Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Celebrating and advocating for autism awareness

Calli Recore

World Autism Awareness Day was created by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007 and was deemed to be acknowledged every year on April 2. This day was created to affirm and promote the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for people who have autism. 

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities that affect social, behavioral and communicative skills along with many other aspects of life. ASD is different in everybody, and it was not until 2013 that the American Psychiatric Association recognized autism as a spectrum disorder. This means it encompasses many other diagnoses. The diversity under the ASD umbrella makes this disability one of the most affluent in the community, but also one of the hardest ones to understand. 

Film and television are great ways for people who have not been around the disability to gain awareness, however, there is one caveat. Many films only show certain types of autism, which can lead to a narrow view of the disability. Everyone who wants to learn about it must always keep their mind open to the idea that ASDs are unique to everyone. 

One type of ASD that the media likes to use is savant, which can be defined as a learned person in one particular thing. For example, in “Rain Man,” starring Dustin Hoffman, Hoffman’s character, Raymond Babbitt, is portrayed as a savant because he is very good at remembering numbers like baseball players’ dates and stats. Other examples of savants in media are Dr. Sean Murphy in “The Good Doctor” and Sheldon Cooper in “The Big Bang Theory” and “Young Sheldon.” 

Savants are not always the case when it comes to the disability. A film adaptation that shows another side of autism is “What Is Eating Gilbert Grape,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio’s character, Arnie Grape, has a more severe form of ASD, one in which he has difficulty controlling his emotions or behaviors based on social surroundings and cues. 

The best examples of ASD in media do not come from sitcoms or dramas but from the Netflix reality dating show, “Love on the Spectrum”.  This series shows people who have been diagnosed with different types of ASDs traveling through the world of dating and getting to meet new people. This reality show is a great way to gain awareness because it shows perspectives from individuals with ASDs, not actors portraying it. 

Awareness of ASD is greatly needed because of the different ways it affects people and the broad array of knowledge needed to interact with people who have the disability. In the examples of ASD in the media above, the disability is seen through the public eye, but that is, again, not always the case. ASD affects one in 36 people and in many of those who have the diagnosis, it is not so clearly seen. Actors like Daryl Hannah from “Steel Magnolias,” Anthony Hopkins from “Silence of the Lambs” and Dan Aykroyd from “Ghostbusters” have all been diagnosed with a form of ASD. Also, Hole vocalist Courtney Love, football player Joe Barksdale and Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk have been diagnosed. The point is that in many cases, the disability is not easily seen and many people with ASD have been successful. 

World Autism Awareness Day has been celebrated for 17 years and it has since evolved from just raising awareness to appreciating and accepting people with autism and their contributions to society. This day helps establish that there is a person behind an ASD diagnosis and that it is not just a disability.

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About the Contributors
Noah Willoughby
Noah Willoughby, Staff Writer
Noah (he/him) is a Communications major at UTSA. Noah was born in San Antonio and has been here all of his life. He has spent a large portion of that life working with people who have disabilities throughout various jobs, but decided to come back to college to find a new path. He enjoys reading and writing and hopes to do the latter as a full-time gig.
Calli Recore, Graphic Artist

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