Autism In Love: Review

A documentary recently ran on PBS earlier this month of an independent documentary entitled Autism In Love. (Running on a host program called Independent Lens.) This project was in the works for at least a few years at least following on social media. After being let down of all the teases, I never followed up, till a recent post on a disability blog came to my attention.

After missing the original airing, I saw it Wednesday on my iPad by accessing it through PBS’ web site. (available through PBS till April 2016)

I have watched this three times since then to try to soak all the emotional, and very touching storylines.

Spoiler alert if you continue to read on.

The structure was an hour and thirteen minute program following 2 couples, and a single guy. The first part featured a guy named Lenny from the Southland, somewhere near Los Angeles who touts himself wishing he wasn’t autistic. (More on him in a later post)

A full screen Chyron of the definition of autism and love.
A full screen Chyron of the definition of autism and love. The full screen would dissolve Autism in Love – the title of the program.

 

A Screengrab of Lindsey, being interviewedThe other couple more predominately known to the masses is Lindsey and Dave. These folks are both higher functioning autistics, but you can tell pretty clearly while they may seem to be normal, their struggles was in relationships and socialization. (If this couple rings any bells, they were featured in an article in Glamour magazine and featured on ABC News several years ago.) They met at an autism conference in 2005 and were in a relationship for 8 years at the time of filming.

Dave, her now husband described love in this simple way:

Love is a very abstract concept that many people with autism have a hard time grasping, there is no way to quantify it.

Lindsey explained about how she always knew that she was different. This quote was a takeaway (Self transcribed – words may be missing):

“Even before I was informed of my diagnosis of autism, though I felt like I was an odd character outside of my, my, peers. Though I didn’t really understand why. I would often get turned away, I would get turned away, I thought ‘what am I doing wrong?’ And even after learning about my own diagnosis, I still for several years struggled out why I couldn’t keep friends/why I couldn’t fit in/why I couldn’t be accepted?”

Sadly because she’s about my age and she could be considered that “first generation syndrome”, I’ve been trying to wake up the locals here. Quoting her again:

“Unfortunately I think the first impressions I received when I was learning autism were quite negative and as a result, I felt incredibly ashamed for being autistic.”

Her father, Gordon spoke about her younger days (as b-roll of home videos as a baby appeared sporadically) and spoke

“We tried to treat her as normally as we possibly could. All the time making the allowances, for the fact that she might not be able to do everything or quite as fast or quiet as well or something like that, but just trying to raise her as normally as we possibly could.”

 

“We all come equipped with a social antenna that we don’t realize we have. We know instinctively when we are getting too close to someone physically, when we seem to be pushing them a little further than they want to be pushed, when we should back off and not be quite so bossy or controlling. Lindsey didn’t have that antenna.”

Because they were in a long term relationship, there was pressure for them to have some formal commitment, as her father described later in the documentary. My social antenna caught on in the middle where I felt it was Lindsey that was holding back when she thought it was Dave. However she came to admission of this near the end. The way she talked earlier made me to believe she misunderstood him.

Dave chimed in throughout the documentary describing an interesting formula:

“It goes to three things. It’s L plus P plus two T. So each part is 25% So you have 25% of the P and L and you have 50% of the T, which results to what that person’s grade would be in terms of relationship and dating potential. If you are wondering what L is how they look physically, physical appearance, attributes. The second – the P is personality. What is their lifestyle like? And what’s most importantly is T is how they treat you. Treatment towards you. If say that the person is relatively ugly. Then they get like a 50% category in the L category. But they have, you know a perfect personality and nearly perfect way they treat you. They’re gonna score pretty well in the overall scheme of things. So the T has the greater weight.”

 

A screengrab of Autism in Love of Dave proposing to Lindsey
You couldn’t do any proposal like what he did!

A very quick appearance of Dave going to a jewelry store occurred near the end as he was getting an engagement ring and as the documentary closed, he would propose to her. The way he proposed to her was waterworks of video. Just the way he did it and executed no different/no less than a normal guy was just unbelievable and just heartwarming.

A couple years after the recording, the two recently got married in October of 2015.

Despite my little infatuation with Lindsey (who looked beautiful on camera, she seems to have a good fashion sense) I’d question myself if I want a female clone of me in my life.

Anyways, another individual shown was an older gentlemen named Stephen from Minnesota, who has more autistic appearances, with limited, flat speech,

Screengrab of Stephen from a documentary "Autism in Love"
Despite his obvious communication disorder, a gentleman named Stephen was married a woman.

and answering questions on Jeopardy more than I can. Apparently he is an individual who doesn’t speak about his emotions. Despite that, he was married to a woman named Gita for nearly 20 years years It became past tense later into the film as he lost his wife to cancer during the filming. It was heart wrenching at times.

When asked by the camera operator if Stephen’s mother, Edith if he would fall in love, she responded “No, I didn’t dare hope. I didn’t dare hope. His expression was not there. He had knowledge. But of course, he still does not elaborate or express himself too well about his real feelings” “His language still is not where it should be. He talks and communicates” “in a certain way” chimes Max, Stephen’s father.

The crew was able to get Gita before she passed away. She said she had a learning disability herself and she came to accept his lack of expressing his emotions. However Stephen didn’t understand the concept of chemotherapy, and said it was bad. When she did pass away, he basically stopped loving her. He said with many pauses that “I feel sad about Gita. She died last April. She had cancer. That’s sad. She was laying down. She was laid to rest. I miss Gita. I miss Gita.” His mother had broke the news when he was at work and described his face as turing “white as sheet” and put his head down on the table. Despite his emotions, he “stopped loving” explaining that “I stop loving someone they die, because they die because Gita died on April 9th. No longer in love.” Despite how he processes love, his empathy is apparent after he answered that question, distraught.

* * *

For the people who say autism is not a “tragic burden”, may need to dial it down the lies and misinformation after seeing this documentary. The narrative of Lenny will follow later.

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