Grr. So, of course the autistic kid in tonight's episode of Criminal Minds is lower-functioning than Rain Man. Never mind that the majority of people with autism (particularly ones who are diagnosed as children and whose parents put time, effort, and money into therapy as this kid's parents obviously have) are higher functioning than that. I could deal with that; after all, there are definitely people that low-functioning, and it's what the whole drama of the episode is based on, that they need to figure out a way to communicate with the kid to find out who kidnapped his parents. Then Reid is at the kid's school talking with his principal, and spouting off about how autistic kids are more logical than others--often true--and how they see patterns more clearly than other people do which is false. The reason people with autism get obsessed with patterns is because they have a harder time figuring out patterns than most people do, and so cling to the patterns they do understand (often numbers, statistics, a daily routine, etc.) as a kind of shield against a world that they find chaotic and often incomprehensible. For example, if you can't find the pattern in the sound of a large crowd, if your brain is trying to take each voice and sound and figure out what it's saying, then a crowd is overwhelming because you have problems tuning out what's just background noise and what's the person you're trying to talk with. That's one of the reasons that people on the autism spectrum tend to prefer "blander" or less intense sensory stimulation (dimmer lights, quieter sounds, fewer spices, less touch, no perfume or cologne), because they can be overwhelming.
And now, he's a genius piano player! Which is not necessarily impossible, or even implausible--given his parents' profession, if he got obsessed with music, he might spend hours practicing while in his parents store. But combine it with virtually non-verbal, and it plays right into the whole "idiot savant" stereotype. (It's not that people on the spectrum are any more or less intelligent than anyone else; but people on the spectrum are more likely to get obsessed, often with a narrow specialized area, and when someone is obsessed and putting all their brainpower on one thing, well, neurotypical people sometimes find the results surprising. It's not genius, so much as focus and a different approach. Take Temple Grandin: she had a perspective different from neurotypical, and she had a specialty she wanted to understand and study (cattle) in ways nobody else had bothered to do before. And she stuck with it, pounding away, until she was the greatest expert in the world on that subject. By the way, the HBO movie Temple Grandin is an excellent movie, Claire Daines was note-perfect as a person with autism and the cinematography and special effects really take you into what the world looks like inside her head.
I like the picture flipbook stuff, though, that's well done and accurate. The kid acting like a zombie the whole time, or a robot, is definitely not. He wouldn't look or act like a normal kid, no, but he wouldn't be a zombie.
Also: why is it that whenever they give Emily a plot of her own, they slather it in enough melodrama to choke an elephant. And instead of five minutes crammed onto the end of a series of episodes, like an afterthought, why not give her a few episodes to herself?
Of course, a large part of my kvetching is because Criminal Minds is usually so good, so it sticks out when it isn't. (On the bright side, Siever is growing on me. Of course, since the first few eps she was in she's been minor at best. I'd like to see if they could actually show more of her now and not have her be so annoying. I figure you gotta give her slack for how annoying she was in the first ep, the one thing Criminal Minds regularly fails at is introducing new characters.)