Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

Living with autism

Posted by Jim Leonard on November 28, 2012


Sam, my eldest son, is autistic.  We are fortunate that he is high-functioning, but it is something that the entire family will deal with for the rest of our lives as we try to find a pocket of the world for him.

When people ask me what autism is like, my one-shot answer used to be, “Ever seen Rain Man?  It’s kind-of like that, but without a 25 million-dollar budget.”  After last night, however, I have a new answer:  Living with an autistic child or sibling is damn near exactly as portrayed in The Black Balloon, a movie written and directed by a filmmaker who grew up with two autistic brothers.  The movie is full of insights and situations that come from that real place, such as what meltdowns are and what prompts them, reward systems, and how society reacts to something it doesn’t understand.

I highly recommend The Black Balloon if you want a quick introduction to what families with autism go through.  Although it can be hard to watch at times for those already familiar with autism, I recommend they watch it as well, because it reminds you how you’re not alone, and that life on all spectrum levels can be fulfilling.  The Black Balloon is available for Instant Play streaming on Netflix.  A trailer for it is on YouTube.

A few times a year, I hear this from people learning for the first time about some of the difficulties our family has been through: “How brave!  Where do you find the strength?  How do you do it?”  The answer should be obvious — because we have to!  Spoken with a smile and a laugh, of course.  And that is the feeling perfectly portrayed in The Black Balloon.

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