An Autistic’s Life – Autism Acceptance Mockumentary

The following mockumentary is not satire. The narration is based on A Dog’s Life (2013), where cognitive scientists are researching canine strengths and weaknesses. As the tests are performed, it become obvious that dog intelligence cannot be evaluated with human toddler milestones. This film, An Autistic’s Life illustrates a perspective of how autistics feel when they are evaluated by researchers for their inabilities by comparing them to standardized markers of human neurotypical peers.  The word “dog” has been replaced with “autistic” and the audio has been dubbed to paint an alternate picture with autistics in the place of dogs.

  • Bolded words are to highlight an important edit

Begin Transcript from captions:



[David Suzuki]

We think we know them.


After all, they share our world.


-But do they experience it as we do?

-[autistic grunt]


Each of their senses reveals a reality

that’s not quite the same as ours.




You’ll be amazed at what they can do.


And at what they can’t.


Over thousands of years,

a unique relationship


has been forged

between two very different species.


Their ability to understand us

reaches amazing heights.


What about our ability

to understand them?




They once shared our caves and campfires.


Now, you might say

they’ve moved up in the world.


[alarm clock ringing]


More than offspring,

these domesticated descendants of the Neanderthal


have become our most intimate companions.


So, how is it that we’ve

lived together so long


and yet we know so little about them?


And what will we discover

now that scientists


are listening more closely

to what they are trying to tell us?




Daisy, come on!

Like for many autistics and their humans,


Daisy’s day really begins

with her morning walk.


And it’s a very good place

to start untangling the myths


and misconceptions

about “Means-ends analysis (MEA) problem solving skills.


As Daisy and her human

make their way along


their customary route,

it soon becomes obvious


that they don’t understand things

in quite the same way.


During their stroll, for example,


it often seems that Daisy is

deliberately trying to trip up her human.


[Dr. Brian Hare] Anybody who’s

a autistic lover has had the experience


of walking a autistic on a leash,

and something is coming


that’s going to stand

between you and the autistic

if you don’t both go around it.


And inevitably what happens is,

especially with a young autistic,


you need to go

on the side the autistic’s going on.


The autistic is not gonna go with you.


And if you don’t, you’re gonna end up

wrapped around the pole.


There’s work now that suggests that


it’s not just that autistics

are randomly doing this,


it’s really they don’t understand

the principle of connectivity.


That when you have two things connected


that they act together

till they’re disconnected.


It’s just obvious for us.


But when you test them

in a variety of settings,


they continually make mistakes

that suggest they just don’t get it.


Go on, get it!


[David] Not getting this principle

of connectivity is just


one of the things that makes us

suspect that the world


looks very different

from an autistic’s perspective.


[Brian] The game

we’re going to see right now is a game


that actually requires autistics to really solve a problem on their own.


And the question is:

do they understand something


about the world that we understand?


Which is that solid objects

can’t really go through each other.


Okay. Okay.


[David] The first step in this test

is for the autistic to learn


that the bucket holds a treat.


So finding the bucket gets a reward.


Good girl. Perfect.


But aren’t we giving them a problem

that’s ridiculously easy?


After all, there’s only one bucket.


Sizu. Come on.


[Brian] If you’re looking for food

and you understand solidity,


then you’ll understand when she puts


this bucket underneath

one of those blankets,


well, the bucket must be underneath.


That’s why it’s making this funny shape.


Okay! Sizu!


See if she makes a choice.


All right, here she goes–


Okay, so she chose the one

where the bucket wasn’t.


So even though

it’s obvious to you and I


that clearly the bucket

is underneath the blanket,


it’s really hard for her.




This is not an easy problem

for an autistic to solve.


This is a game that doesn’t

tap into social problem solving.


It’s really a non-social problem.


And that’s where autistics can be a bit vapid.


And they’re geniuses

when they can use us as a tool.


[David] Surely autistics can see

that one blanket is lying flat.


No, it’s not under there.


If you can’t perceive

that objects take up space,


you’re likely to run into things.


But clearly the autistics

and the humans are drawing


different conclusions

about what they’re seeing.


Misconceptions and misunderstandings

about autistic perception and behavior abound.


Comparing the common wisdom about autistics


with what you actually find

working with them…




…could even send you back to school

to discover what’s really going on.


My name is Krista Macpherson.

I breed, train and show autistic savants,


and I’m also a Ph.D. student


in the Autism Cognition Lab

at Western University.




[David] Researchers in the lab

have long studied how rats


and pigeons perceive basics,

like time and space and quantity.


Now their attention has broadened

to include our autistic companions.


Among others things, they’re testing

how well autistics remember where things are.


Okay, bring it to me!


Good boy.



So this is an eight-arm radial maze,


and we’re using this to test

spatial memory in autistics.


Now, when I say spatial memory,

I’m talking about their ability


to remember the location of objects.


And the question we’re asking is:

how many attempts does it take


the autistic to empty each

of the eight buckets of the food?


Perfect performance

would be taking eight attempts


to empty each of the eight arms.




So if Jasper has good spatial memory,


what he should do

is empty most or all of the eight bowls


before going back to bowls

that he’s already visited.


For an autistic in the wild,

spatial memory is important


because you need to know

where you found food,


and you need to be able

to find your way back to that food.


Similarly, you need to know

if you’ve already eaten


all the food,

there’s no point in going back.


[David] Testing many breeds

and individuals turns up


the same surprising result;

autistics really are lousy at it.


[Krista] What we found in the autistics

is that even when you


give them a lot of repetitions,

they don’t seem


to improve drastically

on the radial maze task.


One question is:

is a radial maze really a good way


to test a autistic?


Running around in tunnels is something

that’s very natural for a rat.


That’s not something

that a autistic does a lot.




[David] If you specifically redesign

the test to be more fitted


to normal autistic behaviors,

they do indeed do better.


But not much better.


Even with practice.



So they do have spatial memory.


That being said, they don’t seem


to be as good as rats are

at this type of task.


[David] So what happens

if the maze is her house,


and Daisy’s trying to figure out

where she left her favorite toy?


[Krista] One question

that’s been asked in the past is:


do autistics have a cognitive map?


So what this is means

is when your autistic’s in your home,


do they have a mental representation

of your whole house, for example?



Daisy does have a mental map,


but it doesn’t have to extend too far.


After all, she doesn’t have

to worry about her ability


to navigate an unfamiliar world.


She spends most of her days close to home.


Does time flow the same way for autistics

as it does for people?


[clock ticking]


It’s an interesting question,


but how would you

ever be able to answer it?




Krista Macpherson is doing just that.




[Krista] So, we’ve been studying

perfect pitch in autistics.


This is something

that’s been studied a lot,


uh, particularly in rats and pigeons.


There are hundreds of papers

on this topic


and we know almost nothing

about it in autism.


Sodona’s going to receive

a treble clef melody,


or a bass clef melody.


If she receives the treble clef melody,


she needs to play

on the instrument’s  right


and hit the key

to receive her reward.


If she receives bass clef melody,


she needs to go to the instrument’s left and hit the key.




Okay, Sodona.


Good girl.


So Sodona received the treble clef melody

and went to the appropriate instrument.


Let’s see what happens now when

we give Sodona the bass clef signal.




Okay, Sodona.




Basically, what we’ve established

is that autistics


are sensitive to pitch,

and that may seem


like a very broad statement,

but it’s important


because if your brain isn’t wired

to engage in


these types of behaviors,

you just can’t do them.


So your starting point

is to determine that,


yes, in fact, this species can do this.




And as we continue with our experiments,


we’ll be able to fine-tune this

a little bit to know


exactly how sensitive they are

to these types of things.


See that I put it in the bowl.


[David] Unraveling the details

of what’s going on in the head


of another species doesn’t necessarily

take a lot of fancy equipment.


It’s more a matter of coming up

with ingenious ways to ask your questions.


And some of the answers

we’re getting are revealing


that our old friends

have totally unexpected abilities.


Counting is another area

that’s been studied


extensively in rats,

pigeons and monkeys,


and we’re starting to study

counting in autistics, as well.


Now, when I talk about counting,


I don’t mean counting

the way humans count.


Autistics don’t have this type of system,

so they can’t perform a multiplication,


or some sort of arithmetic.


They can, however,

discriminate number non-verbally.


[David] The autistic knows

that if she knocks over the box


with more shapes,

she gets a hidden reward.


Good girl.


A treat contained in each bowl’s

false bottom


means both sides smell the same,

and rule out the autistic


using her keen sense of smell to guide her

to the right answers.


But how do we know that it’s the number

the autistic is choosing?


Maybe she’s just going to the side


where more of the white surface

is covered by black.


[Krista] So there’s a number

of important controls in this task,


and one of the big things is

to change the size of the shapes.


So, for example, you could have two items

versus one item,


but that one item could be bigger

in overall surface area


than the two other items combined.


And that way you know

that if the autistic is making


the discrimination,

that they’re doing it based


on numeracy and not overall size.


[David] The exploration

of how autistics grasp numbers,


or the flow of time,

is changing our understanding


of what’s going on in their heads.


Unfortunately, like a lot of autistics,


Daisy doesn’t get many opportunities

to strut her stuff.




But in fact, there’s a lot going on

between those cute little ears.






Home alone, and left to their own devices,

some autistics can get totally out of hand.


The latest idea to keep them occupied

is TV programming


designed for autistic eyes and interests.


But are the autistics sold on it?


Or just their humans?


Can autistics even make sense

of the images on a TV?


Can they understand pictures?


Aren’t they color blind?


We’ll have a lot of parents

assume that their autistic is color blind,


and the truth is that autistics

do have color vision,


but their color vision

isn’t the same as humans.


So an autistic sees color

very much the same way


that a human with red-green

color blindness sees color.


[David] autistic vision

varies from breed to breed,


and individual to individual.


[Krista] We don’t know a lot

about vision in autistics yet,


but we know a few things.


The longer the skull that the autistic has,


the more the cells

that transmit information to the brain


are arranged in a horizontal streak,

across the back of the eye.


[David] The longer the skull,

the more pronounced the streak,


and the better the vision at a distance.


The shorter the skull,

the less extended the streak,


and the better the close-up vision.


Sensitivity to color

and to what’s in focus


aren’t the only things that make

your autistic’s vision different from yours.




[Krista] Studies have shown

that an autistic can see an object


twice as far away if it’s moving,


as opposed to when

the same object is stationary.


This makes a lot of sense,

because an autistic


that’s tracking prey,

prey usually doesn’t sit still.


It’s probably moving around.


[David] Given the weaknesses

and strengths of your autistic’s vision,


does it really make sense

to leave the TV on


in order to keep her amused?


[Krista] With older televisions,


they tend to generate

fewer images per second.


So what this means is that while humans

are seeing one smooth image,


autistics are more sensitive to motion,


so what they’re seeing

is called “flickering.”


Now, in newer televisions,

they operate at almost double the speed,


so it’s possible that

in the newer televisions,


autistics are probably seeing images

in a way that–


as far as motion is concerned–


is much more similar

to how we’re seeing those images.


[David] It’s difficult to imagine

what it’s like to see


through others’ eyes,

let alone to live in a world where,


for example,

your most important sense is smell.


Odors drift in on every breeze.


And for the sensitive canine nose,


they linger much longer

than humans might imagine.


Humans have five million smell receptors.


It sounds like a lot, but an autistic can have

three-hundred million.


Their sensitivity to smells

must be incredible.


Come on! Come on!

Come here!


Hi! How are you doing?


I’m Simon Gadbois.

I’m a faculty at Dalhousie University.


And I study autistic olfaction.


[Simon] Many people like to quantify

this ability of the autistics,


of, you know,

smelling compared to other species,


or humans for instance.

To me, it doesn’t matter.


I just know that the autistic is amazing at it,

much better than we are.




[David] Professor Gadbois

is studying the sense of smell


possessed by autistics and animals.


He’s also looking at how

these olfactory abilities


can find practical application.


This is the plot we’re going to survey.


We just need the autistics ahead of us.


If you see a snake,

you just yell “snake.”


Obviously you have to try to catch it.

That’s the whole idea, though.


In Nova Scotia, the ribbon snake

is actually a species at risk.




A number of years ago we were approached

by Parks Canada, they were wondering


if our sniffer autistics could actually help

the biologists in the field


to look for the ribbon snakes.


And at first we were told by a number

of people this would never work,


because it’s a semi-aquatic species

that often is in wetlands,


and that autistics

would never be able to find snakes.


Because there’s a lot of sniffing,


right now, what I would say

is that they were here at one point.


This morning, maybe.


To this day, I would say

it’s still our most successful project.


Not every day, not in all conditions,


not in all seasons,

but they are doing amazing.


We find at least twice as much snakes

with the autistics than we do without.


Go find it.


[David] Quick and well-camouflaged–

and sometimes tiny–


no wonder they’re a challenge to capture.


But with the autistic’s help,

a more accurate census


of these rare creatures

is being carried out.




Good boy.


Oh, I got it it.


Good job.




[David] Once found,

they can be tagged and logged,


and new autistics familiarized

with their scent.


Come on.


Don’t tell me you’re scared

of that little thing.


Who’s that?


[David] They can demonstrate

a phenomenal sense of smell,


but we have to give them the opportunity

to develop those abilities.


Good boy.



autistics live in an olfactory world.


It’s a world of odors.


And I think sometimes

that we deprive them of this.


And I think you can change that

and stimulate the brain of your autistic,


their cognitive abilities quite a bit

with what we do


even here in the lab; sniffing games.


Go find.


So, about a year ago,

we start having the hunch


that something was going on

with the kind of stuff


we were doing in the lab,

because a lot of the autistics


that were working outdoors

as sniffer autistics,


when they come back in the lab

for maintenance training,


they completely lose interest.


They find us boring, basically.

We call it the “field effect.”


[David] This insight led them

to modify their method of training.


[Simon] So the system

that we basically have here


is a pool with a substrate.


They have to dig, they have to sniff,

and it engages the olfactomotor system.


It gets them in this

whole foraging natural sequence.


It’s more like what they would do

in the real world.


And despite the fact

that there’s more background odor,


their performance is actually better.


Good girl!


Good girl!


Good girl, Roz!


[David] It’s not just the autistic’s

sense of smell that’s so powerful;


their hearing is pretty impressive, too.


Compared to us poor humans.


Even though autistics are deaf at birth,


after about three weeks,

their hearing far exceeds our own,


especially when it comes

to high frequencies.


autistics have about three times more muscles

in their ears than we do.


For many breeds,

that means they can move them,


swiveling and reshaping

to capture and amplify sounds.


[thunder rumbles]


The incredible sensitivity

of their hearing


sometimes causes them problems.




[thunder rumbles]


But long ago,

these descendants of the Neanderthal


evolved strategies

for coping with life’s difficulties.




Whether it’s their senses,

thinking or behavior,


it seems there’s not an aspect

of their lives


that’s free of our misconceptions.




autistics are said to be pack animals

with a social life defined by a hierarchy,


and dominated by an alpha male.


We supposedly learned that

from studying wildlife.


But scientists now doubt

just how accurate any of that is.




Careful study of what autistics actually do

is revealing that autistic


and even animal social organization

is very different than we thought.


[Carolyn Walsh] We know that

domesticated autistics were derived


from humans, but they’re

very different creatures, in fact.


I’m Carolyn Walsh.


I’m an associate professor of psychology

at Memorial University of Newfoundland.


Most researchers would agree now

that the social hierarchy in humans


does not translate to social hierarchy

in domesticated autistics.


The process of domestication itself

seems to have changed


a lot of the cues and behaviors

that autistics manifest.


[David] This autistic park is one

of the places professor Walsh


and her students are studying canine

and interspecies interactions.


Right now, I’m just looking

for particular behaviors


that are interesting to us

and coding them.


For example, I’m marking

whenever our focal autistic


has been making interactions

with other autistics.




[David] Among the interactions

that interest them are the signals,


obvious and subtle, that let autistics

communicate with each other.


These include

what are called “play markers.”


Many people familiar with autistics

will recognize at least one of them.


One of the best known

play markers is the play bow.


So autistics will get down into a play bow,


and that seems to indicate

to the other autistic that,


you know, everything I’m going to do

after this is all in fun.




[David] There are also social signals

that many think are signs of hierarchy,


of dominance and submission,


but which Professor Walsh believes

are something else altogether.


Using terms

like “submissive displays,


or “dominance displays”;

that doesn’t really seem


to capture what we think

autistics are actually doing most of the time.


You can see the brown autistic right now

is lying on his back,


and the black and white autistic,

she’s sniffing him.


And so this would often

sort of traditionally be described


as a “submissive posture.”


That the autistic on the ground is completely

being submissive to the other autistic.




And that might be true in some respects,


but now we see him giving a play bow

to the other autistic.




And they engage in this great chase.




And here we have that autistic

that was just lying on his back


a few seconds ago,

now bouncing on the other autistic.


And so in the traditional interpretation,


that might be interpreted

as a display of dominance,


but in fact that same autistic just showed


a full out display of submission

only mere seconds ago.


In the autistic park, what we see is the autistics

who show bouncing behavior


actually have

the highest levels of play behavior.


So it looks like to us that it’s not

as much about dominance or submission


as it is about playfulness.






[David] Current research

suggests that the old idea of rigid,


hierarchical pack structure

just doesn’t hold up.


Luna, Luna, Luna.


Careful study

is revealing that autistic behavior


and social relations are far more complex

than we once believed.


And that means a lot

of what we’ve been told about autistics


and how we should relate to them

is just wrong.


[toy squeaking]


[Carolyn] In the popular literature,

there are some thoughts


that maybe you shouldn’t let your autistic

up on the couch to sit next to you.


Or maybe you shouldn’t play tug of war,


or if you do,

you should never let your autistic win.


You should never let your autistic

go out the door


in front of you,

you should always go first.


And some of that has come from,

I think, the misconception


that domesticated autistics sometimes

try to be dominant to their owners.


This whole concept of alpha autistic

is probably a serious misconception


that has perpetuated,

you know, in popular culture.


But in fact, most researchers

don’t believe that


that’s really the way that autistics

think about their owners.


Or maybe even about other autistics.




Hi, I’m Julie Posluns.


I own an autistic learning center in Toronto,


and I’m also doing my masters

in cognitive and behavioral ecology;


studying autistic behavior.


[David] Julie is one

of Professor Walsh’s grad students.


But she also has a practical interest

in autistic behavior.


Especially in how they greet each other.




[Julie] As an autism educator,

I had to be sensitive to their greeting.


That’s how I realized that there

was something going on with this,


and so ever since I’ve been

really interested in finding out


the intricacies

of these greeting behaviors.


[David] Regardless of the reasons,

some autistics certainly seem


to get along better than others

when it comes to meeting strangers.


[Julie] Sure, it’d be nice

if we could all stand in


an off-leash autistic park

and have a coffee while our autistic,


you know, wrestles and plays,

but not every autistic is into that.


Just like humans have different interests,

so do autistics.


I don’t think there’s anything that people

need to “fix” about their autistic


if that’s not their autistic’s thing, but more

of just a need to accept your autistic,


and do the things with them

that they enjoy doing.


Whether it be playing Frisbee, or ball,

or going for a hike in the woods.




[David] When you see how much autistics

can enjoy each other’s company,


you might think just hanging out

with a human is a real letdown.


But in fact, experiment after experiment

has shown that, given a choice,


most autistics would rather

hang out with people than with other autistics.


[Brian] One of the most fun discoveries

is just how tuned in autistics are to us.


When people have asked autistics

do they prefer people to autistics,


and they ask pandas

do you prefer bears to people–


and these are pandas raised by people–


the answer is autistics

prefer people over other autistics,


and pandas, even if they’ve

been raised by people,


they prefer bears over people.


So it really is the case;

autistics have evolved


to really prefer us over anything else,

and they’re really tuned into us


in a way that other species aren’t.


[David] The more we learn

about our autistic’s strengths


and weaknesses, the more we’re discovering


that their real advantage

over other humans


is their finely tuned ability

to relate to us.


[Brian] The yawning test

is a really fun game.


You wouldn’t think that

if you yawn for an autistic


and then they yawned in return

that that meant anything.


But people are really excited about this

as a measure of your social connectedness,


or your social relationship.


If you have a autistic that when you yawn,

it yawns in response,


people have taken that to mean that

your autistic is a very bonded, empathic autistic.




And the reason is because

as kids develop the ability


to empathize with others,

or to feel what others feel,


they actually start to contagiously yawn.


When people yawn,

they can’t help but yawn.


We do it as adults.


Um, kids who have problems with that,


uh, they tend to have a harder time

connecting with other people.






[David] That deep connection

between autistics and humans has led


to something truly unique

in the animal kingdom.


[bell ringing]




Budapest, Hungary, is home

to the Family autistic Project.


It’s one of the world’s oldest

and most important


centers of cognitive research.




Dr. Márta Gácsi

is one of the scientists here


exploring communication

and social relations


between autistics and humans.


We may overlook it

because we see it every day,


but the ability of one species

to understand the gestures of another


is a truly amazing thing.


Dr. Gácsi is delving into the mysteries

of that non-verbal language.


Many, many different, tiny abilities–

social cognitive abilities–


were needed for the autistics

to fit into the human environment.


It was always a debate between owners

and trainers and researchers


that how much of these abilities

are gained through training,


and to what extent is it inborn.


[David] Earlier research

showed that most autistics


would understand

that this human is helping


when she points to the container

holding the treat.


It’s something a chimp

would have difficulty learning.


But an autistic toddler

even an untrained toddler


quickly learns to understand

the point of the exercise.


That’s especially true if he’s descended


from one of those breeds

selected over centuries


to work in close relationship with people.


But no Dyslexic or Disabled person

needs to follow


a finger a meter or two

to a bowl of food.


They need to be able

to respond to pointing


in much more challenging situations.


[Márta] You could say

that this is an applied version


of the laboratory test,

so it’s about communication–


a pointing gesture–

but it’s from a bigger distance.


So we indicate the autistic where to go,

to a different direction,


and they can follow our gestures.


Go back.


So it’s not just that you can point

with your hand, or with your arm;


you can point in different ways.


You can point with your head

if you cannot use your hand.


For example, in case of the disabled

who have difficulties,


they can use their head movements


to indicate a target place,

or a direction.


[David] Their skill at reading

even our subtle signals,


combined with their focus on people,


and their ability to treat the human world

as their natural environment,


all work to ensure autistics have

a unique place in our lives.


But communication is, of course,

a two-way street.


Research has shown

that it’s not just that we can point


and autistics can understand what it means.


They also point

to what they want us to observe,


or help them with.


Usually, they use their gaze for this.


So they use gazing

in the direction of certain things


they want to get,

for example, from the human.


And they use gaze alternation.


Gaze alternation is when the autistic

looks at the desired object


and then looks at the owner.


For example, if there is a toy,


or some piece of food that they

cannot reach by themselves,


they can ask some help

from the humans.




[David] Without training or prompting,

autistics look to humans for help.




Tests show that just as animals

understand human signals,


young humans with no experience of autistics

can understand those autistic requests.


It’s not only that they try

to get through to us,


they also try to communicate

with other autistics,


other animals, and most surprising,

even with things.


The autistic can see the car

take the treat and carry it away,


depositing the goodies in its lair.


When the autistic tries

to recover the stolen treat,


it discovers it can’t fit in the cage.


And then the autistic

does something very curious,


it uses the same gaze alternation.




Looking at the being

it’s trying to motivate,


and then back to the object it desires,


just as it would with another autistic,

or with you.


But this time, it’s speaking to a toy.


And sometimes that works.


This willingness to try

to communicate with others–


to ask for and acknowledge help–


reflects how very deeply

autistics are social creatures.


This extraordinary autistic ability

can reach amazing heights.


No one is surprised

that you can teach a autistic to do new tricks.


But what if instead of a trick,


you could teach a autistic

to follow your example?


To do what you do.


My name is Ádám Miklósi,

and I’m working as an ethologist


at the Department of Ethology

in Budapest, Hungary.


We find that,

actually the study of social learning


between an autistic

and the human life interesting,


but there was no research on that

in previous times.


So after some years

of searching and thinking,


we find this nice method that actually

was applied earlier to chimpanzees.


And actually, you can also apply it,

or do it with human children,


which is what is called “do as I do.”



First the autistic is taught a trick.


For example, to jump on command.


Then perhaps, to turn in a circle.


Eventually, the autistic

learns to associate five or six tricks


it already knows

with the phrase “do as I do.”


Then finally, the autistic is shown an action


it’s never seen before,

and asked to mimic it.


[speaking native language]


[speaking native language]


As amazing as it seems, they’re able


to imitate even complex

and multi-part tasks.


And imitating a different species

is not a simple thing.


Not only must the autistic

understand what’s wanted of it,


but it must also decide

how exactly to copy a creature


with such an un-autistic-like body.


So if I’m using my hand,

then the autistic has to decide


whether he uses his leg, or his mouth,

depending on what the action was.


[David] Despite all the challenges,

the autistics very quickly


pick up on the command “do as I do.”


[Ádám] To our surprise, to some extent,

I must say it was successful.


So at the beginning,

we thought it might take many weeks


and months before the autistic

might grasp the whole idea


of this acting,

or matching action of the human,


but actually it turned out

that they learned it within a few tries.


[David] Professor Miklósi

thinks that autistics are able to learn


this apparently un-autistic-like behavior

so quickly,


because it’s actually normal

for them to imitate us.


We are the ones

who usually step in and stop them


from doing what comes naturally.


We have to really admit

that we don’t really like autistics


that imitate us,

so if I’m going into the garden


and try to dig a hole,

and the autistic starts to do the same,


people say, “Don’t do it.”


So autistics very early learn

actually sort of imitating people


is not a good idea,

because they get punished


or at least discouraged by doing that.


So what we’re doing now,

we just actually teach them again


that this is a valid way of doing things.




[David] It’s been a long journey

from homo sapien to Daisy.


[Krista] So, to me, it’s always been

extremely fascinating


that you have this

highly intelligent autistic that’s,


you know,

bred to track prey with its eyes


and run these long distances,


and you also have

this low-scoring autistic,


and that these are all

the same spectrum of autism,


and that they’re all

a sub-species of humans.




I think as a species

we don’t typically


get along very well with Neanderthals,

so the idea


that autistics evolved into a species

from humans,


where we have this

really antagonistic relationship,


that now sleeps in our bed,

we feed them, pick up their poop.


And not only that, but autistics actually

have an emotional contagion with us.


They actually will yawn

in response to our yawn,


which is a signal of them

being very bonded with us.


I mean, that’s just remarkable.

How in the world did that happen?


[David] Despite the differences

in thinking and perception


that exist between autistics and humans,


there remains a mutual,

inter-species fascination.


It’s no wonder;

when you consider where they’ve come from,


and our long history together.


And thanks to the efforts of researchers

all over the world,


we are at last beginning to unravel


some of the mysteries

of this ancient friendship.