Autism Spectrum Disorder In What's Eating Gilbert Grape

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In, the drama film, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, the younger brother Arnie Grape who is seventeen at the time, has a neurodevelopmental disorder known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. Despite the film never specifying Arnie’s disorder as ASD, his behavior, interpersonal communication skills, and relationships with others made it clear to see. Arnie’s lack of comprehension concerning social norms and rules and his carelessness thereof allows him a different view of the world and sets him on a different journey; thus, most of the time he simply just does his own thing. All Arnie seems to want to do is wander about in a world of his own playing hide and seek or climbing the water tower. Moreover, Arnie lacks theory of mind which can be seen …show more content…

Arnie’s inability to abide by societal norms not only makes establishing relationships for him hard but also makes him unaware of other’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and that they can differ from his. Furthermore, Arnie displays adaptational failure where he should already have reached age-appropriate developmental milestones. Seventeen-year-old Arnie is unable to take a bath by himself, dress himself, listen and obey when spoken to and understand the viewpoint and feelings of others. Furthermore, Arnie is often seen playing with age-inappropriate toys and frolicking around catching insects. It should be noted, however, that Arnie’s ability to talk and do other everyday things does …show more content…

Arnie displays deficits in social-emotional reciprocity seen in his interactions with others and especially with his main caretaker, his brother. He does not seem to understand or care for his brother’s feelings, emotions, and responsibilities, nor does he show empathy toward his brother’s necessity to plan his whole life around him. This lack of empathy emerges multiple times during the film when talking about death, where Arnie would make light of the situation and laugh about it, he even interrupted a funeral. Arnie also shows deficits in his non-verbal communication skills, he uses few facial expressions and gestures as he mainly only smiles, laughs, and cries and displaying few protodeclarative gestures. Arnie, furthermore, has problems developing and maintaining friendships, his older brother, and his girlfriend are his only friends, he does not develop and therefore also not maintain age-appropriate friendships tough it is not for a lack of trying. Finally, tough Arnie does speak a lot he has difficulty with the pragmatic use of language and pronoun reversal, he uses unstructured sentences, confuses “goodnight” and “goodbye” among other things, or simply repeats the words of others (echolalia)

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