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7 Films/Shows to Watch to Promote Autism Awareness

Keir Gilchrest and Brigette Lundy-Paine in “Atypical” from Sony Pictures Television.

April is Autism Awareness month which was launched by the Autism Society as an effort to raise awareness and inclusion for people with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). If you are not living with autism, or are lucky enough to have someone with autism in your life, these movies will give you just a tiny glimpse into some of the characteristics of the disorder and some of the challenges that must be faced.

Here are 7 movies and shows to help promote autism awareness.

Atypical – Netflix

Atypical is a comedy about a teenaged boy named Sam and his family. Sam is on the autism spectrum and is trying to navigate high school, still struggling with learning what is and is not appropriate. (His crush on his therapist falls into the “not” category. Obvious for you and me, but not so much for Sam.) Atypical has been renewed for a 10-episode second season.

Temple Grandin – Amazon Prime/HBO

Claire Danes plays Temple Grandin in this biopic directed by Mick Jackson. The movie tells the story of the real Temple, an inventor and professor who was able to joyfully defy society’s expectations of what an autistic person is capable of.

Rain Man – Cinemax

Rain Man, a story of two brothers, is probably one of the most famous portrayals of a person with autism. Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman star in this 1988 movie directed by Barry Levinson.

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape – DirecTV Now/Starz

Hollywood typically represents autistic people as savants. The startling truth for those without first-hand knowledge of this disorder, is that savants only represent somewhere in the neighborhood of 10% of autistic people. The portrayal of Arnie Grape in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is remarkable not only for Leonardo DiCaprio’s wonderful performance, but because it is a closer representation of what the vast majority of real families with autistic children have come to know as their new normal.

Molly – Rent or buy from $2.99 and up.

Elisabeth Shue portrays Molly, an autistic woman under the care of her brother who undergoes an experimental procedure that may make it easier for her to connect with people. While there are shades of Charly (the film adaptation of Flowers for Algernon), Molly still stands on its own and is one of Elisabeth Shue’s best performances.

Parenthood – Netflix/Hulu

Parenthood stars Max Burkholder as Adam and Kristina’s son, Max Braverman, who is diagnosed with Aspergers early in the series. We see how this affects every aspect of his life as well as everyone in it. In later seasons, Ray Romano stars as Hank who is diagnosed as an adult.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – Netflix

Sandra Bullock. Tom Hanks. Viola Davis. John Goodman. Jeffrey Wright. As brilliant as that cast list is, none is more brilliant here than Thomas Horn, who knocks it out of the park with his vulnerable and nuanced performance as Oskar Schell. Oskar displays typical yet mild autistic traits and is coming to terms with the untimely death of his father in the 9/11 attacks.

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