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Perfectly Normal, How Autism Feels From the Inside

This short film by Joris Debeij features Jordan Kamnitzer talking about his experience as someone who is on the autism spectrum.

Autism affects my life in several ways. I have to, sort of, know on a repetitious level, like, how to do things accordingly. Change is very difficult in a routine.

It’s hard to interact with people. I’d like to get to know people better. I try to listen very hard and try to become interested and gradually be friends. Sometimes it does work, but sometimes I know the subject matters are sort of limited with normal individuals.

I’ve had cases where I felt turned down, but silently. I sometimes feel disappointed and hurt, then I retreat and go back into my own indifferent world.

In a related essay, Eli Gottlieb writes about the film and his brother Joshua, who is severely autistic:

As a documentary, though, “Perfectly Normal” is necessarily a partial version of the truth. When Joshua and I were filmed for a short documentary, for example, I was struck by how the film showed a higher-functioning version of the person than the one I knew. That was because, like many people with developmental disabilities, my brother had evolved a repertoire of stock responses to social situations. Glimpsed serially in a 15 minute film, these responses added up to a semblance of a socially appropriate person, and skipped the endless testing questions and self-involved rhetorical loops that make him so exhausting to spend time with. (The film, “The Inviolable Bond,” can be seen here.)

Jordan and his girlfriend, Toni, obviously have another life than the one revealed in the film.

I had similar thoughts while watching. How can we know what it’s like in Kamnitzer’s head, especially when the director and editor have so much input into how the film is constructed? At the same time, he definitely said some things about his experience that resonate with me and my experience of the world. It’s not the first time this has happened in recent years. I’ve never been identified as such by a professional, but I would not be surprised to find myself somewhere on the autism spectrum. It would certainly explain some things!