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Essay: I Am Sam Media Project

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  • Subject area(s): Media essays
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  • Published: 15 October 2019*
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  • Words: 1,001 (approx)
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According to Autism Speaks Inc. (2017), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are defined by social-interactions complications, communication difficulties, and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors. In the movie I Am Sam, the character of Sam is living with ASD. This research paper is based on how to communicate more efficiently with people with ASD, as well as their tendencies, specifically in how to ask a question.

The purpose of this movie is to portray the life of a parent with autism; specifically the endless struggles, emotions, and the joyous moments. These struggles include communicating at work or other public places, along with conversing with people whom he has never met. In this movie Sam experiences a wide range of emotions. The movie showed how Sam reacted more to certain situations than his daughter Lucy did. Even though there were an abundance of moments in the movie that Sam was sad, frustrated, etc. there were equally as many moments of times when Sam and his daughter were extremely happy. They were arguably happiest with each other, however the court argued that he was an unfit father due to his lack of comprehension and ability to give explanations to his daughter. The court felt that the best option for Lucy was to place her in a different home.

The audience for this movie is directed towards watchers who are unclear about adults with autism and their abilities and disabilities. For example: how high functioning he is, his ability to interact with others, and that he is in fact able to parent children, all depending on his level of severity of autism.

According to Gillam, R. B., & Marquardt, T. P. (2016), there is no known cause for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Some scientists suggest it may occur resulting from a complex combination of genetics, biological, perinatal, and environmental factors.

A team consisting of developmental pediatricians, clinical psychologists, speech-language pathologists, and occupational therapists can diagnose Autism. Gillam, R. B., & Marquardt, T. P. (2016) found that diagnosis can potentially occur when the child is just 18 months, but is usually made when the child is 2 years of age. Children diagnosed with ASD have sustained difficulties with reciprocal social communication and severe problems with conversation, sharing of interests or emotions, and responding to social interactions. Children with ASD also present repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities such as repetitive motor movements, insistence on sameness, or inflexible to change in routines. Over the past 10 years ASD has steadily increased with the amount of diagnosis’s, because the criteria of the disorder was broadened and more information is involved. More than 1% of children have been diagnosed today.

When asked a question in the movie Sam’s tendencies included repetition, confusion, outbursts, the demand for sameness, and he even got defensive at times like the book suggests in the previous paragraph. When Sam’s daughter asked why he is not like other dad’s he had a hard time grasping the concept, therefore she explained what she meant so he could comprehend it. Another time when Sam’s lawyer asked a question he became extremely defensive and accused the lawyer of saying he was stupid.  According to Hewitt, L. E. (1998), the question-answering abilities that are related strengths for people with autism are comprehension of syntactic form, and understanding of literal lexical terms. Some weaknesses are the lack of response to initiations and comprehension of indirect requests. Likewise, the documentation of general weakness in pragmatic language abilities shows a likelihood that questions drawing heavily on pragmatic competence will prove difficult. The large literature on theory of mind deficits in autism referenced above provides further support for the hypothesis that inferencing and other pragmatic interpersonal communication aspects of questions are particularly difficult for people with Autism. This makes it clear that the main issue people with Autism have is comprehension, but the other tendencies that were portrayed in the movie are still possibilities and reactions.

What I liked best about this movie is the fact that it showed both the struggles and the easy times Sam experienced. Some opinions of ASD are uneducated and the people who hold those opinions may have the impression that people with Autism are not capable of feeling emotions the way people without ASD feel them. They may think they react inappropriately or over react to the situation. I also enjoyed that it showed his ability to show affection and to care for his daughter as well as to fight to keep her. He was completely aware of what he needed to do and did it. However, I wish it would show more realistic situations as in more day to day things like going to the grocery store and how he feels there, not just at his job where everyone knew and understood his reactions and disabilities. I wanted to see more about what strangers assumed or the perspective of others interacting with him. It was hard to see him disappointed about his daughter and it was frustrating to see the court was not understanding that his daughter was not in danger.

Before watching this movie and doing research on Autism, I did not realize how it ties into Speech Language Pathology.  I used to believe that people with Autism were more restricted, but I learned they can hold regular jobs along with numerous responsibilities, they can hold a high level of compassion, and even parent a child. I would recommend this to anyone who does not have a clear understanding of the capabilities of people with Autism.


  • Autism Speaks Inc. (2013). Symptoms. Retrieved from https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/symptoms
  • Gillam, R. B., & Marquardt, T. P. (2016). Communication sciences and disorders: From science to clinical practice. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
  • Hewitt, L. E. (1998). Influence of question type on response adequacy in young adults with autism. Journal of Communication Disorders, 31(2), 135-51.
  • https://search-proquest-com.proxy.lib.uni.edu/docview/79803245?accountid=14691
  • Nelson, J., Solomon R., Zwick E., Herskovitz M. (Producers), & Nelson, J. (Director). (2001). I am Sam [Video file]. United States: New Line Studio.

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