Autism, Luca’s talents: "My son brings Asperger’s to the stage"

There is one thing he can do Luca and is reciting lines from movies like We just have to cry or Three men and a leg. By thread and by sign. Word by word. And he recites them without even pausing, interpreting them. In short, a bit like having Massimo Troisi or Aldo, Giovanni and Giacomo in front of you. A special talent of him because Luca is a special boy. With an edge dictated by Asperger’s syndrome (which today actually falls under what are called “autism spectrum disorders”), which makes it different yes but in a beautiful way. “We don’t like to use the term autism – says Luca’s father, Michele Cimino – because Luca is basically a special boy”. A boy who through the theater and the right stimuli has done and can do many things including cultivating his talent.

What is Asperger’s Syndrome?

There Asperger’s syndrome named after the Austrian doctor Hans Asperger who first diagnosed it. It was initially included in the DSM-IV or in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) in 1994, together with autism in the category of Pervasive Developmental Disorders. In practice Asperger explained that the syndrome did not present significant delays from a clinical point of view (therefore in cognitive development, language, adaptation or personal autonomy) except for social interaction. If until 2013 autism was divided into categories – for example “autistic disorder” was distinguished from “Asperger’s syndrome” and “Rett’s syndrome” – subsequently in the last DSM, number five, the use was introduced of the term “Autism Spectrum Disorders” which falls under the larger category of “neurodevelopmental disorders”. According to Lorna Wing who coined the term, speaking of “spectrum” means making an analogy between white light which is broken up into various colors through a prism and autism which manifests itself in a heterogeneous and variable way throughout life. Simply dividing it into subtypes would mean missing its nuances. According to the DSM-5 we can identify only two macro-categories within the autism spectrum that explain how it manifests itself. On the one hand the deterioration of social interaction in the various contexts, on the other the repetitive behavioral patterns. What can differentiate the people involved is certainly the kind of support they need which in the case of the former Asperger’s syndrome is not so significant.


Autism spectrum disorders: Luca with Michele Cimmino

Luca is Neapolitan and is 27 years old. Until some time ago he lived in Naples. “We realized that there was something different – ​​says Michele – when he was younger. It happened that he remembered precise details that happened a day long ago, or the date on which a certain event had occurred. Then the father decides to move here to Florence for work. “The distance – says Michele – didn’t help Luca. He wasn’t calm, he manifested his discomfort through somewhat aggressive behavior and this in the long run could be harmful both for him and for the family”. In the end, Luca’s mother and sister also decide to come to Florence, making a change in their lives because only having both parents in the same city was it possible to intervene to help Luca. “Tmoving to Florence was the best choice. Indeed we have discovered a world because since then Luca has no longer had aggressive behavior. If before it happened to see him isolated at home in his room, since he has enrolled in theater last year and then in church choir this year, everything changed because he also interacted with other people”.

Luke’s talents

Luca attended Vincenzo De Caro's theater workshop
Luca attended the theater workshop of Vincenzo De Caro (in the stage photo the director and actor with Claudio Spaggiari)

Michele he is an actor for passion. And she’s been doing it for a while now. Watching his father act was a great discovery for Luca who wanted to get involved. “Last year I took part in the theater workshop and I enjoyed interpreting Eduardo De Filippo’s comedies”. – says Luke. His favorite isGreat Magic”. The laboratory was the one created by the Neapolitan actor Vincent DeCaro which this year, among other things, has launched one focused precisely on De Filippo’s Neapolitan theater both in Florence and in the province of Arezzo. “It would be nice to be able to give more special kids like Luca the opportunity to take theater courses – says De Caro. Participating together with others in these cases can be a panacea. And it was for him.” But Luca manages to interpret even the fragment of a film from memory without stopping for a moment and alternating the voices of the protagonists. “Sometimes it happens to see him write and he writes beautiful things” – says Michele.

The future and the independent life project

But Michele and his family now they want to help Luca enter the working world. “We are looked after by a social worker because we would like it, for example, if we could find a record store where we could have some experience, since he likes music”. Favorite singer? “Neffa” – echoes Luke. There is actually a way that is often little known. These are the notices on Projects for independent living IN-AUT which have existed in Tuscany since 2004 and since 2012 have been extended to all areas. It is aimed at adults with disabilities, in possession of the certification of gravity covered by law 104 of 92, who want to become more independent and realize their own life project. By “independent living” we mean the ability to be self-determined and to be able to live like anyone, having the ability to make decisions about one’s life and to engage in activities of one’s choice. As part of the project, those who are admitted have the opportunity to hire an assistant for autonomy and also to take advantage of all those technologies that can help them lead a life in a condition of autonomy, like other citizens.

The difference with other forms of assistance lies in the fact that the person involved stops being just an “object of care”, but becomes an active subject able to choose a course of study or professional and university training to enter the world of work. At this point the UMVD (Multidisciplinary Disability Evaluation Unit) intervenes which, based on what the disabled person proposes, has the task of collaborating with them for the drafting of the actual project and for quantifying the amount of assistance hours and the contribution to be requested from the Region. You can find all the info on the Tuscany Region website.

In Italy, out of a resident population of at least 60 million, it is estimated that there are at least 600,000 people - and therefore families - directly affected by autism
In Italy, out of a resident population of at least 60 million, it is estimated that there are at least 600,000 people – therefore families – directly affected by autism

How the medical approach to Autism has changed

It’s a behavioral diagnosis, a psychological construct. according to many specialists it would be much better if children, instead of being diagnosed as such, were identified on the basis of what they need to learn, for example guaranteeing everyone an individualized path to have a large number of favorite games and interests, to know how to communicate needs and preferences – so as to get the attention of others thanks to the positive results obtained, rather than to the failed impossible challenges -, and to identify what makes them feel good and how they can contribute to the society in which they are inserted . Interacting well with a person on the autism spectrum without a minimum of preparation, assuming love or experience with children is enough, has often proved wrong, both for educators and for parents.

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