Are you interested in writing nuanced and non-stereotypical Autistic characters in your work?
Autistic people have historically been misinterpreted in media and entertainment. Our reactions to Atypical, Rain Man, and The Good Doctor are full of frustration and consequences at these misrepresentations.
We are literally boycotting writing, tv shows, and movies that are based on limited-researched Autistic characters.
Ryan Boren has collated posts and tweets by Autistic people about their reactions to the show Atypical.
As a writer you will find them useful. Lots of us Aspie’s won’t watch Atypical because it misrepresents us, further promotes myths, and shows negative stereotypes about us as a ‘norm’.
Atypical and Autism Representation
The worst thing for us Autistic people when the *reasons* of our characteristics and reactions are guessed at and dismissed. (See research items 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 11)
Dramatizing our characteristics, making us all non-verbal, making us geniuses, and having us never understand social cues – quite frankly – doesn’t make sense.
Just listen to Doctor Mike – (I am not saying he is Autistic) react to the way the Autistic Doctor is written in the TV show “The Good Doctor”.
Scenario ideas based on real life
What about some of these scenarios – a character showing loyalty to their first boss decades later, extremely high empathy when we realise that someone or an animal is sad or distressed, maybe even a history of being bullied in their workplace.
We can experience illnesses and pain in extremes and everything up to not at all. You could have a character walking around for a couple of months with a broken bone or rib.
Speaking of health, gee it’s very hard to get listened to and treated for things when we know we are not well. A character could try to get help for severe pain, but because they are not reacting visually the way that medical staff expect and assume a person must. Masking our pain and distress (see item 3) causes us to be dismissed for decades and by many doctors.
An interview on this is by Yenn Purkis on Positively Autistic. Kathy Isaacs of Access Health Autism shares her experiences as an Autistic person, a Registered Nurse, and liaison between Autistic people and their medical team)
You’ve got a few scenario ideas, lets move on to key phrases and research items to research.
I highly recommend getting a number of Autistic beta readers to give you feedback before publishing. (Research item 1)
Key points and phrases you can research
Note: Bullet points with Ref) mean I will outsource to other Autistic consultants who have direct experience in them, and have exhaustively researched those topics.
1. Why the phrase “Nothing about us without us” – the importance of listening to and including Autistic adults in writing and projects about Autism (and formerly Aspergers). Atypical, Rain Man and The Good Doctor misrepresentations and boycotting
2. Ref) Person first vs identity first language
3. Ableism and its consequences including Masking, Anxiety, PTSD, and Depression
4. Co-morbid conditions and DSM 5
5. Autistic burnout
6. Refusal to assess and even diagnose females, especially adult women
7. Ref) Autism Sp$aks and ABA
8. Ref) Varied colours of Autistic representation and puzzle piece history
9. Ref) Gender diversity including asexual, epicene, and transgender
10. Birth gender> transgender> birth gender
11. Ref*) Discrimination of Autistic *white males compared to *Autistic people of colour, Autistic females, white Autistic females, and *Autistic LGBTIQA+ people
Consulting and beta readers
I am offering a paid consultancy service ($80 AUD) plus referrals to three beta readers ($260 AUD) for your writing.
You will receive written feedback that includes red flags, recommendations for manuscript changes, and pointers for author research.
You are welcome to check out my blog posts, Facebook page, twitter threads, podcasts, and YouTube channel for examples of misrepresentations and the consequences on my life. They are all free.