Kiefer Sutherland Touched by Autism in New Series on Fox


Fox Touch

Courtesy: Fox

In what appears to be an increasing trend in both movies and television, characters with autism (or autistic traits) have become a focal point of interest for both writers and producers. As we mentioned last week, a new Tom Hanks movie is set for release later this month, revolving around the 9/11 attacks and a young boy with autism. In "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," nine-year-old Oskar Schell, who has high-functioning autism, must come to grips after his father (Hanks) is killed in the World Trade Center attacks. The discovery of a mysterious key by Schell causes him to embark on a remarkable journey of healing and discovery.

Coincidentally enough (or not), Fox has announced a new series that will also revolve around a 9/11 widower and a child with autism. 

Beginning January 25, 2012, "Touch" will follow Martin Bohm (Kiefer Sutherland) as he struggles to connect with his non-verbal eleven-year-old son, Jake. Trapped in his own world and inability to speak, Jake keeps himself busy by disassembling phone parts and other repetitive activities, all while seeing the world in a unique way.

The show kicks into gear when Bohm learns that his son possesses incredible abilities and gifts involving numbers, all of which connect with people and events around the world.

After watching the preview, I was incredibly moved and am excited at the potential the show has to offer. As a huge fan of "Lost" and a parent of a child with autism, it looks to be right up my alley.

I did find it interesting that although Jake clearly displays characteristics of autism (non-verbal, fascination with numbers, etc.) I could not find anywhere in the Fox promotional info where autism is mentioned. This was also the case with the Hanks movie and no doubt an intentional move by producers and executives of both projects. My guess for this is the desire to avoid creating stereotypes that can result  from casting these individuals with autism in a particular way.

I’m really looking forward to watching "Touch" and have marked my calendar for the 25th. I’ve watched the trailer below three times already and have yet to keep a dry eye.

32 Responses to Kiefer Sutherland Touched by Autism in New Series on Fox

  1. Thanks for posting this Michelle, I know that this is absolutely going to be a favourite in our house. As parents, it is our destiny to help find the gifts our children bring to the world, more so when we have a child on the spectrum. What a difference it would be if the entire education system reworked the curriculum to find ways to tap into these gifts, rather than trying to make our children fit into a system, that often does not support them? Perhaps this, and television shows such as this will increase the awareness and understanding and help people look at autism in a totally different way.

  2. Kathy P says:

    Curriculum has been reworked to help kids with autism about 40 years ago. SRA Direct Instruction. Look it up. It breaks down skills, gives extra practice, and has been thoroughly field tested in many classrooms. Not to mention a 1/2 billion dollar federal study in the 70s/80s that showed it was the most effective. Who doesn’t want a child to read, spell, do basic math, and write?

  3. Veronica P. says:

    Not all School curriculums have been reworked in order to help kids with autism (as stated by Kathy P.). In fact, many school systems throughout the United States are still struggling with the question of how to properly and effectively teach these children. These exceptional students require teachers who have been properly trained to address the needs and requirements of individuals with ASD. Due to lack of funds, many of these students are placed in regular classrooms; thereby overlooked and neglected. If the United States can afford to spend millions of dollars on foreign wars and giving billions of dollars in foreign aid, then I think we can afford to properly fund our school systems in order to properly and effectively teach these children.

  4. Its the same here in Australia Veronica. I worked in the education system for 10 years, and found that very few schools really do cater for kids on the spectrum. Most parents have to really fight to get schools to really listen to their concerns. It is the reason many families choose home schooling so they are able to structure the lessons around their child’s interests at the time. It doesn’t mean they don’t learn how to read or to write, but if we think creatively and outside of the box, amazing things can happen.

    I recently spoke to a mother who home schooled her ASD teenager, after the school told her that it would be a waste of her time to imagine that her child would ever graduate from high school, let alone achieve a university place. She adapted the high school curriculum around his passion, which happened to be science, he not only graduated, but with enough credit points to be granted entrance to the university course of his choice, as well as a Dean’s Scholarship.

    We were told the same thing by our son’s school. In fact his Year 9 English teacher told us, with a condescending grin on her face “sometimes we must all eventually realise that THESE children just cannot be taught!” We pulled him out of school and he went to a technical college where he was able to complete Year 10, then move into an Information Technology course, which they then adapted for him … He gained enough credit points achieve a University entrance. He graduated last year and now has a career in his chosen profession. I question why so many ASD children have to go through so much pain, stress and frustration within the school system, when the alternatives are so much easier.

  5. Isobel H says:

    For anyone who thinks that persons on the spectrum can’t learn, they should take the opportunity to get to know Jay Serdula, who has Asperger’s. Jay is a research assistant at RMC (Royal Military College) in Kingston, Ontario Canada. Jay swam across Lake Ontario to raise awareness of Asperger’s. He also speaks to the public about autism. He has a great sense of who he is along with a great sense of humour. He has a shirt that says something like “Don’t ask me how I am unless you’ve got 20 minutes to hear the answer” lol
    I am looking forward to this show to see how a person on the spectrum is represented.

  6. James says:

    As an adult with aspergers syndrome, it’s nice to see “auties” on TV. Perhaps one day we will just be characters without superpowers, although I suppose we have to go through a superhero phase before we’re accepted as sane members of society who simply view things a little differently.

  7. Sandra says:

    Well said, James! My son Matthew doesn’t have any superhero or savant abilities but he does view the world differntly. He is also the most non-judgemental person I have ever known.

    Often when people find out that he isn’t a savant, they just dismiss him as being wierd and turn away. He is weird but so are we all. He is also wonderful and those whomturn away are missing someone amazing.

  8. Ellen B. says:

    Kathy P. obviously doesn’t understand Autism, as direct instruction doesn’t come close to all that is takes. 40 years ago kids with autism were usually not even given the opportunity to get an education.

  9. Kate D. says:

    Our school district does not have a curriculum that is reworked for autism. If it is, then it was reworked by someone who has no idea what autism is or how autistic children learn. We homeschool our children because the school has no understanding of how to teach them. My oldest is an Aspie and my youngest is hyperlexic. Both need their lessons to be taught in such a way that they can experience it with touch and sound and it needs to be outside the box. My “square peg” boys don’t fit into the round holes that the public school system trys to hammer them into. If I could find a school that would teach my boys the way they need, then I would send them. Until then, we homeschool.

  10. Sheila says:

    I am so pleased to see that Autistic Children are being represented in a positive, emotional way. I am a parent of a child with High Functioning Autism and My hope and prayer is that those who watch these films and tv shows will come to understand a little bit more about children with Autism. They are not weird, crazy, or any of those descriptive words that people tend to use. They are humans with feelings, they just don’t necessarily know how to demonstrate or speak them. When I watch my child in public I see people looking and not understanding why she does not always respond in the manner in which they think she should..I pray that these two ventures will improve the knowledge of those who don’t understand. Trust me we as parents have to learn as we go as well…Thanks for putting a positive light on our Children….

  11. Mary says:

    Thank you James ( Jan. 8th post) , that is exactly what I was feeling, but unable to articulate.

  12. Katz says:

    James you said it just right. I think the show will be fun to watch and I am glad there will be another positive example of a child on the spectrum. But it is a large spectrum with many different kinds of “non-superhero” but wonderful kids on it.

  13. Leanna says:

    I may watch it, it may be an interesting series. I’m not sure how much I like the angle of autism it focuses on. The autistic savants are fairly rare. Where is the show that promotes understanding of REAL Autism? Where is the show that shows the scars on a mother’s hands that were inflicted by the teeth and fingernails of her child? Where is the show that demonstrates what a meltdown is and why it is triggered and how it is not just a temper tantrum or the result of poor parenting? Where is the show that displays the hours of therapy done by both professional therapists and parents as they strive to teach their children? Where is the show that shows the school system NOT listening to the parents as they fight for appropriate IEPs and services? Where is the show showing all the parents that are on waiting lists years long for services? This show, Touch, appears to be for entertainment value. It does little to promote true awareness of what Autism really is and the pain and stress it puts on families.

  14. Rachel says:

    I think it will be a long time before anyone shows this side of ASD on a show… or before “regular” people understand our plight.

    Unless you are living it, you have NO IDEA how it consumes families, emotionally and financially, and often destroys families due to the stress, especially spending all your time, energy and money fighting the school system to get appropriate services. The stress, day after day, of dealing with a child who is “different”, wanting to do anything at all to help them, feeling helpless, wishing so much they would have friends, being looked down upon by people in public when they have a meltdown, worrying day after day whether they will be able to live independently. How all I want is to be like those other mothers, with a “typical” child. How hard it is to feel sorry for moms when they complain about the smallest issues, and thinking, God, they have no idea I would give ANYTHING to have those “problems”…

    That scenario is not “sexy”, that doesn’t sell TV. But at least shows like this are a small start.

  15. JJ says:

    Thanks for the post. It’s great that hollywood is focusing on autism in a positive way, even if I agree with some of the other comments here saying that these portrayals may not be 100% realistic. But how many portrayals are? (Think A Beautiful Mind, etc.). Regardless of how accurate these hollywood portrayals area, I think these shows will still encourage people to be more open-minded and curious about autism, and to want to try harder to understand people with autism.

  16. Mary Beth Borre says:

    is the character “non-verbal” or “pre-verbal?” there is a difference!

  17. BJ Johnson says:

    All this glossing-over of autism on television and the media. For once, I would love to see a “reality-autism” show where the child smears feces on the walls, screams at the top of his lungs when you touch him, gets kicked out of school programming due to behavioral issues, parents lose their careers and life savings while trying to care for the child. Autism might be a “gift” to some families, but definitely not mine. One child in 110 now has autism. Autism: coming soon to a neighborhood near you — perhaps even your OWN home. Support autism-vaccine causation research before it’s too late!!

  18. Edward Lott says:

    When do TV shows or movies ever show how things actually are regardless of what the subject matter is?
    These are the kinds of shows that start discussions. A distortion of reality that starts to make the discussion of the real issues possible. Plus whats so bad about seeing these kids as possible super heroes? Its not necessarily reality but it is a representation of an ideal I hold near and dear. Limit no one’s potential- no matter where they start no one can ever say for sure where they will end up. Limiting any child is a horrible in my mind and should never be done.
    Also, I would like to add that the educational system for children with special needs really sucks in the US. There is nothing of actual value that occurs (with a few exceptions). And I can tell you from professional experience that there is NO purpose beyond making our selfs feel superficially better by making a child memorize math, or reading or anything else for that matter if they do not have the ability to functionally use the skill independently and in a novel (not scripted) way. For example- a child that can tell you what 9×3 is without the understanding of one to one correspondence is not a child who can really and functionally multiply. Its a prop to make a school system look good as if they are not wasting our tax dollars. Development comes before skill acquisition and when we try to force it the other way we end up with unhappy kids who act out and stem to self regulate more often than before
    .

  19. Trista says:

    I do not have my own child with ASD, but I am a middle school teacher in a public school who has a classroom devoted to those students. I have 9 kids with Aspergers, one with PDD-NOS, one with autism, and one with sensory integration disorder. There ARE good things happening out there, but it takes a district devoted to meeting the needs of all students. I LOVE the show “Parenthood” because not only do they specifically say that the character Max has Aspergers, but he DOES have meltdowns and is not a savant. There is a very limited number of shows/movies that portray characters with any type of disability, but I am glad that trend is starting to change. I also hope that other districts follow suit with ours. We are a large district, but we have 4 classrooms specifically devoted to kids on the spectrum from pre-k to 8th grade.

  20. Erin M. says:

    My school district doesn’t even want to admit my twins have autism as they have been evaluated and re-evaluated by Children’s Hospital for the last 3 years!!! Even Social Security admits they have it, but not my school district. Your child has to be very severe for our school district to put them in the Autism curriculum classroom. It is a shame because my boys are struggling in a regular classroom and not even with special accommodations and they are only in kindergarten. I hope shows like this bring about more awareness and maybe tolerance in our world. Maybe my boys won’t be ostracized by their peers and their school will do more to help them.

  21. Jill says:

    Any idea what the channel is for Dish customers? I cannot find it in my line up. :(

  22. Jill says:

    Thank you… going to watch it now!

  23. Sarah says:

    Actually, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” the novel, also does not mention the word autism. This is obviously the writer wanting to keep his work stereotype free, he didn’t want readers to change their views of the main character (positive or negative) by using the word “autism.” It is an absolute must read by the way. My favourite book of all time, even before my own daughter was diagnosed. Once I read the book again after the diagnosis and realised that is what the character had I cried and cried and cried. The main character, Oscar is a brilliant character and you just can’t help but love him. Safran-Foer clearly knows autism intimately and is very sympathetic to those with autism and those who live with it.

  24. Betty Hartzog says:

    Take heart. All your efforts and struggles are never in vain. My son was one of the first diagnosed with Classical Infantile Autism. We had no idea what went on with have unimaginable stores of stress. And redemption. He is now 44 and always had *mild “psychic” abilites, responding to unspoken thoughts, who bought new cars, but in 1999 we knew he knew things outside of the family, some of them horrifying, and then in 2006 he changed, as though he was unable to contain “secrets” and his way of seeing things. And it involved numbers. I have gone almost nuts trying to discover if there are others. The isolation and lack of context have been overwhelming. But I believe they all experience these things. Take great heart. And give great leeway in terms of wanting them to be *normal is my advice. My son, once mute, talks ninety miles an hour and requires constant eye contact now. He is beautiful.

  25. David says:

    I have a Master’s Degree in Special Education and work with children who have severe autism as an attribute. Shows like this do a disservice to those who have autism, their families, and the incredibly dedicated and talented educators like me who work with these children, day in and day out. Society CRAVES a need to accept people on the ASD, and want to believe they and their autism serve some purpose. But the reality is, that many of our kids will grow up to remain non-verbal, socially inept, and have no concept of language and/or number sense. BUT, none of that matters. It’s Hollywood revamping Frankenstein (a mentally retarded man, most likely) to create a compelling character that makes them feel good. Not the worst crime ever, but as I said a disservice. And for parents of children on the ASD to be excited about this show makes my stomach turn. Just my 2 cents..

  26. Amomof says:

    @ David – How sad I am for you that your stomach is turning for “the parent’s of children with Autism.” Clearly, a Masters Degree can’t be given for having a soul or heart because you would be a drop out. Do ME a favor, as a mother of a child with Autism, do NOT speak for me!

  27. David says:

    The show NEVER describes the boy as having autism (correct me if I am mistaken), rather as having “MUTISM”??? When I said my stomach turns, I meant in relation to this show (please read in context). To accuse me of not having compassion… I bleed it out of my pours everyday. How dare you inflame someone on this forum and insinuate I lack compassion. I don’t work within SPED for the money or the glory. Rather, I actively pursued a career path in SPED because of my own life, my family, and my friends. What I want is what the parents of my students want; a clear, unveiled, honest depiction of what having a family member on the ASD entails. This show is a pile of dooky. That was and remains my point. I came here to make friends, not insight hatred. Those of us in Special Education are friends NOT enemies. It’s the $$$$$ and politics that restrict us.

  28. Soledad says:

    @Leanna I too share all that you described on your post.
    To all—
    My daughter is now 23 years old and is struggling. We continue to be on waiting lists to obtain the full services that have been needed since years ago. I am a single parent raising my daughter — not knowing what tomorrow will bring. She was never taught in school like she should have. They never wanted to accept that fact of her diagnosis. I still have to work, but continue to miss work because the day habilitation facilities keep on terminating her because of behaviors. I don’t know what to do anymore. She is on medications to control behaviors. She’s never had therapy. Now that Autism Insurance exists, she doesn’t even qualify because of age. I’m not getting any younger either. I love my daughter dearly and I would not give her up. She is a gift from God and I have been trying to take care of this beautiful gift that He has given me. I still search for that light at the end of the tunnel. Only God knows what tomorrow brings. Each and every mother and father out there with children with autism, and any other disability, my heart goes out to each and everyone of you. Stay strong and believe that miracles do happen. Miracles may not be the healing of the disability, but the small miracles of an all of a sudden hug, a word that had never been said, a day, a week, a month with no meltdowns, no behaviors, etc. I have learned so many things with my daughter. My heart hurts for her future because I don’t want any harm to come to her because of her innocence. I once had a nun stop me in Church. We engaged in conversation and what she said touched me so deep in my heart. She asked me, if I realized that my daughter was carrying a cross. As those that may believe, we carry our own cross in life. All along I thought I was carrying a cross by having to take care of a disabled child. But what this nun made me realize is that God had given me this gift to help carry my daughter’s cross. Yes, we don’t realize as parents, that we are not the only ones that are suffering—our children are. But you know, they are the closest to God. They are happy and bring joy. So we must all see, whether parents, scholars, and/or politicians, that these children may have a disability, but sometimes the most disabled are those that don’t care.

    Let us pray for the healing in our hearts and minds. Let us pray that our children are helped in every home, in every school, and in society throughout the world. Blessings to all.

  29. FarawayEyes8 says:

    http://www.autismcauseandcure.com

    I so much agree with what David has been saying here. Autism is unhealthy.

    Some people with autism or their caretakers think that the rest of the world should just change to accomodate them. That is unreasonable.

  30. FarawayEyes8 says:

    To Solodad: I disagree with most of your post. You comment about helping her carry her cross is superficially “cute” but she has her cross to carry and you have yours. You might just be breaking your arm with all that patting yourself on the back that you are somekind of “savior”. Your “savior complex” may be the problem. Maybe the Nun was trying to tell you something different. Let her carry her own cross.

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