Saturday, August 12, 2017

Change begins with us







So Atypical is out on Netflix, and I was planning on working up my courage to watch it and do a nice in depth review. But then in depth reviews were released by autistic people so I didn't have to.

This thread on twitter in depth reviewed the show scene by scene, just reading it, I could barely stomach it; Absolutely horrifying: https://twitter.com/disabilisaur/status/896043362792419328

It really upset me, not because I was really surprised- even though I was in a way, but because it made me aware of how much we still have to work on in society. How much we're still ignored or seen as other in society. 

I was in no way expecting this show to be good. They completely left autistic people out of it, from consultation to casting a neurotypical actor over an autistic one, I knew it would be inaccurate at best. But this, this is worse than even I could've imagined. This is offensive, disgusting, and probably one of the most inaccurate portrayals I've seen of autism, ever.  It is so bad that someone said they related to the neurotypical sister more than Sam. That just shows you how terrible this show is.

I was hoping there'd be some tolerable things about it, and the bad would be less, ya know, bad. I was hoping I could have a nice list of critiques so I could write to the producers on what they should fix. But it's impossible, there is too much. This show is full of bad- literally, the only thing anyone complimented the show on is the unique special interest in penguins, but his special interests are shamed, the message is you should love people who don't like your interests and you should tone down your excitement for them. Good God, did they meet with the head of ABA for this show? It's disgusting, and beyond offensive, and I'm ashamed that Netflix would pick this up at all. 

But this is not the time to lose hope or feel down or defeated. In times like this, we cannot stay silent, and we cannot hold back. Boycott this show, do what you can- message the producers, message Netflix, get shows like this off the air. This show is already out there, but we can stop it from getting a second season of ableist nightmares. 

And now is a time more than ever to share your stories, pitch your stories, embrace whatever creative passion you have, support autistic creators, and be apart of the change. We cannot allow ourselves to be silenced, we have authentic autistic voices and we can use them or we can keep them in. The choice is up to us.

Whatever you can do, do it. It is the duty of autistic people to change this. To be advocates in whatever way we can. We have enough shit on us in society, the last thing we need is another crappy show promoting the idea that we're robotic, violent, unlovable, burdens, and good for nothing. We are some of the most successful, loving, lively people you will ever meet. Most autistic people go completely under the radar because we first off, are nothing like the stereotypes proposed of us, and second, we, in a lot of ways, appear and go about our days just like you. We're not just like you in other ways, but we are all human, so let's embrace our differences but also look at what we have in common. Autistic people are getting diagnosed more and more, soon there will be as many open autistic people in society as there are allistic ones, there will be no choice but to learn about us and listen to us, because nobody but us can teach you about us. Our brains are wired differently, but humans all fall on some spectrum, there are things that bring us together and make us different. In fact, our differences are the one thing that we all have in common. If nobody is normal like we all like to live by, then why are we teaching autistic people they need to strive for something that doesn't exist? What makes us unique is what gives us an advantage, we are some of the best artists, thinkers, inventors, creators, discoverers, and voices in this world right now. We will not be ignored. 

My fellow autistics, we will scream, we will scream until we go hoarse. We will make them listen. Because if we don't let it out no one will know. Change doesn't happen unless it's worked upon. We are the change. 

And don't doubt for a second your voice doesn't matter, because it does, and change does happen. If not slowly, but definitely surely. Change happens, and it's happening right now, but only because of us. Only because of us. 



Here is an article on Atypical by the amazing Mickey Rowe, an autistic actor who is changing the game. I have no doubt he's going to do big things, because he already is, and he's opening so many doors for not just autistic actors and performers, but autistic people in general. 


Slowly but surely, it's getting better. It goes backwards but not for long. We are getting there. Change is a ripple affect, one little voice can create big change. Don't doubt you can create big change. The change may just begin with you. 



~ Skyler 


Update:

The #actuallyatypical hashtag on twitter. A+. Gives me hope.

Update of the update:

Another good twitter thread- https://twitter.com/rboren/status/896822448536072193

Update of the update of the update:

NOS Magazine is reviewing all the episodes and it's excellent


Update 2: Electric Boogaloo:

The amazing invisible strings hit the nail on the head https://twitter.com/m_kelter/status/897477059752099841

So many updates:

https://themighty.com/2017/08/atypical-autistic-review/



Saturday, August 5, 2017

More on representation because boy is this a relevant topic




*Before I start this post, I want to note that I use "you" generally. There is no specific person I'm talking to, more like whoever the topic or message is directed to*


Here we are again. A show or character portraying autism is confirmed. Neurotypicals hype it up but I don't feel an ounce of excitement. Maybe a little, but it usually dies down after reading about said new show.  

Both Netflix and ABC are making series's about autism: Atypical and The Good Doctor. With Julia on Sesame Street, who I will be getting to later in this post, I was feeling more hopeful. But sometimes it feels like five steps forward equals five steps back. 

The same old same old- male dominated, "trouble reading emotions and engaging with the world around [him]" We have one hand which is The Good Doctor, which I personally had a little bit of hope for, my mom said that they got a few things right, which I'll admit, watching the trailer, some things were ya know, not horrible, but we both had fears. Then I saw the dreaded two words "savant syndrome" also "high functioning"

You all know why I hate functioning labels, but I don't think I've discussed savant syndrome. 

I hate the term Savant Syndrome for a couple of reasons. One, it derives from "idiot savant" and that speaks for itself. Two, it's yet another thing where autistic people are seen as "other", and also seen as less then; Less smart, less capable, less anything at all, and therefor we're put in these little categories. If a neurotypical person has specific needs, they're just needs. Our needs are "special needs" If a neurotypical person has high or genius IQ, it's just that. We have "Savant Syndrome" And lastly, it's a way to dance around saying "autism" Autism isn't the word of the devil, you know, it's okay to say it. It's like they think the mere utter of the dreaded A word that a sentient puzzle piece will appear and chase them into a dark alley screaming "WANNA TALK ABOUT TRAINS?!"

Not to mention, a very small percentage of autistic people are classified as having "Savant syndrome"; Regardless of it being a useless term, as I believe everyone has their "genius" in one way or another, especially autistic people, the people actually diagnosed (diagnosed? Is that correct? That's what's so confusing! Is it a "condition"? Is it is term? I don't know) with this is actually very small. I believe like maybe five percent of all autistic people are considered Savant. Even though I absolutely hate the male dominated autism representation, if they insist on doing it, why portray something that is so very small? What annoys me is so many shows perpetuate this stereotype that autistic equals extremely high genius abilities and IQ, but so many of us have not received a diagnosis because we didn't have any intellectual or learning delays. Despite my intense struggles otherwise, I had early language and advanced skills in things, and "average/high intelligence" so therefor I was completely ignored and labeled "shy" or "eccentric" If autistic people are supposed to be "highly intelligent", then why was I so ignored for so long because of it? 

I also hate it because, specifically with The Good Doctor, it's your typical "ahh!! Autistics are scary!!! They are loud and uncontrollable!!1 I do not respect them as humans because they're basically half human anyways!!7 wai-WAIT A SECOND. They have a SPECIAL TALENT??! That can be useful to ME?!! Well, why didn't you just say so?!2 Now I can see them as an equal :-)" and instead of condemning this is or using it as a way to start a conversation about this very problem, it's passed off as normal; Or worse, etiquette. 


Aside from this, there are just so many things wrong with both shows, and I haven't even seen them yet or even want to. What's the point of watching something you know is going to be the same? It gets to that point.

Any hope I had for either shows has slowly been more and more lost. Neither are out yet and they're already incredibly problematic. 

For instance, with The Good Doctor, the autistic community voiced our concerns like any minority would in a situation like this and we basically got a response of "shut up autistics!! We're trying to talk about autism here!!1" just more politely, or something. Okay. Listen pal, you're representing THE AUTISTIC COMMUNITY and as far as I can see you're not consulting us, we have every damn right to be picky. This is about US. I'm sorry the mean, grumpy autistics hurt your precious feelings- actually, I'm not. When you actually care about us, I'll care about your feelings ¯\_()_/¯

Both shows also have went the route of casting neurotypical actors (one of which has playing a serial killer in his previous line of works and I'm hoping he doesn't use the same emotionless, serial killer glare for this role). Apparently, according to Atypical's crew, autistic actors auditioned, but the neurotypical actor they went with "was best fit for the part" you have to be shitting me. You're telling me, a neurotypical actor, was more authentic in the role of an autistic person than an autistic person. You have to be shitting me. This has to be a joke. They apparently do have autistic people in their cast, but nobody in the main cast. Yeah... okay. 


This just pisses me of SO MUCH. Disabled actors f!&%ing exist and THEY ARE DYING TO BE GIVEN THE SAME CHANCES! I am autistic, and from the time I was just a little peewee I've dreamed of Broadway and stages, I'm a huge musical theatre geek, I adore singing, acting, and performing, and any role or opportunity I can have to do it feels like I've won the lottery. I've gone in spurts with my passions, but this is really the one thing that truly sticks, to me, performing is a natural. Musical theatre is a place where outcasts naturally belong; A place where I get to follow scripts, be a million different people and live in a million different worlds, just do what I love, perform for people without having to interact with them (which is weird, I panic being one on one with people but I adore performing in front of them, despite initial stage fright), something that I can use my tunnel vision hyperfocus on, something that's very routine and structured, something that has always been a great comfort to me. Autistic people are often natural actors, we tend to be skilled mimics, we use scripting in our everyday lives, and have giant imaginations. 

Speechless, which I love and adore and would literally marry if it were, like, a person- is that weird? Yes. Speechless is, literally the only show with a disabled lead played by an actual disabled actor, the producers all have experience with disabilities, every recurring or guest disabled character they introduce is also played by disabled actors (including an autistic actor REPRESENT) and the creator, he is just so good, he is just as passionate and angry about this, having a disabled brother himself, he's out here saying CAST DISABLED ACTORS!! ITS NOT THAT HARD!! At this point, it's not about it being hard, it's that we just don't want to. It's more convenient for everything to be neurotypical, even neurodiverse representation. The producer of Speechless said in an interview that he went in about the pitch expecting to fight for the representation, but he didn't, they went with the idea. Which makes me think maybe it's not that it's a struggle to higher disabled actors, it's just that we don't want to. It's more convenient to higher an actor that doesn't need accommodations (except, they do. They're just different from a ramp or headphones) 


The only major autistic character we have right now played by an autistic actor is in an off Broadway production of The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Nighttime, which has a history of being played by neurotypical actors, but Mickey Rowe, who I don't know much about, but hope I hear that name a lot in the future- he's autistic and he's changing the game. He's opening huge doors for autistic people who want to go into theatre as well as hope for autistics seeing themselves portrayed on stage. I've read some of the articles he's been in, and he discussed how acting is natural for autistics since we do it everyday! It is natural for us with scripts, with mimicking, and all that jazz. Naturally, many of us lean towards acting and performing careers, as it's a natural, easy thing. It isn't a career or a hobby, it's our lives, it's an instinctive survival mechanism. 

One argument on casting autistic actors is that "oh well the social and sensory and communication issues!!!! Won't it be overwhelming???¿" One- you're casting neurotypical people to imitate these exact issues,, won't it be more authentic,,, if they're actually, ya know,, natural??? Second of all, if you actually care about autistic people and representing us, you can take two damn seconds out of your ever so precious time to accommodate an autistic actor on set. Give them breaks, as any actor needs. Walk them through things, as any actor needs. And make sure they're comfortable on set, AS ANY ACTOR NEEDS! Why is it so different? It's not. There's just this fear, and a comfort in being ignorant in this society, and that is what holds autistic people back, not our autism. 

Disabled actors are not being cast not because we can't act, we can act just as well (if not better) than any other actor. We're not being cast because we live in a society that is lazy and doesn't want to even try to accommodate anything deemed "too big" or "too hard" We live in a society that has come so far with accepting differences but there's still so much stigma, fear, assumptions, and ignorance. We see autistic people as hollow and transparent, we talk to "professionals", siblings, parents, friends, loved ones; Anyone but us. You group us all together, and make assumptions on our abilities without even asking us. You could be looking right at an autistic person and still ask "what are the autistic people thinking? What are they like? Guess we'll never know...,," I'M RIGHT HERE. I am a full and lively human being, I am just as human as anyone else. I am not high or low functioning, I function like me. I do what I can do. I go out and I survive. Unless if I'm extremely anxious or melting down (which extremely rarely happens out in the open in public, I either hide somewhere safe or do it at home) you couldn't tell I'm autistic, I go about my day "like anyone else" But I'm autistic, I struggle, but I also thrive. I'm very capable and competent and I can achieve what I put my mind to with hard work and passion. I won't anything or anyone stop me. I'm going to break barriers and change minds. Autistic has no look. It has no set way. We aren't all 4 year old mathematic, train loving boys or Temple Grandin. Some of us are just "ordinary"- in our own extraordinary way. It's a spectrum, and that doesn't mean some line of "this way" or "that way" Autism is colorful, wavy, bumpy. It goes round like a rainbow and every autistic person stands in their own unique little spot. It is so large and so diverse, and despite hallmark similarities, we are all individual. Every human is an individual, every single one of us. We have our own footprints, and we have our own unique voice and story. No one, not even the most identical people, could ever truly, biologically be the same. Difference is the one thing we all have in common. We're all wired to be different, not to be neatly placed in some nonsense box. 



Something else I dislike about The Good Doctor is that it quietly promotes this idea that autistic people must be constantly and wildly out of their comfort zone and forced to be okay with not having any accommodations in order to succeed. The autistic character, or no, sorry, the SAVANT character, has sensory issues that lead to meltdowns, and has no headphones, no workplace accommodations that I can see from the trailer- anyone who actually watched this please correct me if I'm wrong, and while portraying meltdowns and sensory overload is important, you don't have to like,,, strip the character of accommodations to do it. Also I feel like every autistic character has to have some sort of obligatory scene of walking around in the world, scurrying about; Every actor uses the same exact posture and fidgeting; And they're just like, "I don't equate??? Humans aren't numbers?¿" It's this whole dissociation thing, and while that's, ya know, pretty accurate, they do it SO WRONG. 

Also STOP FOCUSING ON EMOTIONS! Difficulty with emotions is not the only freaking autistic trait!! Holy crap!!! For many autistic people, including myself, though we're all different, can generally grasp the emotions of others, and our own, it's just expressing ours and expressing them to other people that can be a struggle. But it isn't a lack of emotion or even understanding, it's an overwhelm of it, and not knowing what to do with it all. Give me emotional overload. Give me hyperempathy. Give me other damn traits besides just emotional stuff for the love of stimming. I love stimming so much- I need to stay on topic. 

STIMMING. That is actually an important thing. YOUR CHARACTERS NEED TO STIM. Sitting perfectly still is so inaccurate not even The Neurotypicals™ can do that. We are not robots, though with the representation you give us, I'm convinced you think we are. Give me flapping, rocking, leg bouncing, verbal stimming, playing with stim/fidget toys/tools, etc. etc. just general moving and fidgeting!! Stimming is not only a form of expression but a form of communication, and it is a very important and vital part of being autistic, it is not bad, it is very good, and should not be suppressed unless if it is harmful- But stimming in general is not inherently harmful or bad in itself. 


Atypical, there are maybe like 2 things out of all I've seen that I like, everything else is just so so so WRONG. It's already so problematic, literally one of the only twitter accounts the official page follows is Autism Speaks. They're just begging for backlash, I think they're trolling us. 5 steps forward, 5 steps back. 

Atypical is a "dark comedy"  meaning it's comedy that takes on a "serious" subject, and, you know what, Speechless is a "dark comedy" but it's the kind that does it respectfully, you're laughing with the character not at them, there are jokes specifically for disabled people. But this is the kind of "dark comedy" where I can just tell already the punchline is the autistic characters traits; The traits will be completely overplayed for comedic relief. And I don't just have suspicions, it's basically confirmed. According to the show, the main characters bluntness "gets him into situations" LOL!! Haha! XD He's so HONEST!! Autistic people are like, so honest!! It's funny!!! They're able to speak their mind, unlike, like, real people!1 I respect them for that uwu.

The clips we have right now for the show all solely are based on this kid trying to find love and be normal (even though, that isn't real!! We gotta say that a million times while also quietly promoting that it is real!!!) I'm sorry I keep referring to him as "the boy/kid" or "the main character" I just forget his name and don't feel like googling this hell carnival to get it. One clip is of him and his mom in the car, having a sentimental talk about fears (specifically of talking to girls), which ends with the main character expressing his hope and desire to eventually "see boobs" I mean,,, I relate,,,, but. 


Also I strongly, STRONGLY dislike the way they're branding this show. They're branding it with this "this isn't the "autism show" EVERYONE can relate!!1 What's normal?? WE'RE ALL QUIRKY!! LOL!!" It reeks of "we're all a little autistic" mentality and it annoys the crap out of me. Ya know what, nobody is normal, but there are neurotypical people, and they do have advantages that autistic people will never have. They have experienced things close to normality, and while nobody is normal, some people come pretty damn close and don't have to actually worry about being seen as "normal" because they already are. A wish for normality, especially in this characters case, is really just a fear of not being respected or seen as desirable. Not all of us have to worry about that. Please don't try to tell me that they do. 


And there are billions and trillions of shows for "everyone" There are billions and trillions of characters who could be autistic but instead we must share with "everyone" There are billions and trillions of autistic characters who's purpose is to educate the audience. For once, just for once, I want a character for me. One I don't have to share with neurotypical people, one who's specifically relatable to ME, one that's sole purpose isn't to educate or even cater to neurotypical people. You know what, educating neurotypical people is important, but neurotypical characters are allowed to exist without being some sort of education prop to me all the time, so why can't I for once just have a regular human character, going on with their lives, that has a brain like mine. Is it THAT HARD? Because naturally flowing representation is what educates people; Representing and seeing us fellow humans rather than some entirely different species is what educates people. And there are billions of actual autistic people out here trying to educate neurotypical people, if all it takes is a television show to get them to listen, then someone should give us the memo. But seriously, education is important, but stop focusing so hard on it, instead focus on giving us good representation. Representation matters more than anyone thinks it does.

Every time I see some neurotypical straight white guy talk about "why do we need representation anyways?? Why not just focus on making good shows" okay, but that's easy for you to say because you HAVE representation. Imagine being a kid of color and seeing all your white friends having dolls to play with that look like them and not seeing one that looks like you. Imagine being a young person coming to terms with your sexuality and seeing constant "straight, straight, heterosexual, opposite sex love" everywhere you turn and feeling alienated and unnatural. Imagine being a transgender and being portrayed as a flamboyant drag queen or misguided kid, seeing acid actors get to put your identity on like a costume without understanding it at all. Imagine being a neurodivergent kid who not only rarely gets any media representation, let alone good representation, and seeing people base their opinions based on stereotypes. Imagine being mentally ill or autistic and being thought of as evil, violent, or some mass shooter because of how you're misportrayed in the media. Imagine being a minority who rarely sees themselves positively, let alone at all, in the media- which, no matter if you want to face it or not, greatly shapes our opinions and ideas, it gives us information- often wrong, which can spread fear and stereotypes. So yes, representation does matter, it matters a lot. So until you are in our shoes, please, frankly, shut the hell up. This may not be the biggest problem, but it is one of them. It may not seem important, but it is, it really is. 


And now onto possibly the most frustrating thing of all, the lack of consultation of autistic people. 

Autistic people and our allies are here, and we are screaming it from the rooftops, for the love of whatever you believe in, CONSULT AUTISTIC PEOPLE FOR AUTISTIC REPRESENTATION!!!! !!! And not just autistic people, consult any disabled or neurodivergent person for representation, or any minority, or just any group you're trying to represent. Nothing about us without us.

My mom put this very well (Mom, if you're reading this, which I know you are since you stalk my blog, hi) "If you were an American person playing an Australian person you would consult an Australian person to learn, not someone who studies Australia" 
There is only so much information a "professional" can provide, for truly accurate representation an autistic person must be consulted, we are the true experts on our experiences and lives. 

Neither of the shows I discussed today have autistic people on board. Well, apparently, after doing some research, Atypical's "social production team" includes autistic people, which is not what I heard, because every confirmed source for this show is all neurotypical "professionals" And I doubt if autistic people were consulted they'd produce something so stereotypical. Just down to his overplayed bluntness, one autistic person pointed out his ability to sit down at dinner with his family and eat what they're eating (which may not be the same for everyone, but I know for me that is very impossible). I also strongly dislike the therapist commenting on his smiling, that's ABA bullshit, good facial expression isn't important unless if you're an actor. Someone who loves you cares about your comfort, and who you are for you, not some fake, forced version. And that one clip about the father saying something along the lines of "everything is [son] this, autism that, it's time you think about yourself" just reeked of Martyr parent mentality. Because apparently accommodating your child and thinking about them in situations is not caring about your self or your own health, or something. Okay. 


My biggest thing with media, and this is with all minorities and our representation, is there's a lack of diversity and a dependency on stereotypes, that is one of the biggest problems. And what's funny is the stereotypes all seem to have something in common. 

For instance, similar to how Savant Syndrome is actually fairly uncommon, it reminds me of stereotypes of other conditions. For instance, OCD and obsessive hand washing and germaphobia. I have OCD, and it's hell, and all I want is for the stereotype that EVERY SINGLE PERSON with OCD presents like this. My intrusive thoughts tend to base around a fear of forgetting something or getting lost, dying, pessimistic, and even violent or dangerous ideas that I would never act on. I do have a germ fear, but for me it's being petrified of saliva, and not liking to touch things in public or things like money, and avoiding situations that I'll be around things like saliva (like people eating). My compulsions tend to revolve around a need for symmetry so intensely that I cannot leave a room unless everything is lined up nicely and I've touched everything with both my left and right hands. I'm also trichotillomanic. Another thing about this stereotype is that while it's common for those with OCD to have some form of germ phobia, the hand washing and neatness is actually not too common, in fact, it's equally if not more common for someone with OCD to hoard than it is for them to be very neat and obsessed with cleanliness. Another stereotype is that everyone with Tourette's has coprolalia (swearing tics), I have multiple severe tics, currently undiagnosed but likely it's Tourette's, I've had swearing things before which I'm not sure if they're tics or not, but even it annoys me to see Tourette's and tic disorders portrayed as only that, when actually about 5 percent of everyone with Tourette's has coprolalia. And those who do have it, usually have more than just theg for tics, please stop using it as a joke or like Tourette's is simply just swearing. The only representation of bipolar disorder or ADHD has been simply very hyper and random people when both are so much more than that, and both are far more disabling than what is simplified. 

Autistic people are portrayed as cocky math or science geniuses who don't know what emotion is at all and rarely cry, when the large majority of autistic people are none of those things, and not to mention our traits are amped is for comedic factor and portrayed as completely over the top. Mentally ill people are portrayed as mean, or violent, or are struggles are downplayed or used for comedic relief. Chronically ill or physically disabled people, if we get representation at all, we don't get a happy ending, we have to end our lives (*cough* Me Before You) or discover we never even had the condition at all (looking at you, Everything, Everything) because one cannot simply have a good life while chronically ill/disabled. Black people are portrayed as bitter, mean, rough, and confrontational. Asian people are portrayed as emotionless and academic loving, and there's lots of overbearing mom jokes. LGBT+ people get maybe one character every decade who is usually ultimately killed off. Etc. etc. And for all minorities, there's always some storyline of being taught how to be "normal" and lose very important aspects of ourselves, or worse, we're killed off all together, because being happy and a minority are mutually exclusive, right? How could one possibly be happy living in ~constant struggle~ None of these medias would like to confront the fact that our ~constant struggle~ mostly lies at the hands of society refusing to accept or accommodate us; It lies at the hands of discrimination and dehumanization. We are not to blame. Stop blaming minorities for their own discrimination. 

To make a long story short, I'm going to create a list of what you should and should not do when creating an autistic character, or a character of any minority for that matter: 

  1. Cast us. And if you can't do that- You have to consult us. You always have to consult us, in every shape or form. And you have to really listen to us, to what we want and what we tell you is wrong or right. Absolutely always. No ifs or buts. Don't go to "professionals" or "experts" or "specialists" we are the REAL ones. Sure, contact those people too, but we must be included ALWAYS. Or it will NEVER. TRULY. BE. ACCURATE. You cannot portray a group accurately unless they are your main consultant, we have lived this, "professionals" have not, you can study something all you want but unless you have our brains only we are the true experts.

  1. It has to be diverse. I'm tired of stereotypes, I'm tired of sitting around and letting it happen. I'm about ready to knock down every producer of bad representations door and give them an hour long lecture about diversity and that like "everyone else", WE'RE HUMAN AND NOT ALL THE SAME. Give me autistic girls, autistic trans and non binary people, autistic people of all different types of sexualities, autistic people who openly stim, autistic people who have diverse special interests and infodump about them, autistic people who are emotional and hyperempathetic to the point it overwhelms them, autistic people who are good friends and go out into the world even though they struggle with it, autistic people in relationships with people who respect them and love them for who they are, autistic people surrounded by people who respect them and love them for who they are, sassy autistic people who love themselves and are fed up with the neurotypical bull, autistic people who make jokes and laugh and make other people laugh, autistic people who are portrayed with the same kind of humanity and complexity as a neurotypical person, autistic parents, autistic adults and teenagers, magical autistic people, autistic people with other disabilities, autistic people who break the molds that we're given right now. Autistic people who don't lose their autistic traits one episode later. 

I'm an autistic person who is outgoing, friendly, and loud and takes charge in groups and team settings despite the exhaustion and anxiety that comes along with it. I'm extremely empathetic, though I struggle to express it (I either come off as apathetic or too emotional). My interests are all creative (singing, acting, performing, writing, musical theatre, art. I had a huge interest in filmmaking for a long time). I'm rarely serious, I love to make people laugh. I'm deadpan and witty, and while I'm very literal, I have the capacity to be sarcastic and joke around. I can usually mimic and pass as neurotypical, but under some circumstances I can't. I have no filter but that doesn't mean I have no concept of what's right or wrong, those are two different things. I have a horrible memory, I'm shit at math, my memory is far from eidetic, I like science and I am quite logical, but I don't revolve everything around science, nor is it a major interest or passion. I have other disabilities, I find ways to accommodate what others can't or won't accommodate for me, I am ambitious and have plans for my future that I won't let anyone stop me from achieving. I'm a proud autistic teenager, and I'm going to be a proud autistic adult who is living and hopefully succeeding and thriving in this world, just like you. Autism doesn't have a look and it isn't linear, for someone like me, I may seem anxious and fidgety in public, but you can't really tell that there's anything different about me. I go about things like anyone else, and I put on a mask without really knowing it. But when I'm on my own it's quite obvious and I'm far from "higher functioning", I'm also in the middle of growing up and the horrid teenage years, which makes coping a lot harder. My focus right now is not finding love, or "fitting in", it's finding the skills to cope with the world around me while being who I am without shame, and making steps towards my goals and plans for the future. 

Autism is a spectrum and every single autistic individual is diverse and has their own assets and deficits, we all have our own unique strengths, and our own unique adversities to overcome. Portraying autism as a one size fits all thing perpetuates a stereotype that anyone who does not fit that specific mold is not really autistic or their experiences are not valid, when most representation of autistic people you see in the media is usually an overplayed stereotype. 

  1. You do not have the privilege of being lazy, you have to be 100% committed. You cannot do a small hunk of research and go on that, that, I think, is how these problems begin. You have to be committed, you can't allow yourself to get lazy. You need to have autistic resources, you need to make sure what you're portraying is accurate and well construed. You have to keep studying constantly, you can't just do it once and then be done, you can't bring up autism and then never bring it up again. If you commit yourself to representation you must really commit, or you're not committed at all. 

  1. Educating the neurotypical (or straight/cis/white/etc.) audience is important, but this is our representation, first and foremost it is about us and that should be the main focus. Educating others comes second, and it will be a given, but making sure the target group you're representing gets good representation is more important. Because if your focus is educating others and not actually educating them right, it will never be good. Trust me on this. 

  1. There is no high functioning, there are only coping skills. Show me the struggles, the meltdowns, the non-verbal episodes, the times where we're really obviously autistic, and also show me times where we can go about our day like "anyone else", and most of all, show me autistic characters who are portrayed as human and with respect through it all, and that these two instances aren't seen as mutually exclusive. It's a spectrum, even in just one person. 

  1. Let them stim. An autistic person, or any person, who can sit completely still is not realistic in any shape or form. It is a filthy lie. Give me stimming, subtle stimming is good, but I also want flappy hands and rocking and bouncing and verbal stimming. I want neurodivergent characters who are breaking the facade they once wore, being obviously neuroatypical and realizing that's okay. I don't want robotic savants, stop giving me robotic savants. 

  1. Don't be afraid to have more than one autistic, disabled, or any minority character. We're all around you- I worded that like we're the zombie apocalypse, what I mean is, despite the term "minority" there are minorities all around you, for all you know 3 of your classmates might be autistic, there's probably a lot of people of color around you, there's probably a lot of LGBT+ people around you. Especially with being autistic, you can't tell someone is autistic by looking at them, a lot of us seem completely "normal" because we go about our day like anyone else, so we fly under the radar. Neurotypical people seem to think that autistic people are this other species and they come one at a time, and when they are here, you WILL know. But that is not true. That's not true at all. 

Minorities tend to surround themselves with other minorities, because we have different social needs, and therefor we flock with people with the same or similar social needs. Therefor, it is more realistic to have a few autistic or a few POC or a few trans or gay characters, rather than unrealistic.


  1. Just listen to autistic people. See 1. Consult us, cast us, involve us. We must be your number one source. If we say something is right, it's right, if we say something is wrong, it's wrong. Also- while you are the master mind behind your characters, you bring them into existence, be open to people's interpretations. Headcanons are a really cool thing and something I think creators shouldn't ignore; Even play with. If an autistic person points out that you accidentally wrote a really accurate autistic character, maybe research, consult your local autistics, and make it canon! There are millions of kinds of people around us, including autistic ones, it doesn't hurt to make some diverse characters instead of just a linear mold. And people finding representation in your characters, regardless of the original intent, is a good thing. Listen to us, we know.

If you have questions, ask us, not "professionals", not our parents, not our siblings, not anyone else but us. If you're going to represent us, do your research, and for the love of all that is holy and good, LISTEN TO US!!


With the shitty representation in store, I want to steer focus to good representation. 


Recently, Sesame Street introduced the very first autistic muppet, Julia. I was very worried, as I should, this is something very important to me and something that gets screwed up very often, and I almost didn't pay any mind to this news. It wasn't until I saw approval, even praising, of the portrayal from my community, and the amazing news of ASAN's large involvement, that I was very hopeful. 

I watched the episode on YouTube, and oh my goodness you guys, my heart is so full. It was amazing, so amazing. It was the first time I was watching my community be represented positively and accurately, and it was so so good. Good is such an understatement. I teared up a little a few times. I was so happy. It was close to perfection. It was everything. 

It is sad to me that a simple kids show can get it better than a serious show. But it's perfect regardless, because children are vulnerable and impressionable to older people as their brains are fresh and new, they don't know better, and ready to take it all in; They see and hear everything, and learn from that, therefor we must teach them well, be a good influence. They take in everything, and I think people aren't aware of that. Children learn from us, they know what we teach them, and we need to make sure they're learning the right thing, so giving them a positive and accurate autistic character, not only for autistic kids to relate to, but for allistic kids to learn from in a simple but impactful way, is beyond important. Children become adults, and what they learn as children sticks with them for life- we must teach them well, this is how we make a difference in this world. Julia is so important. 

And they got it all so right and also broke so many molds. Julia flaps her hands and verbal stims with no shame or anyone telling her she shouldn't, she's A GIRL, she has special interests in creative things like painting, she's partially verbal, she doesn't fit any mold of "high functioning" or "low functioning". I could go on and on, and she's adorable if I might add. Super precious.

I love that she's accommodated, I love that her needs are listened to and she's respected. I love that she's included in her way, not everyone else's way. I love that there is no message that she needs to change, but rather be herself and be accommodated. 

I love the line "for Julia, autism means" because it's a spectrum and it's different for everyone. I love that we're made aware that Julia needs help to explain her autism, but that it is her wish for everyone to know; She likes for people to know. 

I love that Julia's wonderful autisticness is incorporated into games and activities. I love that her friends love her so much and that she's portrayed as an amazing friend too, despite struggles. I love the way they explained so many little things so well, that any human, no matter how young, could get a simple, general, but impactful idea of it.

I love that her allistic friends try to find things they have in common as a way to connect. I love that they're always making sure they're not overwhelming her. I love that she's seen as just another friend rather than some Very Special Person Who Is Special. I love the song they sang at the end, goodness I love that song.

"She does things in her own, Julia way" I love it. I just love it.

I loved this episode. I love Julia. I loved everything about it. It was as close to perfect you can get. It was incredible. I cannot praise it enough, it was everything I've hoped for and more.

SEE. IT'S NOT THAT HARD. When you LISTEN TO AUTISTIC PEOPLE! 

I suggest any allistic person who wants to represent autistic people look at this example, it may be for kids, but it gave us the most accurate canon autistic character I've ever seen. Now can we have a Julia on regular tv? A teenage or adult Julia, breaking molds and loving their autistic self?  


Lastly, I wanted to discuss some great non-canon autistic characters, because what would this post be if I didn't take some time to infodump about my favorite characters and shows and geek out. 


OHMYGODSTEVENUNIVERSEISSOGOODPLEASEWATCHIT. I love Steven Universe. I adore Steven Universe. The art, the writing, the story, the music, the entire cast, absolutely everything - But this is a story for another time. 

This show has given me so much, and one of those things is accurate representation. There's no canon autistic characters on this show, but the creators of the show have been openly supportive of headcanons for the characters, Peridot's voice actress is especially highly supportive of the autistic headcanons for Peridot- she even takes time to listen to autistic people's stories when they come up to her at conventions!, and at this point it's just mutually agreed upon how neurodivergent the characters in this show are. It's also very gay, which is also great. They have canon gay characters (including the achingly precious Ruby and Sapphire), the majority of the characters are non binary, there's been a lot of suspicion that Lars is a trans guy due to a lot of low key clues that actually make a lot of sense. It's just so great. 

Back on topic, this show is about sentient gay rock aliens from space, with a few humans, and one half human, you'll have to watch it for it to make sense- Which, actually, it really doesn't, but it's still great. But, you're probably thinking, oOoOh it's about ALIENS!! Isn't it Offensive™ 4 them to Be autistic!!1?

Answer: nope. Aside from the label alien they're portrayed as very human; In fact, this show delivers some of the most human, realistic dialogue I've ever seen from a show, ever. They can feel, they can think, they can perform badass musical sequences. They're more human and complex than most human characters on tv. And with all the gems we've seen on the show, I only read a few of them as autistic. And there are humans on this show too, and they are also autistic. My personal headcanon: Most of the gems that are living on Earth are considered defective by their homeworld, and obviously don't fit in with humans that well. "Defective" is basically ableism on homeworld, they're disabled. Amethyst is a defective amethyst because she's shorter and "not as strong". Garnet is a fusion of two different kinds of gems, which is seen as wrong and unthinkable on homeworld. Pearl, we don't know why she's defective, we just know she is and it is something that she's had to overcome the internalization of. Peridot uses limb extenders, and I personally headcanon she is considered a "defective" peridot. The Off Colors, introduced in the current season, are such a beautiful representation of disability. 

Pearl, Peridot, and Connie often feel like mirror reflections of me, too much to mention they're just very much like me. Lapis is literally on the "wrong planet", and I love her. Garnet is badass, she doesn't need your social rules or social in general, and she'll talk when she feels like it- the way she responds to things with hand gestures or yes/no answers is very me. Even Garnet's unfused gems (Ruby and Sapphire) are very autistic. Amethyst's shapeshifting, need to prove herself, and desire to be seen as a regular human reminds me of my mimicking, and so accurately at that. Steven and his mother are so hyperempathetic it could be considered their power. Lars is awkward, insecure, and severely socially anxious; He thinks he needs to be super masculine and cool, he puts up a facade of sarcasm and an asshole personality to blend in, and constantly feels the need to change himself for other people even when they like him just the way he is, this results in pushing people away and pushing away opportunities out of fear. Him finding The Off Colors was like me letting go of my mask, and finding my community, and it was one of the most beautiful moments in the whole show. 

GahH JUST WATCH THIS SHOW, OKAY. I don't care who you are just watch it, it'll change your life. It is so good, it is too good. Take some time to just binge this magical show, it is a life changing experience. Rebecca Sugar, if you read this ever, which I doubt, I'm so glad your amazing brain exists. 


Okay so these are super not-serious, satirical, crude cartoon comedies but Bobs Burgers and Rick and Morty are wonderful. First of all, I don't see a lot of people talk about this, which is strange to me because to me this is really important, but one of the two creators of Rick and Morty, Dan Harmon, is autistic. And that's just really cool to me, because for so long I believed autism would hold me back from doing what I love, but look!! An autistic person in the arts field!!! Like me!!!! Who has created tv shows!! And if you watch this show, trust me, only an autistic brain could come up with this. So naturally, because of the autistic creator, there's gonna be humor and characters that are super autistic, because that's what we do. And there is, and it's such an amazing, crazy show that you should watch if you can handle swear words and cartoon blood and guts. 

Bobs Burgers is one of my favorite animated comedies out there, one of the huge reasons being because it doesn't rely on being offensive to be funny. They mock basically every type of person ever, as comedy does, but they do it respectfully and tastefully. Not only that, but it portrays an imperfect, dysfunctional, but loving, supportive family that reminds me so much of my own. Linda is the carbon copy of my mother, trust me on this, they're the exact same person. And I'm probably, like, the closest to a Belcher kid you can get in real life. Because they're super autistic.

Tina, at this point, is pretty much canonically autistic. I could write a whole book on all of her autistic traits; She's exactly like me in so many ways. It is joked at in the Pilot, but Bob denies she's autistic, but she's been referred to as autistic on pretty much anything about the show, and I remember reading an interview with the crew for the show and one of them said they believe she's on the spectrum, I think it was her voice actor, but I don't remember. But yeah, Tina is autistic. This is factual fact and she's one of the best written autistic characters on tv. 

I don't see a lot about the other kids though! Gene is equally just as autistic to me, even Louise too! Gene takes things very literally (this one scene I remember he pronounced a word based on the spelling, and I think that was one of the most relatable moments on a tv show for me), his life revolves around his passion for music so much he becomes depressed without it, he has poor executive functioning and focusing skills, and one of the more recent and one of my personal favorite episodes involves Bob and him seeing a rock concert, and Gene freaks out and has a sensory overload/meltdown because it's "loud/scary". They have to leave, and they go out to the car, and Bob decides to play him the music that way. Gene was still kinda scared by the whole traumatizing experience, so Bob connects the music to things Gene likes, like robots, and Gene finds himself really enjoying the music and wants to see the show live again. So they find a way back in, this time with ear plugs, and he enjoys it with accommodations and the option to leave again if he wants to. It was hands down the best and most respectful portrayal of sensory overload I've seen on a show, how it was handled was so excellent; Exactly what a parent should do in that situation. It was so good, I'm just so appreciative and blown away by the writers, that episode is so important to me. 

Plus Louise, Louise is my hero. She's like me if my anxiety didn't have a tight grip on my impulse control. She could easily be read as autistic too, her trademark attachment to her bunny ears hat, difficulty expressing her emotions and seeing things from other people's perspectives, "she's not the most social kid", extremely intelligent and advanced for her age- which she uses to her advantage (if I had the courage, I would've totally messed with my teachers like she does), a lot of her behavior and quotes seems to be completely scripted and learned- like stuff she's seen in movies or from her parents and just repeated, opposite end of the spectrum of Tina whereas Tina is extremely honest and respects rules and authority always, Louise doesn't see a point to the law or rules or authority- she sees adults like any other person who need to do something to deserve her respect not automatically receive it. She curses a lot with no filter, and I did that when I was her age, I cursed A LOT, and I said whatever I wanted, some of the time to get a reaction, most of the time because I just had no control over it- this trait makes Louise really relatable to me. 

Honestly the whole Belcher family is very neuroatypical, including Teddy, he's not even a Belcher but he's basically apart of the family. Like, his constant storytelling (and being oblivious to the fact nobody wants to hear his stories), his lack of filter, his outbursts, his routine of always eating at Bob's and being overwhelmed and upset when there's changes to the routine- even small ones. Teddy is great I love Teddy, I want my own Teddy.

Headcanons may not be technical representation, but they are very important. As I've said in a previous post, we have to make due and find/make our own representation until creators put on their big kid pants and put work into representation. Not every autistic person knows they're autistic, and not every autistic person is diagnosed, I see characters the same way. I would really like to hear the word autistic on tv and not be disgusted by what follows, but for now, there are so many wonderful characters I see myself in, and that's enough. And there's Julia, and she's making a difference too. And I hope sooner rather than later, I can change autistic representation, through writing or acting or whatever way I can. I don't want to wait for neurotypical people to get better at portraying us, I want to use my autistic voice to portray us authentically right from the autistic soul. 


For my fellow autistic people, I beg you this: If you have a story- Tell it. If you have a dream- work for it. People will try to hold you back, they will try to decide what you can and cannot do- but it's your decision whether or not you let them. People tell you that you can't, so you prove them wrong by doing it. Tell your stories, because whatever is inside you is one of a kind, and can only be brought out by you. Let it out.




Thank you for reading today's post, after a little break I'm happy to be back into writing. My one year anniversary of this blog is coming up, and I have a post planned for that! Thank you for all of your amazing support, I seriously can't thank you all enough.

As always, I hope you're having a wonderful day, and if not, tomorrow is always another day :-)


Sincerely,

Skyler