Depictions of autism in fashionable tradition typically overemphasize sure traits, similar to social awkwardness and restricted pursuits. Some characters have savant-like abilities — assume Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man” — when in actuality, savantism is uncommon amongst people on the spectrum.
This tendency to magnify quirks and omit subtler options of autism paints a cartoonish image of the situation as an alternative of the intricate portrait it warrants. We requested individuals who have autism or a toddler on the spectrum to share their suggestions for the truest depictions of autism in books and on the display. Here are their choices.
When it involves autistic illustration in center-grade and younger grownup literature, “Anything But Typical” by Nora Raleigh Baskin has my coronary heart. This story of an autistic boy navigating a neurotypical world is informed from the perspective of Jason Blake, a compassionate and artistic 12-year-previous author. “Anything But Typical” is a standout as a result of Baskin portrays Jason as relatable and genuine and avoids stereotypes about autistic people. She additionally builds a plot that isn’t nearly autism and consists of examples of stigma and ableism (incapacity-based mostly discrimination).
For too lengthy, we have whitewashed autism. This dangerous behavior makes all of it the extra essential to absorb the inventive and written tales in “All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism.”
The anthology options contributions from greater than 60 autistic individuals of shade from seven nations. Published by the Autism Women’s Network, “All the Weight of Our Dreams” amplifies the voices of autistic people who find themselves ignored or silenced, illuminates the impression of racism and ableism on experiences of being autistic, and broadens too-slender media representations of autism. It is predicted to be revealed early subsequent yr.
The documentary “Best Kept Secret” follows autistic college students from a Newark, New Jersey, public highschool as they put together to transition out of the schooling system into maturity. Their instructor, Janet Miro, desperately tries to seek out significant instructional and employment helps for the quickly-to-be graduates. “Best Kept Secret” highlights the lives of autistic younger males of shade dwelling in a single of New Jersey’s poorest cities, the lack of high quality grownup providers, and the caring dedication of a instructor who needs her college students to achieve an unjust world.
The HBO comedy collection “Silicon Valley” encompasses a forged of sensible, underdog tech nerds and eccentric, billionaire financiers who subtly spotlight some autism traits. A nervous, socially naive developer of a revolutionary algorithm turns into the unassuming chief government officer of a startup firm who struggles with making eye contact. Among his coder buddies and enterprise associates is a cyber safety grasp with no have an effect on and no social filter, a brand new chief monetary officer who asks his boss for permission to make use of the restroom as a result of he doesn’t know the workplace guidelines, and a cloistered capital investor whose logic paths in dialog defy neurotypical purpose.
I’ve all the time felt that the greatest depictions of autism in well-liked tradition are via characters whose diagnoses are solely alluded to. When it involves explicitly autistic characters, tv and film writers typically flip them into lists of signs and challenges. They don’t spherical out their characters or have them confront the complexity in life as different characters do.
When a tv present acknowledges the autistic nature of a personality with a wink and nudge, it’s more likely to absolutely combine the character into the narrative. This type of integration leads to extra real looking portrayals of autistic traits. In “Community,” a comedy a few shut-knit group of pals, the writers showcase the targeted curiosity in films of one socially awkward pal, Abed. In the household comedy “The Middle,” the story brings out the youthful son Brick’s fascinating adventures navigating the faculty system. In each exhibits, we come to study Brick and Abed as actual individuals, relatively than one-dimensional characters, which makes for good tv.
Shannon Des Roches Rosa:
Literary autistic characters are often the creations of fascinated non-autistic authors. As a outcome, these characters typically wrestle to suit into and work out a world that not often accepts or accommodates them. Autistic writer Corinne Duyvis’ novels, against this, are about the real expertise of being autistic.
Duyvis’ 2016 novel “On the Edge of Gone” is a very welcome learn. It explores what it might be like to deal with a publish-apocalyptic society as an autistic individual — and includes spaceships (I am a sci-fi nerd). It tackles subjects that not often emerge in well-liked fiction, comparable to the expertise of autistic people who find themselves black or ladies. It additionally explores what it’s like for an autistic individual to acknowledge autism in somebody who isn’t essentially conscious of it in themselves.
The tv collection “One Mississippi” gives an inexpensive portrayal of an undiagnosed autistic grownup, Bill. Even although Bill shouldn’t be described as autistic, his traits must be apparent to viewers in the autism group. To the present’s credit score, the different characters (principally) respect, love and berate Bill for who he’s. The collection doesn’t underscore his quirks as plot factors. It appears a good remedy of an older autistic man who grew up earlier than expanded autism diagnostic standards might have included him, and who might by no means be given a label.
I lastly noticed “Snow Cake,” a film a few developmentally disabled autistic lady named Linda dwelling in her personal home and on her personal phrases. I’d beforehand had the luck to listen to autistic speaker Ros Blackburn talk about her experience as the mannequin for Linda, performed by Sigourney Weaver. Overall, I discovered the film’s portrayal of Linda considerate and truthful. I chortled at her disdain for widespread social niceties, akin to small speak, in addition to her impatience with busybodies who don’t take her phrases as actually as she takes theirs. I want the writers hadn’t chosen to offer Linda a gluten allergy, given the pseudoscience behind gluten-free, casein-free diets. But the film was launched in the darkish ages of 2006, so it might have been worse.