Diagnosis is about a young boy named Jack being diagnosed with autism. When we first meet him and his mother in the waiting room of a pediatrician’s office, she is worried and overwhelmed, not knowing what her son is suffering from. We see that he is easily distracted and a bit manic with his toys, slamming them recklessly together. When the diagnosis is handed down, mom looks quite devastated. The doctor assures her not to worry, that she specializes in treating children who have this disorder. When mom gets home, though, the panic continues to mount as she searches the internet for anything to help her understand what is happening to her son and what could have caused it. All the while, Jack’s behavior seems to be more extreme and inexplicable to her as she looks for ways to help him. All of the news seems to be bad, as her searches continually turn up reminders that there is no cure or even sure fire treatment. She does discover one wit of helpful information, though: speech devices can help. We seem mom write this down after a long and heartbreaking evening before she collapses onto the couch. Next we see Jack at a later time, arriving home from school. Mom looks better and well rested, waiting for him to get back from school. When he does, they sit together on the couch and Jack pulls out a tablet that he begins to type into. It speaks for him, and mother and son are able to have a conversation about what he learned at school. Jack is calm and focused, assuring his mom that he is getting better at using the device. He tells her that he loves her and we get a sense that at last the breakthrough in his treatment has come about, primarily due to the laborious and ongoing research of his mom. We are left knowing a little bit more about approaches to autism, and a feeling that these two characters have both just had their quality of life vastly improved. If Diagnosis is intended as a sort of introduction to some of the major struggles with autism, it succeeds. It places at least some of the major concerns in the context of a dramatization that can make the viewer consider the real life implications of what they are learning. If this is considered as a dramatic short film purely as a work of art, however, it is lacking in the polish it needs to make it effective. The performances are very stiff and awkward all around, with none of it ever feeling authentic. It is in the style of a workplace instruction video or television commercial. A serious film examining autism would also have a lot more to take on in terms of the symptoms and effect it has on the lives of community and family members, and wouldn’t be able to wrap everything up quite so neatly. The rating provided for this film is assuming that it is intended as a brief dramatization to raise awareness.
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