“Adam” vs “Temple Grandin”

I saw the HBO movie, “Temple Grandin” last night and it contrasted sharply with the movie, “Adam,” which I saw about a month ago.  After watching “Adam,” I was very upset and very angry, but it was an oddly unfocused feeling.  It wasn’t until watching TG that I was able to figure out what I found so upsetting.  In “Adam,” the main character is debilitated in many ways by his Aspergers.  When his father dies, he is at a loss.  He is unable to perform well in his job, he is unable to socialize successfully, it seems he’s never left his New York neighborhood and is afraid to do so, he eats the same exact meal every night and doesn’t know how to interview for a job.  When the family lawyer suggests Adam sell the apartment his parents owned so he can live off the equity, Adam becomes overwhelmed.  It played into my greatest fears for G’s future. 

After watching TG, I realized I was incredibly angry at Adam’s parents.  By the end of the movie, Adam looked for a new job in his particular field of interest, practiced interviewing skills and was able to move across the country for his new job.  He clearly had the ability to do all these things, so why didn’t his parents teach these things before they died?  Why didn’t they help him learn the skills to find his own job rather than going out and securing him a job that wasn’t suited to his interests and led to his firing?  Why didn’t they push to teach him the rudiments of conversation?  There is a scene where Adam can’t handle the chaos of a restaurant.  We are familiar with that problem in our family with G.  But at 6 years old, we already have accommodations in the form of noise cancelling headphones and seats along the fringes of events so that he can start to get used to crowds.  We’ve worked hard to make sure G knows how to sit in a restaurant and knows the social dance of ordering from a menu.  It may still be difficult for him, but I expect that by 30, he’ll be able to get through a meal out in a way that Adam could not.

In contrast to “Adam,”  “Temple Grandin,” is all about overcoming challenges to succeed in life.  Her struggles were also familiar to our family.  The social awkwardness, the meanness and social rejection from classmates, the phobic fears of something as simple as an automatic door (for G it’s the automatic flushing toilets) – these are also issues we deal with daily.  In the beginning of the movie, when TG blurted out, “Are you a cowboy?!?” and after prompting returned to a more scripted, “Hi, I’m Temple Grandin, nice to meet you,” I laughed out loud, tickled because this so reminded me of my G.  Even though her greeting was awkward, it was clear she had been taught the social rules of meeting someone new.  I didn’t get the impression that Adam had any clue how to greet someone.

In TG, her family was accepting of her quirks while not letting autism become an excuse not to pursue dreams and succeed in life.  I was particularly impressed that whenever Temple Grandin refered to her autism, it was a positive description of how autism gave her insights and strengths that others didn’t have.  Success in TG may look different than the stereotypical mom and the dad in a suburban house with 2.5 kids and a 401K, but it’s clear Temple Grandin finds her studies and work fulfilling.  Temple was encouraged – even expected, to be independent, to go to college, to get a degree in her field of interest, to get a job and live on her own.  That’s exactly what I want for my G.  I want him to be engaged in life, to follow a dream, to be intellectually stimulated.  And above all else, happy with whatever path he chooses.

Published in: on February 8, 2010 at 2:28 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I haven’t seen TG yet (watching it tonight) but you are totally right. And what’s great is that Adam is fictional and TG is based on real-life. Whoever wrote Adam decided to write it as though Adam was suffering b/c of his disabilities, vs overcoming them.

    I can’t wait to watch TG tonight!

    • ” And what’s great is that Adam is fictional and TG is based on real-life.”

      That is so true! It makes it so much more reassuring. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Well said, that’s exactly what we want from Andrew. It’s what we want for all 7 of our children, autism or no.

  3. i absolutely agree with you! i’ve not watched TG yet, but i’ve seen Adam, and though it was sweet in some ways (i did enjoy it somwhat), i feel it was also a little deficient on many real practical issues which badly need to be addressed… another media opportunity to inform and encourage ppl about ASD again ‘wasted’… Temple Grandin’s mother was a revolutionary woman and parent, someone who shd be held up as an inspiration…

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