Forrest Gump is a movie which shows mental illness in a goofy way. It is a short film which details the adventures of Gump, a native of Alabama. It is an educative way to approach a public health issue. Forrest was called a stupid person all his life, while in reality, he is an intelligent person. He suffers from weak legs and has muscle problems in his spine. He fell in love, had a child and even obtained a medal of honor in the army. This piece is going to discuss the portrayal of Forrest in the movie, and the symptoms of Autism he portrays and the diagnosis he would have been given in real life.
Symptoms portrayed in the film
Gump has an intellectual disability because at the beginning of the movie he has to wear braces in his legs because he is handicapped. His mother also discovers he has a mental disability, which is an IQ that is below average in adaptive behaviors such as social skills and self-care. Gump is kind-hearted but slow-witted. He has cerebral palsy which led to his slow communication. We understand this when we see how his mother had to explain things to him in a simple way, over and over again for him to understand. He finds himself in some pivotal events in the history of America, and he tries to show that mental disability does not preclude one from living an extraordinary life. He portrays symptoms consistent with Asperger's syndrome. Most of his behavior is socially inappropriate. We see this in the White House Scene, where he tells JFK, he needs to pee.
Another symptom of Autism is when Forrest does not have eye contact with anyone, and only has particular interest with ping pong. He has hyper-focus on particular things and has a routine way of doing things. He is told to run after taking the football, and he continually runs even out of the stadium. This shows how he operates in clear-cut rules, as he was following this particular rule closely. This shows his hyperactivity and repetitive motor movements common in patients with Asperger's syndrome. He also speaks in monotones, or rambles, a behavior associated with Asperger's syndrome. The film displays humorous moments when he is portrayed as a literal thinker. We see this when he is asked if he has ever been with a girl before, and he says yes, in his economic class all the time. He also thinks his mother loved him so much that she had to sleep with the principle so that he could go to a different school. This shows a person who is not very smart or cognizant. Despite this, his house is in perfect condition and spends his money in the right type of charity. He even makes the right business decisions by opening a Shrimping business and invest in Apple computers (Foor, Cindy, Randa & Shehab 2-15).
Forrest Gump portrays a mental disorder which can be classified as Autism disorder spectrum DSM-5. The key features of his disorder in the movie include social interaction and communication deficit. Autism in the film also leads to delayed speech, and the inability to make eye contact. Other features of the disorder are inability to recognize facial expressions and disinterest in social interactions.
Symptoms not portrayed in the film
The symptoms not portrayed in the film include hyperactive in sensory aspects of the environment like sensitivity to textures and certain sounds. Another symptom not portrayed is repetitive motor movements in the use of speech or objects. Forrest's condition in the movie also lacks the insistence in sameness, where he has to adhere to certain routines and ritualized patterns both in non-verbal or verbal communication. Additionally, Forrest's symptoms do not show impairment in occupational and other important areas of functioning (Foor et al. 30).
Severe levels of autism according to DSM-5 require substantial support. Those with this level of autism have restrictive and repetitive behaviors with a severe lack of communication skills. Restrictive behaviors make one distance themselves from everything or only narrow down their interests' to specific things. Those with autisms on level three require intense therapy with a focus on behavior and communication. Specific symptoms of autism can only be managed. There is no medication which treats autism. In diagnosing autism, a doctor takes into account many factors; which include communication symptoms and behavioral issues. Also, genetic conditions are ruled out depending on family history. Based on the level of symptoms, the doctor can refer the patient for psychological testing. Autism levels are not exact, and patients do not fit into a level. The levels only determine the level of support; a person may need ranging from level one to three. Level one is mild and requires the least support, and level three is severe requiring the most support. The symptoms only provide doctors with a basis to enable them to come up with a management plan (Garner, p.30).
Diagnosing adults with autism can be challenging because it overlaps with other mental health issues. For a child, it can involve routine developmental checkups and additional evaluations. With the results, the doctor can determine how to manage the autism depending on the level of severity (Murray 1-27).
Forest Grump perpetuates a stigma which has its stereotypes; he depicts a mental illness which stands out. He only proves to the viewers that even with such a condition, it should not stop you from perusing the things you ought to. Although the film is fictional, it entirely delivers an encouraging message of hope. Forrest lives an extraordinary life. The film shows how diagnosing autism can sometimes be challenging, but it does not mean one cannot live a normal life.
Foor, Cindy E., and Randa L. Shehab. "'I Feel Like Forest Gump:'Mixed-Race Native American Students Find Community in a College of Engineering." 2009 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition. 2009.
Garner, Andrea Roxanne. "What's showing: Film industry portrayals of autism spectrum conditions and their influences on preservice teachers in Australia?" (2014). retrieved from: https://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/4282/
Murray, Stuart. Representing autism: Culture, narrative, fascination. Oxford University Press, 2008. Retrieved from: https://www.academia.edu/1160822/Representing_Autism_Culture_Narrative_Fascination
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