Clouds, May 2010

Clouds, May 2010

Saturday, November 12, 2016

accounting for awareness

I saw The Accountant Movie which I heard fragile x was mentioned in. Now that I've seen it out of curiosity I also wanted to look up more information. Came across a few interviews which are quite interesting, especially Ben Affleck's research to play a character who is on the autism spectrum-- albeit very high functioning*. Since autism is a spectrum disorder there are many people who are much more cognitively impacted than others. Another side note, in the movie (& elsewhere) *this form of autism is referred to as Asperger's. Currently the medical community is continuing to shy away from that label, & instead using a level 1 diagnosis on the autism spectrum. 

The mention of fragile x in the film is during a phone conversation which I would guesstimate is at least half way through the movie. No major spoiler alerts here at all, so don't worry...
But there is a woman in the story who works for the government in a technical capacity as an analyst, & one of her superiors ultimately coerces her to investigate this accountant. Among the evidence is an audio file which is dissected & examined for clues, & she ultimately uncovers a barely detectable fraction of a segment when you can hear a man verbally stimming. Although her character does not realize what it is, this does stand out so she pursues learning more.

Just to offer a bit of information, though-- speech stimming is different than perseveration because the latter is more accurately defined as continuing to utter something, even after the stimuli which prompted it is no longer there. Whereas stimming is the self-regulating repetition. When the woman in the movie is on the phone & asks about that particular sound clip, the person she is speaking to explains that it is stimming. He says this type of stimming is speech repetition with maintained intonation, & is most common in people with conditions such as fragile x syndrome or autism. She then says something to the effect of... how can you tell... & the man on the phone says that with fragile x there is often an elongated face, enlarged ears... whereas autism can be nearly undetectable. (Not that exact wording but that's essentially what they were saying.)

One thing I would like to clarify is that although there are many people with fragile x syndrome who do have some distinguishing physical characteristics, there are also many who do not. These are among the reasons why fragile x syndrome & autism are often referred to as hidden disabilities. As far as individuals with fragile x who do have some of these traits, there are many who have these attributes from birth & then some who develop them much later during puberty. But again, not everyone will have an obvious outward appearance.

A more accurate discrepancy in the specific context of this movie would have been the intellectual component. So in the movie as fragile x & autism came up when she was investigating the accountant, you would not default to autism because of the lack of physical characteristics. But rather the level of such high functioning that the accountant has could definitely be consistent with someone who is also on the autism spectrum.

I don't know that people would walk away from the movie even remembering that fragile x syndrome was the name of the other condition the man on the phone mentions. And if by chance they did, it is highly unlikely that more than a few might take it a step further to research. But since the awareness is out there I would still consider that a good thing.

There are a number of very difficult scenes in the movie but one seemingly less significant moment that got to me the most, was during one of the many flashbacks to the childhood of Ben Affleck's character. I can't specify the context of the scene because that would be a spoiler alert. But what's going on is that due to the environmental circumstances making the child feel unable to cope, he is spiraling out of control. The father stands behind his son & puts his arms around him-- with much difficulty as the child is thrashing & resisting-- but you literally witness how he also begins to return to a centered state of mind. The input that the father is giving his son is called proprioceptive (pro-pree-o-sep-tiv). One of the easier definitions of this is relating to stimuli connected with the position & movement of the body. Proprioception refers to overall body awareness, so the proprioceptive input is effectively helping the brain regain control of the body.

This was heartbreaking for me to watch because I understand too well how easy it is for the child's reaction to be completely misinterpreted  by the outside world-- & not at all understood as the involuntary neurological response that it is. And furthermore how difficult it can be for the father to be able to give him this input, let alone without anyone getting injured. For at least a couple of years now Hayden has been getting too tall & too strong for me to safely assist him in that way. But watching that unfold on an enormous screen for everyone to see... it's exactly what Dan has had to do countless times, & I felt completely empathetic to what was happening.

This is not an educational movie by any stretch of the imagination, but there are a number of scenes which prove someone did their homework (& other scenes that were quite worrisome). But since it is so uncommon for fragile x to have the spotlight, it was positive to see those couple minutes of awareness on the big screen.

While the advocate in me wants to stand at the exit after every showing with brochures, more realistically I just hope people check it out!

For more information about fragile x syndrome as well as fragile x- associated disorders, &/or the connection between fx & autism, please visit The National Fragile X Foundation via any of those links.  



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