On last night night's episode of ABC's "What Would You Do?" patrons in a restaurant consistently stood up for actors playing an autistic 14-year-old and his family. Not a single one was critical of them the entire time the producers were filming.
People noticed, but were tolerant of the boy speaking loudly and pacing around the restaurant. When another actor playing an irritated customer made a scene, they objected to him. When the family rose to leave in response to his rudeness to them, two women comforted the mother and insisted they stay. And when he rose to leave, the restaurant erupted into applause.
After producers revealed themselves, one crying woman said, "My heart went out to the kid." And, yes, my favorite was the sweet, sexy cop who said,
If we had children, and one of them was like that, never in a million years would I want anybody to do what he did. . . You can't put anybody in a bubble and just leave them there.
I could only watch the whole segment online by going to the entire episode player and sitting through a lot of commercials. It's the third part.
I had mixed feelings when they played Michael Savage's ignorant rant to prove that people do indeed blame autistic kids and their families for behavior that is part of the disorder. It's a good example of hate, but why give him the free publicity? And I was scared that they were going to interview him on the show (they didn't).
I liked that they started with Andrew Goring's point of view, rather than that of his mother Lisa, who is Vice President of Family Services at Autism Speaks, although I didn't not enjoy the slightly ominous way the narrator intoned, "He has autism." I want to admit that this may be my bias against that organization showing itself, but it seemed to me that Lisa wanted to keep the focus more on parents, in the way Autism Speaks traditionally has in the past, and how bad it feels for them when people are mean to them because their kids are behaving oddly. In her example, she talks about the pain being called bad parents and (as edited at least) does not really address the pain of not being wanted somewhere because of your disability.
I was not too impressed with the performance of the actor, but I guess he was okay-- it did seem more like they had him look at a list of "symptoms" of autism rather than talking and observing autistic kids. I think if Lisa Goring was really responsible for "keeping it real," she could have done a better job there, too. Apparently, one of the "autism experts" he consulted with was OWL's Easter cartoon ("Eggs! Eggs! Eggs!")- or maybe somebody was thinking about Pink Flamingos?
And, one of the reasons I liked the stuttering segment I linked to yesterday more is that they used an actress who stutters. Not that they had to find an autistic actor, but they could have, and it sure would have been cool.
I think it's important to acknowledge that without the work of Autism Speaks and all the "Autism Awareness" stuff that I find sort of obnoxious, I don't think patrons would have have had the knowledge to show this level of compassion, but I think their ability to rise to the occasion also provides evidence that maybe it's time to be "All Done Autism Awareness."
It did a lot of good.
Now it's time for more.