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Alexander "Alex" Plank (born June 27, 1986) is an autism advocate, filmmaker, actor, and the creator of Wrong Planet. He is known for his consulting work on FX's The Bridge. After being diagnosed at the age of 9 with Asperger syndrome, Plank started Wrong Planet in order to find others like him on the Internet.[1] After the popularity of Wrong Planet grew, Plank has been frequently mentioned in the mainstream media in articles relating to autism, Asperger's, and the Autism rights movement.[2][3][4]

Background

As a child, Plank was bullied, excluded, and ridiculed by his peers, according to the book Neurotribes. He only found out about his diagnosis of Asperger's after looking through papers in his parents' drawers when he was nine years old. During his teen years, he searched the internet to find others like him but was frustrated by the lack of sites for individuals with autism. He was a Linux developer while still in high school and was familiar with the tools needed to create an online community so after meeting Dan Grover, he created Wrong Planet at the age of 17.[5]

Alex Plank's story regarding the founding of Wrong Planet is covered in the special education curriculum of many universities in the United States. A page is dedicated to Alex Plank and his story in a textbook used by various universities such as the University of Virginia and George Mason University for introduction to special education courses.[6][7][8][9]

Autism Talk TV

In 2010, Plank started an Internet television program called Autism Talk TV. The venture is unfortunately sponsored by Autism Speaks.[10] Rosie O'Donnell and John Elder Robison talked about the show on Rosie Radio[11] A front page article from The New York Times, entitled "Navigating Love and Autism," written by Amy Harmon, was published in December 2011 about the romantic relationship between his two autistic co-hosts Jack Robison and Kirsten Lindsmith. Alex Plank, Wrong Planet, and Autism Talk TV were discussed.[12] 24 episodes have been produced, the last to date on February 21, 2013.[13]

The Bridge

Alex Plank serves as a consultant for the TV series The Bridge and works with Diane Kruger on developing her character.[14] He made his on-screen acting debut in the finale of season one, playing the role of the intern at the El Paso Times.[15] Diane Kruger stated that Plank was on set every day, would go to the writers room, and was "instrumental" to both her performance and to the writers, as he would also work with the writers in the writers room.[16][17] Kruger also stated that, while working on the show, she spent more time with Plank than with her partner and friends.[18] Plank introduced a variety of autistic tendencies into Kruger's character of Sonya Cross, including stimming, awkwardness around eye contact, and a flat affect.[19]

The way in which Plank got hired to work The Bridge is somewhat unconventional. He was reportedly called out of the blue by an executive at FX who had heard of Plank. The executive proceeded to ask him questions about his experiences and his knowledge of autism. After this, Plank was contacted by the showrunner, Elwood Reid who invited him to the writers room to talk with the team of writers. It wasn't until after he met with Diane Kruger that Plank was offered a full-time position on the show.[20]

French documentary

Plank travelled to France in February 2012 to direct a documentary exposé, entitled Shameful, concerning the way in which autism is viewed and treated in France. The film is currently in post-production and has been covered by publications in both France and the United States, including L'Express and Vivre FM, a radio station in Paris. A trailer was released in July, 2012.[21] Along with French activist David Heurtevent, Plank founded Autism Rights Watch, a non-governmental organization for which he serves as president.[22]

William Freund controversy

In 2006, Alex Plank was sued by the victims of a 19-year-old member of the site, William Freund,[23] who shot two people and himself in Aliso Viejo, California.[24] Plank appeared on Good Morning America and Fox News discussing the incident.

Other work

Plank gave the keynote speech at the Autism Society of America's national conference in 2010.[25][26][27] He also gave the keynote at the ASCEND conference in San Francisco.[28] According to People Magazine on September 26, 2015, Plank would be speaking at a conference in San Diego during which he would also be involved in the first "all-autism" wedding serving as DJ and best man.[29]

References

  1. Dan Hallahan: Exceptional Learners: Introduction to Special Education (10th Edition) 2006, page 452
  2. http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/features_julieshealthclub/2008/04/autistics-dont.html Chicago Tribune: Some Autistics Don't want to be Cured
  3. nymag.com/news/features/47225/ The New Wave of Autism Rights Activists - New York Magazine
  4. http://www.salon.com/life/feature/2008/09/18/lynn_harris/ Salon: The "Retarded" Renaissance
  5. Steve Silberman: NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity 2015, page 454
  6. Dan Hallahan: Exceptional Learners: Introduction to Special Education (10th Edition) 2006, page 452
  7. http://teach.virginia.edu/index.php?option=com_currypeople&userid=dph&task=detail The Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia
  8. http://cehd.gmu.edu/assets/syllabus/EDSE401-501-C01-04D-McDuffie.pdf George Mason University
  9. http://oregonstate.edu/education/programs/syllabi/COUN548.doc
  10. http://blog.autismspeaks.org/2010/08/13/autismtalktv//
  11. Rosie Radio, September 9, 2010
  12. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/26/us/navigating-love-and-autism.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 Navigating Love and Autism "The New York Times", December 26, 2011
  13. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfznHlLcI7w How to Stop Teasing and Bullying - Autism Talk TV 24
  14. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/bridge-eps-stars-talk-aspergers-598863 'The Bridge' EPs and Stars Talk Asperger's, Tweaks in Season 2
  15. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2920010/fullcredits?ref_=tt_cl_sm#cast
  16. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/bridge-eps-stars-talk-aspergers-598863 'The Bridge' EPs and Stars Talk Asperger's, Tweaks in Season 2
  17. http://www.ign.com/articles/2013/08/07/the-bridge-producers-and-diane-kruger-on-sonyas-aspergers The Bridge Producers and Diane Kruger on Sonya's Asperger's
  18. http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/blogs/the-tribal-mind/from-rain-man-to-the-bridge--the-art-of-aspergacting-20130724-2qi45.html Sydney Morning Herald: From Rain Man to The Bridge -- the art of Aspergacting
  19. http://www.kcrw.com/news-culture/shows/the-business/creating-authentic-autistic-tv-characters
  20. http://www.kcrw.com/news-culture/shows/the-business/creating-authentic-autistic-tv-characters
  21. http://www.vivrefm.com/infos/lire/365?fb_comment_id=fbc_10152020961535594_34760064_10152033318135594#f2af77ec692c462 "Shameful", la honte, le documentaire choc réalisé Alex Plank et Noah Trevino sur l'autisme en France July 16, 2012
  22. http://blogs.lexpress.fr/the-autist/2012/09/27/autisme-une-ong-intervient-sur-le-sol-francais-pour-denoncer-la-responsabilite-de-letat/ Autisme : une ONG intervient sur le sol français pour dénoncer la responsabilité de l’État. September 27, 2012
  23. http://www.guardian.co.uk/usguns/Story/0,,1642081,00.html A loaded discussion. The Guardian, November 14, 2005.
  24. http://articles.latimes.com/2006/nov/18/local/me-asperger18 Relatives sue over shotgun slayings "Los Angeles Times", November 18, 2006
  25. http://www.autism-society.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=16342&news_iv_ctrl=1882
  26. http://asa.confex.com/asa/2010/webprogram/Session5186.html Autism Society's 41st National Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders: Keynote: Making Connections Online: Communicating through Blogs and Online Communities
  27. http://lbnuke.com/2010/07/22/autism-society-conference-keynote-with-alex-plank/ Autism Society Conference Keynote with Alex Plank — LBnuke
  28. http://blog.sfgate.com/lshumaker/2014/10/02/autism-employment-and-more-at-aascend-conference-oct-18/
  29. http://www.people.com/article/all-autism-wedding-san-diego

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