Amanda (Change of Habit)

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Lorena Kirk as Amanda
Portrayed by Lorena Kirk
Appears in Change of Habit
Year 1969

Amanda is a supporting character in the American drama film Change of Habit.

Character creation

Dr. Robert W. Zaslow, one of the founders of rage reduction therapy, is credited as supervisor of the rage reduction scene.

One biography of Elvis Presley describes actress Lorena Kirk as "semi-autistic" however it is unclear where this information came from and what exactly is meant by the term.[1]


She was abandoned by her mother and is being raised by her mother's sister, Miss Parker. Dr. Carpenter initially thinks that Amanda is deaf, because she doesn't respond to sounds. She is able to whistle however, indicating that she can hear (because she'd have to hear someone whistling in order to be able to mimic it). Sister Michelle suggests that Amanda is autistic, and explains the refrigerator theory of autism (namely, that autistic children are children who are abandoned, and then turn completely inward as a sort of punishment toward themselves and the world). Dr. Carpenter is apprehensive and still wants to consult a specialist. While he is walking home, he can hear Amanda whistle and concludes that she must in fact be autistic and not deaf. Sister Michelle wants to try a softer, "patience and love" approach, but Dr. Carpenter wants to do rage-reduction therapy. Rage-reduction therapy involves holding the child and letting the child struggle and get mad, to let out all of the anger, all the while giving the child positive affirmations of love. Dr. Carpenter starts doing this therapy, and Sister Michelle joins in later. It is unclear how long this therapy session lasts, but it seems to be going on for quite a while. Amanda is clearly upset, screaming and resisting Dr. Carpenter's grip, and Miss Parker has to leave the room because it pains her to see Amanda so upset. However, at the end of the session, Amanda starts yelling words, and is able to speak.

Later, Dr. Carpenter and Sister Michelle take her to the park, go get ice cream and go on a carousel. Dr Carpenter asks for a smile from Amanda but gets none. He sings the song Have a Happy, to which Amanda does end up smiling.

Amanda is also present at the feast of San Juan de Cheguez.


Amanda makes little eye contact and does not speak. She rocks back and forth and always hangs on to her doll. She does not enjoy being held. After the rage-reduction therapy, she starts to speak in short phrases and makes eye contact.

Although the refrigerator mother theory of autism has since been discredited (in part due to studies in the 70s that show autism has a genetic component), it was regarded as valid during the time when the film was made. Rage reduction therapy was already controversial at the time[2] and has since been debunked as a valid medical treatment.


Although some compliment the film for a pretty good shot at portraying autism when Amanda is first introduced, most of it is overshadowed by criticism of the outdated view of autism, along with the unrealistic result of seemingly being "cured" of her autism.[3][4]


External links