Directed by Barry Levinson, Rain Man is a chef-d’oeuvre comedy that functions as a drama film, exploring autism – a mental disorder that sets in mostly during childhood. The main character is Raymond Babbitt – an autistic man, a condition that has forced him to spend his days in a mental institution since his childhood.
Charlie Babbitt, the brother to Raymond, is the actor who portrays Raymond’s autism on the way to Los Angeles to secure his fair share in the Babbitt’s $3 million fortunes in form of inheritance. As aforementioned, the mental disorder portrayed in Rain Man movie is autism.
According to Autism Research Centre, autism is a “spectrum of neurodevelopment condition, characterized by difficulties in the development of social relationships and communication skills and the presence of unusually strong narrow interests, and repetitive behavior” (Para. 1).
Autistic people have both verbal and non-verbal communication problems and they take words literally; that is, they take people for what they say. In addition, autistic people have trouble in understanding other peoples’ emotions, thus making it difficult to form any meaningful social relationships. Finally, autism bars its victims from normal social imagination, making them not to trust other people. Consequently, due to this lack of trust, autistic people resort into repetitive behaviors resisting change or any unfamiliar situations.
So far, there is no scientifically proved cause of autism. Nevertheless, according to The National Autistic Society, research work suggests there might be genetic or environmental factors that cause or contribute to autism (Para. 2). Intense research work is currently underway to determine the exact cause of autism.
As Raymond talks to people, he does not look to them into their eyes. Avoiding eye contact is a symptom of autism. In most cases, communication involves both verbal and non-verbal skills and as aforementioned, autistic people have difficulties in understanding any of these forms of communication. Consequently, Raymond does not understand other people’s feelings thus making him avoid eye contact.
One’s feelings in a conversation come inform of voice tone or facial expressions and given that autistic people do not sense voice tone or facial expressions, they avoid eye contact in the first place. Additionally, Raymond has fear of boarding flights. When Richie suggests they take a flight to Los Angeles, Raymond vehemently declines the offer, making them to drive in a car from Cincinnati to Los Angeles. Autistic people do not embrace change.
The National Autistic Society states that, “People with autism may not be comfortable with the idea of change” (Para. 4). Raymond cannot brace the change of taking a flight because his routine dictates that, he use a vehicle. Raymond shows little emotions except when under stress. For instance, the only time he reacts emotionally is when Charlie suggests they take a flight to Los Angeles. Lack of emotions is a common autistic symptom, a conspicuous sign in Rain Water as portrayed by Raymond.
In addition to the symptoms displayed by Raymond, other autistic symptoms include hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity. In this case, an autistic person may overreact or under react to a given situation. In addition, these people have special interests like in music, art, or computers among other areas touching human existence. Medline Plus asserts that, “some autistic people never learn how to talk” (Para. 2).
This observation backs the fact that autistic people have communication problems. Due to the perceived inefficiencies in social interactions, these people tend to withdraw and love to spend time alone. Consequently, in most cases, their physical activity is minimal. Infants suffering from autism may resist cuddling and have no interest in playthings. Finally, autistic people have no understanding of their surroundings. They show no interest in common things that common people find fascinating in life making them appear indifferent.
After the Babbitts realize Raymond is autistic, the only intervention they execute is to take him to a mental institution. This intervention helps Raymond for he seems to have developed cognitive abilities in the mental institution.
For instance, he recalls his childhood and sings I Saw Her Standing There, a song he loved to sing to Charlie during their childhood before that accident which led the separation of Raymond from Richie and his family at large. Charlie even realizes Raymond’s sharp cognitive abilities and he takes him into a casino where Raymond is supposed to count cards in a gambling game.
By staying together with people, he can identify with; that is, in the mental institution, Raymond develops and hones his cognitive abilities. Probably, if Raymond grew in the house together with the rest of the family members, his memory abilities would be underdeveloped due to lack of proper care, motivation, and support. Towards the end of the film, Richie changes his attitude and starts to empathize with Raymond.
According to Eikeseth, loving and understanding an autistic person improve his/her chances of living a near-to normal life (158). Richie’s loving attitude and caring nature towards Raymond as the film closes, reflects psychological intervention of autism. Love and support works wonders in helping autistic people realize they too can live normal lives.
Psychological interventions are highly recommended in autism intervention strategies. According to Kalat, “Psychoanalysts…attempt to infer the hidden unconscious, symbolic meaning behind people’s words and actions… (8). Therefore, based on this argument, all psychological interventions seek to establish why an autistic person behaves the way he/she behaves. Despite the fact that autistic people share some common features, they do not behave exactly the same way.
Therefore, psychological interventions try to determine why a given person behaves in a given way and sets rules that should be followed in addressing that particular problem. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the highly recommended psychological intervention method where autistic children learn “comprehensive, individualized treatment…social skills, communication, daily living skills, academics, self-management or coping skills, and family support” (Eikeseth 177).
On the other hand, physical interventions include general physical exercise. As aforementioned, majority of autistic people have minimal physical activity, which weakens their body. Therefore, physical exercise helps these children greatly. However, given the fact that these people do not fit well in social circles, special programs have been designed to allow autistic people exercise with convenience.
Rain Man is a masterpiece directed by Barry Levinson exploring autism and its perception by other people. Raymond Babbitt is the autistic character while Richie; Raymond’s brother, is the character who unveils Raymond’s autism. Autism affects mainly the sociological relationships between its victims and other normal people.
There are physical and psychological interventions that help autistic people live a normal life; ABA is one of the most reliable psychological interventions. As the movie closes, Richie becomes empathetic towards Raymond, a key factor in dealing with autism.
Autism Research Centre. Autism. N.d. Web. 29 November 2010.
Autism Research Centre (ARC) forms an integral part of School of Medical Medicine at the University of Cambridge. The information found on this site is about autism covering all major issues surrounding autism. ARC receives most of its funding from the Medical Research Council of the United Kingdom, the Shirley Foundation, and the Three Guineas Trust among others. ARC offers links to other sites that deal with issues related to autism; for instance, Autism Europe Congress.
Eikeseth, Svein. “Outcome of Comprehensive Psycho-educational Interventions for Young Children with Autism.” Res Dev Disabil 30. 1 (2009): 158–78. Print.
Kalat, James. Introduction to Psychology. 6th Ed. USA: Wadsworth Publishing, 2001.
Medline Plus. Autism, 2010. Web. 29 November 2010.
Medline Plus offers reliable up-to-date health-related information in simplified language that patients, families, and friends can understand. Medline Plus is a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institute of Health. Medline Plus is linked to other sites like twitter where people can share health-related information creating awareness to the public.
The National Autistic Society. What is Autism? 2010. Web. 29 November 2010.
The National Autistic Society is the top United Kingdom charity for autistic people. This society works with LEGO UK, HIT Entertainment, Trafigura, and the Co-operative Bank as its major sponsors. The site offers information, support and initiative services in its bid to create a world where people understand autism.