

Even though it has shortcomings because in the media sector, people have financial worries and they should make it more interesting. In the name of changing the perception of ASD, you can watch as a nice step for understanding ASD in order to give some information.

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”; As a Book

I believe that this book, which is different from the similar ones since it was written in the context of an immersive theme from the beginning to the end, will be a great benefit in understanding the children to their families when they have very difficult and serious problems like Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Cristopher wants to solve a murder and become an astronaut. The book tells a mind with autism as a game, and to put the character in the center of problems of communication, despite his superior intelligence. In other words, the character’s family and neighborhood environment are not kept at the focus of the book. After all, the character’s focus is on its inner world.

Through the Cristopher, the average communication difficulties experienced by the individual with autism, emotional balance/imbalance or even the difficulties of coping with unexpected physical problems are exemplified.

Cristopher is unable to leave his street or establish an ordinary dialogue with the neighbor, while not having struggled to count all prime numbers reach up to 507. In short, the book reveals that known which is introverted characters with autism are not able to handle simple and daily routines, in contrast to some geniuses.

In media, even though the author clarifies the symptoms of ASD very successfully, it has still misconceptions about the disorder. Because it is a book and it is written with aesthetic concerns.

“Rain Man”; As a Movie

For many years, the film is remembered as the first comes to mind when the problem comes to Autism Spectrum Disorder. This situation has become a different point that many parents whose children have been diagnosed with ASD questioned whether their child’s special ability or whether they would show similar abilities in mathematics.

In the movie, you can see sensitivity to the routines that are among the most prominent characteristics of ASD. Raymon’s obsession with watching so many TV programs at certain times, not getting on the plane, not traveling in the rain, eating preferences, and his devotion to the subject matter is demonstrated in an effective and remarkable way.

In addition, Raymon, especially when he experiences stress or cannot control his emotions, says a rhyme that can be expressed as delayed echolalia or reacts with a mechanical sound.

This situation is an example of problems in communicating and expressing feelings. The fact that Raymond does not like physical contact which is a situation that we encounter in our daily lives.

Despite the fact that the movie shows important symptoms of ASD, still, it has aesthetic concerns and that’s why it exaggerates the symptoms in order to be watched by others.

As a conclusion, in the media, there are lots of good examples of how people explain Autism Spectrum Disorder to others. However, mostly they are severe forms of the disorder both in a good way and in a bad way. Most of the time, they show individuals have superior intelligence even they have social interaction problems. Because they have aesthetic concerns or they want to be announced. On the other hand, in reality, most people with ASD have mental retardation. Superior intelligence is a very rare situation. After all, if this person is real, the media still want to exaggerate the situation by misrepresenting the person, symptoms, or even the life periods of that person such as childhood.

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