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Living with Autism


July 7, 2012

Autism Movie Review: The Black Balloon

Award Winning Non-Fiction Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog DirectoryMovie Review:  The Black Balloon 

Director: Elissa Down

Cast: Luke Ford 
         Rhys Wakefield
         Toni Colette
         Erik Thomson

One of the least understood sides of autism come to life in the 2008 movie, The Black Balloon. Here you find a young adult with severe autism living with his 15 year old brother and parents in a military housing complex in Australia. The film touches on issues like intolerant neighbors, bullying, family stress and sibling reaction to living with autism. 

Additionally, we’re shown autism presenting with fecal smearing, property destruction and public meltdowns. Real life stuff here. While there is no self-injurious behavior going on, the movie paves the way for future movies about autism to take on such harsh realities.

The actor (Luke Ford) playing the autistic brother does an amazing job. Hard to believe he isn’t really autistic. Interestingly, the character in movie is loosely inspired by a real life autistic person.

Brother (Rhys Wakefield) delivers a memorable performance in showing love, loyalty and acceptance in dealing with autistic family members.

This is a sweet, honest portrayal of what many families living with severe autism deal with on a daily basis. It also has a teen romance illuminating the possibility of finding love in what others may think is an unlovable, unromantic situation.

Warning: Movie is not a portrayal of high-functioning autism. Nobody's playing cards in Vegas. Nobody's winning spelling bees. Nobody's cured after eating gluten free foods, getting Vitamin B shots, petting horses or swimming with dolphins. 

This is real shit (well the shit in the movie is fake) about living with autism shown here. 

And while a few critics slammed the movie’s take on portraying autism, as a mother of a severely-autistic young adult, I find the movie to be quite educational, even for me, in the realities of what others dealing with severe autism may face daily.

After all, isn't that what makes a great movie? A movie that re-creates reality in a way that both educates and entertains? 


Anonymous said...

I realize a movie is for entertainment but how common is this behavior in persons with autism?
I have never heard of some of the extremes, such as, entering another family's home and using the toilet.
Where I live people keep their doors locked for security purposes so no one could get in for any reason.
Kim's videos do not show anything like this.
I suspect this and the part about the fecal smearing was done for shock value in the film.

Anonymous said...


You could check http://www.holisticheal.com/

and here is directly link to e-book "Autism: Pathways to Recovery"


Gina's Mom said...

Interesting movie. My niece and I watched together. She needed to watch it for her developmental psych class and she was over for dinner last night and we watched it. I agree a lot of it was for shock value but the part about the sibling relationship is true. I grew up with a disabled step sister. When my older sister and I would visit our Dad on weekends we were expected to pitch in and "give your step-mom a rest." Our Mom finally put an end to our having to bathe her and clean her her up because it got to the point where we did not want to go visit our Dad anymore.
One part I thought was funny was when Simon said "I'm not bloody useless you know." Look up useless in the dictionary and there is Simon's picture. LOL

Kim Oakley said...

To Gina's mom, yes it must have been difficult for you, I'm sure to have to help. Yet, that is the reality. We need to offer help to people who are carrying a burden that is too overwhelming for them. It's nice you did help for awhile and I'm sure this taught you to be a better person and this will extend into your lives in more ways than you'll ever imagine.

Gina's Mom said...

To Kim:
I think I did not make our former situation clear.
My Dad left my Mom for one of his graduate students who had a young child. In the terminology of the time, she was mentally and physically handicapped.
My sister and I were 10 and 12 years old at the time. Our step sister was six.
Our Mom would drop us off at my Dad's new family's place on her way to work Friday night, around 6:30 PM. My Dad and his wife would be waiting with their coats on, already to go out for dinner and usually a movie.
We were told, "look we ordered a pizza and rented a movie. We'll be back later." My sister and I were expected to feed our step sister, change her diaper, bathe her and have her tucked in bed by the time they came back, usually after midnight. She would scream for hours sometimes and we never knew what was wrong or what to do.
One night it was so bad we called our Mom at work. She left her job, came over and was waiting when Dad and his wife stumbled in at 1 AM. Mom promptly sat Dad and his wife down for a talk about appropriate respite care, child abandonment and a few other legal type issues.
The reason children of divorced parents go on weekend visits is to spend time with the noncustodial parent. Visitation weekends are never intended for a grade school child and a middle-schooler to provide respite care for a person not even related to them.
There was nothing nice about our helping. It was coerced.
My Mom threatened to haul my Dad back to court and notify child services if they did not provide an appropriate babysitter and come home at a reasonable time.
After that my Dad was around more but we rarely got to spend time with just him.
I did enjoy the movie though and it was insightful for my niece who plans to be a pediatric nurse. My main point is that it can be inappropriate to expect a child, even a teen, to perform tasks which are an adult's responsibility (maybe not always a parent, but someone hired by the parent, which is what my Dad and his wife ultimately did to get time alone together.)

Kim Oakley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kim Oakley said...

Gina's mom: Yes, you deserved time with you dad. I'm sorry that happened to you. It was his and the new wife's responsibility to care for that special child. Or they should have gotten a respite worker.

Gina's Mom said...

Thanks Kim.
We had some funny times though.
One Friday night as they were leaving, my sister was handed a suppository with instructions to give it to Ginnie at bedtime.
No other instructions were given.
We had never seen a pill that looked like that and it seemed way to big for her to swallow. It was melting as my sister held it and she had the idea to take the filling out of an Oreo cookie and replace it with the melted substance. So we did and then broke the cookie up and she ate it right down.
My Dad and his wife did get a caregiver for their evenings out.
She was a very nice lady who had come from Poland. She did not speak much English so my sister and I would take turns reading to Ginnie. We brought books from our own library that we had enjoyed.

children with autism said...

Changes are difficult to process and can cause increased anxiety and even behavioral outbursts. Keeping a tight schedule will help the child to feel safe. If the classroom becomes chaotic, the autistic student may need to regroup in a safe, quiet setting. A time out area is made for this. This time-out area is not a punishment, it is a place that the autistic child feels safe and is able to calm down and relax when their world has been turned upside down

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