While I was a huge fan of "24" with Kiefer Sutherland, I have mixed emotions about his new possible role as the father of a son with autism who can predict events before they happen.
Reuters reports the project would star a mute child with autism who has a special gift to predict certain events. The pilot called "Touch" may never happen, as Sutherland is committed to various projects. (Hello, where is the "24" movie we all waited for?)
I find the story line interesting, yet also worry that it perpetuates a myth that all children with autism have some outstanding talent that you just have to uncover. In reality, only a small portion of the autism population truly fits the savant syndrome, with brilliance in one field.
So often, I find people ask me, what is his gift? Well, they don't want to hear that his gift to our family is to make us more patient or compassionate. What they are really asking is, what amazing mathamatical ability or musical skill is he developing? While I do think he tends to have a strength in left-brain activities, I don't think it's anything more than slightly gifted. Most children with autism that I've met have some strengths that they have been blessed with. Do I think they will change the world with savant abilities? Not usually, no.
While I secretly hope my son has some gift that makes up for all the social and emotional awkardness that comes with his autism, it may or may not happen.
At the end of the day, I find children with autism more similar than different from the rest of us. They want to be loved, they want to feel a connection, they just have a serious deficit in the social and emotional areas.
While I can't help but be curious about Sutherland's new role, I sure hope it doesn't make the rest of us feel like we need a superhuman ability to make us feel better about autism.