In the late 1950s, the world has seen one of the most controversial, topical, and relatable medical-themed science-fiction short stories “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes. The novelization of the short story was first published in 1966. Since the middle 1960s, different film versions of the novel were made. Flowers for Algernon is a story of a young man, Charlie Gordon, a mentally retarded man in his thirtieths who, however, makes some progress in studies. The doctors convince Charlie Gordon to undergo a surgery, which may either help him to become an intellectually and emotionally healthy person or do even more damage to his brain and cause irreversible changes of his cognitive processes. The surgery is successful, Charlie Gordon becomes an extraordinarily intelligent person, but at some point he starts to lapse back to his initial state. It is rather remarkable that after a string of disillusionments and events that cause the protagonist and narrator’s alienation from his co-workers, educators, and doctors (some of whom actually cared about him), he still manages to come to a moral epiphany and maintain kindness and love that exist within him. Basically, Charlie Gordon’s condition fits the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Charlie Gordon turns out to be, perhaps, the kindest and the most truthful and generous person of all those described in the novel in spite of his condition.
Charlie Gordon is the protagonist and the narrator of the novel Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keys. In the very beginning of the novel, Charlie Gordon’s only ambition is “to get smart” (Keys, 1966). The character gets frustrated as he and Algernon the mouse are given puzzles. Doctors, including psychiatrists and neurologists who give them these puzzles, do not realize even how humiliating this is for Charlie in the first place. Clearly, the fact of experimenting on intellectual abilities of living beings, especially those of different species, cannot be morally justified, even for the purposes of better understanding and finding appropriate and effective medication for serious mental disorders. After a surgery has been performed on him, Charlie Gordon attempts to analyze and reflect on his past, his condition, and his relationships with relatives, co-workers, educators, and doctors. Hence, Charlie Gordon makes a series of important observations. All in all, Charlie Gordon’s intellectual abilities do not make him happy. “I don’t know what’s worse: to not know what you are and be happy, or to become what you’ve 1always wanted to be, and feel alone” (Keys, 1966). These particular words sound like a confession. Upon contemplating the advantages of being an educated and literate person, the protagonist makes a conclusion that “one of the important reasons for going to college and getting an education is to learn that the things you’ve believed in all your life aren’t true, and that nothing is what it appears to be” (Keys, 1966). This statement conclusively proves that the system according to which people are nurtured and educated is imperfect. “Its easy to make frends if you let pepul laff at you” (Keys, 1966). This particular quote gives the audience the idea of Charlie Gordon’s intellectual abilities before the surgery; more importantly, the quote shows how others treat the main character and whether the main character likes that kind of treatment or not. “I am afraid. Not of life, or death, or nothingness, but of wasting it as if I had never been” (Keys, 1966). This particular quote shows that the narrator has a need for approval and for becoming a part of something meaningful, something greater than he himself is. “That’s the thing about human life – there is no control group, no way to ever know how any of us would have turned out if any variables had been changed” (Keys, 1966). This particular quote represents the main character’s understanding of human life. Based on that statement, one can assume that life is irrational and no living being should be experimented on.
“How strange it is that people of honest feelings and sensibility, who would not take advantage of a man born without arms or legs or eyes – how such people think nothing of abusing a man with low intelligence” (Keys, 1966). The quote shows that people have prejudices concerning mentally challenged people even to a greater extent than concerning those with physical disabilities. “Intelligence is one of the greatest human gifts. But all too often a search for knowledge drives out the search for love” (Keys, 1966). On the basis of that particular statement, it is possible to assume that the main character realizes that kindness and love are the only things people need to be happy. “Even in the world of make-believe there have to be rules. The parts have to be consistent and belong together” (Keys, 1966). The quote represents the protagonist’s attempt to find a place where he may belong. In the moments of deepest despair and disillusionment, Charlie Gordon denies all those who were once kind to him: “Just leave me alone. I’m not myself. I’m falling apart, and I don’t want you here” (Keys, 1966). The narrator and protagonist of the novel may very well realize that the process of his moral corruption has begun, which is why he becomes upset in the first place.
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However, Charlie Gordon attempts to resist it. Thus, the main character’s emotional experience remains with him, even though his intellectual abilities downgrade. There is no chance of knowing how long the things will stay that way as the author gives the audience a hint that soon the main character may forget what has been done to him and all that he has experienced, having become an intelligent person. Charlie Gordon’s last note proves the symbolism of the title of the novel itself. Specifically, in his last note he is asking if somebody could bring flowers on the grave of Algernon the mouse (Keys, 1966). These words give the audience a chance to assume that the main character’s priorities have changed. Charlie Gordon and Algernon the mouse have reconciled, there is nothing left of the main character’s resentfulness and frustration over the mouse’s assumed intellectual superiority. On the contrary, as the symptoms of the narrator’s mental retardation start to worsen, he pities that mouse. It happens not just because the main character realizes that just like the mouse he is not going to last the complications caused mainly by the surgery. On Charlie Gordon’s part, this is a genuine compassion. All in all, kindness, resilience, and compassion are, perhaps, the only feelings the narrator and protagonist of the novel is capable of. The sickness of the mind that Charlie Gordon experiences gives him understanding of the real purpose of life and of the laws of kindness, dignity, and honor, the only moral regulations a person should be ruled by in their life.
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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a condition characterized by mental retardation, reduced learning abilities, incapacity to learn, and extreme communication and socialization difficulties (Sanders, 2012). One of the most recent researches has proved that there is a link between serotonin (5-HT) secretion and learning and memory processes (Sanders, 2012). Such mental disorders as ASD, depression, and schizophrenia have proved themselves to be associated with a developmental onset (Sanders, 2012). A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has specified that dysfunction of the raphe 5-HT system in the perinatal stage of development can be considered as one of the primary factors increasing the risk of developing pervasive developmental disorders, for example, ASD (as cited in Sanders, 2012). Veenstra and Vanderweele have hypothesized that altered 5-HT homeostasis may affect and increase the risk of developing ASD traits (as cited in Sanders, 2012). With regard to this, the scholars have provided “a model with construct and face validity that can support further analysis of ASD mechanisms and potentially novel treatments” (as cited in Sanders, 2012). In addition to the developmental onset, ASD is also associated with the atypical secretion of serotonin, sex steroids, and hormones. This is why ASDs are especially dangerous. By and large, recent researchers have contributed to the development of a more unified approach and more effective ways of medicating ASD.
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Autism Spectrum Disorder is a chronic condition in a sense that it is classified as a syndrome due to pervasive developmental disorders and mental retardation that ASD is typically associated with (Cohen et al., 2005). Studying the genetic aspects of ASD, scholars tend to distinguish between syndromal and non-syndromal types of autism (Cohen et al., 2005). The pathological conditions that fall under the category of syndromal ASDs are, among others, the following: Down syndrome, fragile X, Cohen syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, Smith–Magenis, and Smith–Lemli–Opitz syndrome (Cohen et al., 2005). The following mental conditions can be viewed as examples of non-syndromal ASDs: phenylketonuria, San Filippo syndrome, Angelman syndrome, and adenylosuccinate lyase deficiency (Cohen et al., 2005). The distinctive feature of non-syndromal ASDs is that mostly they exhibit mainly “isolated autistic features” (Cohen et al., 2005). Still, in its current stage, the understanding of ASD is delimited by the fact that etiology (that is to say, causes) and pathogeny (that is to say, development) of autism-associated conditions are understudied.
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On the other hand, the current studies of ASD are focused on how to provide patients diagnosed with autism-associated disorder with proper care. Clearly, children and adults diagnosed with ASD and their families should have all their requirements met. It cannot be denied that people suffering from mental conditions require additional assessment, intervention, and care. In order to determine the type of care services most appropriate for a patient, a medical specialist should undertake some compulsory assessment procedures (Bishop & Lord, 2010). The symptoms that each patient develops in ASD are individual, which explains why the treatment of autism-associated disorders is especially challenging.
A team of researchers from the University of Connecticut has proved that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is actually curable (Richardson, 2013; Fein et al., 2013). A group of scientists led by Deborah Fein conducted an experiment on a group of 34 individuals whose age is ranging from 8 to 21 (Richardson, 2013). All of them were diagnosed with ASD by the age of 5 (Richardson, 2013; Fein et al., 2013). By the moment the experiment had been conducted, the members of the target group were indistinguishable from their peers in terms of language, socialization, and communication abilities (Richardson, 2013; Fein et al., 2013). Apparently, the patients lost the diagnosis due to unidentifiable causes. The experiment has left scientists with even a greater amount of questions. Some of the most important questions the findings of the experiment have caused are as follows: ‘were the patients initially misdiagnosed or not?’, ‘can the loss of diagnosis be regarded as a commonplace?’, ‘are the patients continuing to experience difficulties while communicating with others?’, and ‘are there any residual effects associated with a mental disorder (some specific type of an ASD) that each of the patients was initially diagnosed with?’ (Richardson, 2013; Fein et al., 2013). Examination of each of the cases and answering of all these questions may revolutionize the contemporaries’ conception of medicating mental disorders.
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It has been pointed out that some specific nurture strategies are needed to prepare a child with mental disability for entering an educational facility (Storey & Hunter, 2014). When passing from one educational establishment to another (each with its own respective step-up demands), youngsters diagnosed with mental disabilities require support from their families and, perhaps, most especially, from their peers. Doing otherwise may lead to a child’s tracking into nonacademic program of study or being educated in keeping with an academically less intensive program (Storey & Hunter, 2014). In a workplace, the use of personal digital assistants has proved to be an effective strategy for mentally challenged people to cope with their duties. The use of assistive technologies, however, should be regulated by a set of recommendations in order to be truly affective (Storey & Hunter, 2014). For example, individuals should get accustomed to using assistive technologies prior to getting a job for the first time. Authorities, in turn, need to make sure that assistive technologies are affordable and available to all those who need them. Mostly, patients diagnosed with ASD seek to avoid all kinds of sensory stimuli (Smart, 2012). Patients with ASD are sensory aversive as any sensory stimuli makes them overwhelmed (Smart, 2012). However, it is believed that sensory stimuli may suppress symptoms of ASD in the workplace (Smart, 2012). Broadly speaking, those who interact and/or associate with mentally challenged people should take efforts to make them feel comfortable around others and encourage them to socialize. The use of assistive technologies should complement the foregoing strategy.
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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a general term denoting a group of pathological mental conditions. ASDs are mainly neurodevelopmental disorders associated with the abnormal secretion of hormones, sex steroids, and serotonin. Consequently, the impact of ASD on organs and systems of organs may have unexpected consequences. The record shows that in some cases ASD is curable; however, all circumstances and clinical cases require additional and more thorough further investigation. Charlie Gordon is a literary character (the protagonists of a short story and a novel of the same name by Daniel Keys; the works are tiled “Flowers for Algernon”). He is exhibiting symptoms of ASD, specifically, mental retardation. His case is unique as in the course of a surgery his intellectual abilities are artificially developed to an unprecedentedly high level. A surgery like that constitutes a life-threatening situation. This is a risk that the protagonist of the novel is willing to take. The experiment is a failure that has technically caused Charlie Gordon’s emotional turmoil and, presumably, his subsequent death. As one of the novel’s numerous characters, Charlie Gordon is, perhaps, one of the very few morally virtuous. Charlie Gordon’s case proves that mentally challenged people should be treated as the equals by all those who do not suffer from any mental condition. Besides, it is important to be aware of the mentally challenged people’s special needs and help them to have all their special requirements met.