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What's Eating Gilbert Grape?

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What's eating Gilbert Grape?

The movie I have selected is "Whats eating Gilbert Grape." This movie depicts Johnny Depp as Gilbert who takes care of his 17 year old brother Arnie who has a severe case of autism. Gilbert has his hands full working at a grocery store close to going out of business, trying to help his obese and depressed mother after his father suicide. He is also trying to fix their very old home. Not to mention have a life of his own with a new girl in town. The bond and unconditional love between both brothers is remarkable and truly beautiful.

"Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder characterized by abnormalities in social functioning, language and communication and unusual behaviors and interests. More specifically, autism affects every aspect of the child's interaction with his or her world, involves many parts of the brain and undermines the very traits that make us human-our social responsiveness, ability to communicate, and feelings for other people."(Mash, Wolfe, 2010) It is a spectrum disorder which means that "its symptoms and characteristics are expressed in many different combinations and in any degree of severity." (Mash, Wolfe, 2010)

I know that Arnie in this movie has autism because he displayed limited language skills and had trouble communicating with others. He rarely spoke and when he did he generally repeated what others were saying around him. He seemed much disengaged from the rest of the world and any social connections. He spent most of his time participating in rituals he set up for himself such as counting, climbing up his tree. He also continuously climbed the nearby water tower after being told numerously he shouldn't. He could not perform normal everyday tasks on his own such as taking a bath. His brother Gilbert assumed he would be able to finish up his bath and come out on his own, only to come in the washroom in the morning to have Arnie still in the water waiting for him to help him out. Arnie also got very excited with the presence of certain things such as campers driving by or people looking for him. He showed fear towards water after the incident with his brother. The textbook states "the quality of child-mother attachment in young children with autism contributes substantially to the development of the child's play behaviour, which is important for the development of social skills."(Mash, Wolfe, 2010) I believe this is true in Arnie's case as well because he seemed to enjoy being outside and playing quite a lot. He got along great with his mom and went to her for a source of comfort, she seemed to very protective of him. Another example of his autism would be his lack of emotion and his general behaviour whenever his father's death was talked about. This fits within the textbooks "associated characteristics of autism" section. "Children with autism display a deficit in theory of mind (ToM) - the ability to understand other people's and one's own mental states, including beliefs, intentions, feelings and desires."

Some examples of symptoms of autism from the DSM that Arnie showed in this movie are as follows: 1. "Marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviours such as eye to eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction." Arnie consistently made exaggerated gestures and facial expressions throughout the movie. 2."Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level." Arnie is a 17 year old boy who didn't have any relations with people outside of his family, whenever he approached someone it was generally in inappropriate context. 3. "In individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others." Arnie was unable to initiate any conversations in this movie and barely could sustain one; instead constant repetition of words said by family members was common.4. "Stereotyped



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