“From the time my brother was born, we could tell that he was not like other children. As a small child he had amazing skills—he could tell you what day of the week you were born, could figure prime numbers into the thousands, but he was incapable of holding a real conversation, of making friends. No one could tell us what might be wrong with Nicky or how to help him.”
—Lizzie Gottlieb, filmmaker
TODAY’S MAN tells the story of Nicky Gottlieb, a former child genius who, at age 21, is diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. People with Asperger’s, which is a form of autism, tend to be highly intelligent—often geniuses in certain subjects—but are unable to pick up on social cues. The subtleties of body language, facial expression, tones or gestures are lost to Nicky, and his own behavior can be considered by others to be bizarre and inappropriate.
One in 160 children today are born with some form of autism. Although Asperger Syndrome is considered to be on the high-functioning end of the autistic spectrum, it was only recognized in the U.S. in 1994. While there are an increasing number of resources for Asperger’s children, there are surprisingly few organizations and programs for adults with the syndrome, resulting in a “lost generation” of people like Nicky who must find their own ways to navigate life with this perplexing disorder.
TODAY’S MAN follows Nicky as he struggles to leave the safety of his family’s home and the comfort of his favorite TV shows in order to find a job and an apartment. Made by Nicky’s sister Lizzie Gottlieb, the film is a sister’s search to understand her brother’s mysterious inner life and a larger effort to comprehend Asberger Syndrome and the people who struggle with it.
Filmmaker Lizzie Gottlieb provided updates in November 2007 on what Nicky has been up to since filming ended:
Nicky is still living at home with our parents.
He is teaching Italian to two ladies and tutoring high school kids in math.
The most significant thing that has happened is that he has made a friend.
He didn’t go back to the Asperger group that he goes to at the end of the film, but he did start going to a different group where he met a lovely young woman who also has Asperger Syndrome. They talk on the phone daily and go out to dinner and to museums. They enjoy each other and feel that they are helping each other. This is the first friend Nicky has ever had who is a peer.
The most exciting thing that has happened to Nicky is that he has spoken on the phone —twice—to Mrs. Rogers, wife of his hero. He is planning a trip to Pittsburgh to possibly meet her and to view old Mr. Rogers episodes that are not available elsewhere.
Nicky and I have been traveling to festivals and events to screen the movie. He and I answer questions afterwards. He is poised and articulate, funny, insightful and happy, but seems to take it all in stride. People congratulate him and even sometimes ask for his autograph.
We are hoping to find a way for him to live on his own. We would like to create a home for young adults with Asperger Syndrome, where they could live independently, but with some supervision. And maybe Heather Locklear could stop by.
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