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Dr. Dolittle Is Autistic

Let's start with mirroring his father's parenting at his own likely autistic daughter. I don't have any proof outside personal experience from others and whatnot but parents with autism usually cycle the behavior and teaching of their own parents. Going as far as to express negativity and neglect in ways that were impressioned into them, especially toward autism symptoms. Not that this is always the case or even very often the case for that matter as autistic parents can be amazing parents and from what I've seen will usually break the cycle of abuse. But in this case, John dismisses his child for being different, having "weird" interests, and being close to animals but having no or not many friends. Exactly as his father did to him. Not to the same extent though and let's get into that.

His father invited a priest into his home to exorcise his child exclusively for not having friends, talking to his dog companion, and acting like a dog. These are all pretty normal even for an allistic kid as socializing isn't always a good atmosphere and kids play. However, his early attachment to animals, as opposed to humans, is really common in people with autism. It's just easier to connect with an animal when you are even more different than the most awkward allistic kid. Sure it was kinda crazy that he sniffed a dude's butt like a dog does but he's just a kid and just needs it explained to him. Not to be physically and psychologically harmed by a priest to expel the demon (autism) out of him. This is one of the strongest reasons I believe him to be autistic honestly is western religious societies' relationship with autistic people. They harbor and support a lot of ableism in more extreme organized religions and there is a fairly high statistic of people who suffered religious trauma being autistic. It's deemed as being a sinner, demonic, a conduit for the devil, wrong in every way, and worst of all a reason for abuse and even death. Some organized religions are as a whole too deep-rooted in ableism and never check themselves on it. And when autistic people undergo a trauma (like a fucking exorcism) specifically as abuse for their autism they will usually develop a masking tactic for whatever caused this abuse. Our brains sirens go off saying "if you never do this again in front of people you will be safe".

And so John does that when his dog is taken. He loses his best friend and is forced to act and socialize like a "normal" allistic boy. He suppresses his gift (or metaphor for autism) for years. He learns to mask. Specifically with his most obvious visible indication that he is different. And for a long time, he keeps his mask up effectively. He pursues a career and does well and has a family easily because guess what, people with autism are completely capable and normal and fuck tyvm. However, he is very specific about avoiding and disliking animals. Like avoiding a special interest you were ridiculed or abused for. He takes it to an overly extreme as to not care if they live or die. I.e. the guinea pig and the mouse traps. This seems normal to people around him likely because he has notable empathy issues. But masking gets harder as you get older. Unfamiliar scenarios and stress can make masking hard or impossible. Job, family, current events, economy, politics, etc. can make masking harder seeing as you deal with these less or not at all in your formative years. So not only does hitting a dog, possibly his favorite animal due to one being his childhood best friend, evoke memories he had repressed from trauma but also was unfamiliar and stressful. He shows immense empathy and can no longer mask.

This presents itself in his "inappropriate" actions when he is overstimulated or overwhelmed by the animals talking. Which mirrors sensory issues closely. He will abruptly leave and act erratic and have volume issues. He's no longer modifying his behavior and when he's upset yells or makes intense verbal sounds. This could be stress stimming as verbal stimming is common when you're simmering or having a meltdown. It also showcases his empathy issues because he doesn't seem to process in the moments the consequences of shouting at people or animals. Empathy issues aren't necessarily a bad thing by the way. Just because we don't understand how you feel or felt doesn't mean we don't care if it hurt or upset you or that were incapable of a genuine apology and meaning it when we say sorry. It just means it can be hard for us to tell tone, body language, or repercussions sometimes.

This brings me to a short note about not understanding or grasping consequences. He seems to have issues regarding what is safe or right to do. He helps dangerous animals with no rational fear, he leaves situations when he's overwhelmed or overstimulated abruptly, he put a guinea pig on a roof, he gave CPR to a rat that could have any disease, and he stole a tiger. Now it's good he stole the tiger but he doesn't seem to be worried or acknowledge at any point during the testing or surgery or anytime that he understands he could go to jail.

It's not incredibly relevant to his autism, but instead to his father's autism parenting that there was a moment in the movie where his father expresses regret over treating him poorly and pushing or punishing him for being different. I would normally be very against touching moments with previously neglectful parents but it meant a lot to me to see him say "Sometimes, daddies are the ones who need to change." I'm sure it meant a lot to John too as it realigned his parenting methods to not be pushy or harmful. To stop repeating the cycle of mistakes his father did. And the validation that he was accepted and not outlandish for being different.

It's worth noting also that this is a fine metaphor for misdiagnosis as well. He seemed to be being treated likely for schizophrenia due to what they believe to be hearing voices or intrusive thoughts but he lacked any other substantial schizophrenia criteria. Not to mention schizophrenia does show small abnormalities in a brain scan which he had and said was normal. And brain scans are only helpful to identify autism in the early years of growth as the brain will likely be developing faster than non-autistic kids' brains. So they lock him up and give him medicine to try and make him the definition of "right" in the nineties. But in all actuality, he does not need to be cured and there is no cure for what I believe he has. It is a part of him and the film's ending makes it glaringly positive that it is. Which is uplifting from an autistic person's perspective.

Here are the DSM 5 criteria he matches:
-Deficits in all three areas of socializing communication and interaction
-Three restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior: stimming, special interests, and sensory issues.

And if you're still not convinced I don't care because as always, I write for myself. Though it's fair to finish with the note his father does insinuate he believed he was "handicapped" when he was a child. This really drives my point across honestly and unfortunately.

That's all from me,
Hope you are well :o)