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Understanding Autism Through Parody

As a means of bringing controversial or overlooked ideas into the public eye, comedy is one method that is usually not extremely threatening to listeners. People usually do not feel uneasy when presented with a joke, offensive jokes aside. Heavy topics such as race relations or politics, which can often lead to tense discussions, can be presented easily and effectively with humor. The same applies to developmental disabilities. With that said, try not to be offended when viewing the video below. While some may think it demeaning, I feel that it presents a good overview of autistic characteristics in a format that is entertaining. Understanding autism through parody is not necessarily a bad thing.


Autistic Reporter: Train Thankfully Unharmed In Crash That Killed One Man

Watching the video, there is a clear difference between the normal behavior expected of a reporter and the actual behaviors of the autistic reporter. These inconsistencies create humor and highlight some of the characteristics of autism. There were a couple aspects of the video that stick out when trying to understand autism.

First, is the reporter’s preoccupation with the train. Under these circumstances, most people would react to the death. But our reporter, Falk, is focused on nothing but the train. Getting stuck on a single topic is not all uncommon for people with autism. In working with autistic children, I have witnessed this first hand when one of the children I was working with spent an entire afternoon looking for a TV remote that had not been put in its normal place.

Second, the reporter lacks empathy for the people involved in the accident. A lack of empathy in people with autism is not uncommon. A vast majority of those with autism are said to suffer from Alexithymia, a condition in which they are unable to identify emotional states in others, or even themselves. From a behavioral standpoint, the emotions we see in others trigger learned, socially acceptable responses. Not having the ability to identify the triggering emotional state leaves an autistic individual without the ability to respond properly, much like a runner who cannot hear the starter pistol.

Overall, the video does a good job helping further an understanding of autism. While some may find the content offensive, it is important to remember that beneficial aspect is that it gets people talking about the disorder. When more people discuss it, we understand it better, and maybe garner some more acceptance for those that have to deal with autism every day.

If you would like to learn more about autism, check out the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s page on autism, here.

There’s also a second Onion News video featuring the autistic reporter, Michael Falk, here.