Things I Would Personally Like To See In An Autistic Character
less easy to swallow sadness and more destructive anger. i would love to see a canonically autistic character who was frustrated easily by small things and had trouble communicating whynot a story about being autistic, a story that happens to have a character or characters who are autistic it isnt pointed out or questioned, theyre right at home with the rest of the cast and not othered intensive sensory issues / small sounds making large reactions clear communications about not liking x sensory thing poor motor skills / clumsiness and not being laughed at for it walking funny no one treats it as if its funny or something totally strange a big personality that has a presence so they cant be cast aside if this was along with being nonverbal they would probably leap to being one of my favorite characters ever a fear of asking for clarification on sarcasm or jokes because of past experiences and an arc about the character becoming more comfortable asking questions
> > if any fellow autistic people want to add something, feel free < <
Autistic Peoples Sensitivity Isnt Pickiness
In many media, autistic people are portrayed as comically picky. They want special clothes and cant stand any kind of noise. While in media this is presented as just something that autistic people do, in reality sensitivity like this stems from experiencing the environment in a different way from allistic people.
Autistic people dont have the same sensory experiences as allistic people. The screech of a siren is magnified in autistic peoples ears, and an itchy shirt can be unbearably painful. This isnt due to overreaction. The senses are amplified with autism, and disturbing stimuli are magnified.
Humanizing autistic people means recognizing that we come across as picky for actual reasons and that in our way of experiencing the world this perceived pickiness isnt an overreaction at all. As a child, I wasnt upset by bubble wrap just because it was due to a terrifying sensory experience I felt every time one was popped. My experience came from me as an individual and my perceptions of the world.
In fiction, if an autistic person is sensitive to something, like a noise or clothing, itll be for a reason. If an autistic character refuses to wear a certain pair of socks, for example, it might be because of the pain they feel when their feet rub against the material. It wont be because theyre being arbitrary and picky.
Donald Morton And Isabel Sorenson Mozart And The Whale
Mozart and the Whale has not one, but two main characters with Aspergers Syndrome. Donald , a taxi driver with passions for birds and numbers, spends his days driving the same patters and routines, and his evenings leading an autism support group. When he meets Isabel , another Aspie who joins his group, he almost immediately begins to fall in love. The film follows the course of their relationship, and the challenges that come about. The theme here isnt really different than any other romantic comedy: Donald and Isabel must accept their own and each others differences in order to become stronger as a couple.
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Raymond Ray Babbitt Rain Man
Rightfully considered the breakthrough film for characters on the autism spectrum, Rain Man is a 1988 film about Raymond, an autistic savant, and his selfish brother Charlie . Dustin Hoffman won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Raymond, and has long been praised for his realistic and respectful performance, which he based on close observations of two real-life autistic individuals. While scientific discoveries over the last three decades have brought about some controversy surrounding Raymond being an autistic savant, the film remains an important step in the evolution of the portrayal of characters on the autism spectrum.
Autism Looks Different For Everyone
When developing your characters, its helpful to remember that autism is a spectrum that manifests itself in a multitude of ways and can look very different from person to person.
For example, some autistic people need no additional support at all, and they may even fly under the autism radar for years before being diagnosed. Others have much more profound needs and will require comprehensive support from family, friends, and carers throughout their lives.
Social and communication skills also vary massively amongst the autistic community, and the tired old stereotypes rarely fit the description of any real-life autistic person.
Consider your characters space on the spectrum, and avoid perpetuating the myth that autism is a one-size-fits-all disorder.
List Of Autistic Fictional Characters
This is a list of fictional characters that have been explicitly described within the work in which they appear, or otherwise by the author, as having conditions on the autism spectrum. It is not intended to include speculation. Actors and writers who are autistic themselves are indicated in bold, and other autistic people involved in the work may be mentioned in footnotes.
Lars Lars And The Real Girl
This quirky Indie starring Ryan Gosling gives plenty of reasons why titular character Lars is a little bit different: his mother died giving birth to him, his anti-social father blames him for her death, his older brother leaves the family at a young age, etc. But a number of people in the Aspie community have insisted that Lars is also autistic. After all, he compares being touched to an excruciating burn-like sensation and he continuously rejects offers of social interaction. Whether autistic or not, Lars forces both his fellow characters and audiences to face exactly what it means to be different, and that all of our individual differences actually make us all quite normal.
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Maurice Moss The It Crowd
The Aspie Community seems to agree that, although he may not be the best known, Maurice Moss of The IT Crowd is easily one of the most researched and best portrayals of Aspergers on television. Likable, funny, and absolutely brilliant, Maurice played by Richard Ayoade often embraces his self-proclaimed weird and finds ways to appreciate his difference. As one blogger in the Aspie community mentions, is not the butt of the joke, but rather a part of the joke.
The Seven Imperfect Rules Of Elvire Carrfrances Maynard
Although it is never named as such in the book, Elvire Carrs big problem is that she is autisticquite severely soand has no idea how to interact with other people.
Elvire also shows some learning delays so is not as high-functioning as some of the characters in this list. She is however a great ambassador for the autistic community: well-researched and well-written.
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Things To Avoid In Research For An Autistic Character
autism moms / autism blogs and websites not run by autistic peopleany affiliation with autism $peaks means you should walk away and never look backa scientist trying to create explanations for what autistic people do without actually asking / not mentioning asking autistic people anything about a cure for autism a person that worked with autistic kids phrased in the same way as worked with animals talking about autistic people as if they are mysteries, are like animals, or are otherwise othered weirdos instead of people
All Autistic People Are Savants
Savant syndrome, a condition where a person is severely disabled but possesses vast intellect/expertise in one particular area, is a separate diagnosis and while its true that people who are diagnosed with autism can also be diagnosed with savant syndrome the two are not mutually exclusive.
Films such as Rain Man have perpetuated this myth. Your characters can be hugely intelligent and knowledgeable without being either autistic or a savant, or both and if your sole reason for giving them either condition I would suggest rethinking your decision.
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Things To Look For And Avoid In An Autistic Character
symptoms only manifesting as nonverbal and rocking super smart / living calculator super dumb / doesnt understand anything all the symptoms you can come up with for them are awkward and has special interest trains, technology, and/or math as special interests acting like a childgetting treated like a baby unreasonably cruel and uncaring about others reactions to them being cruel if theyre comparable to sheldon from the big bang theory, start over animal comparisons please no stories about what its like to be autistic told by allistics
Autism Doesnt Just Affect How A Person Views The World It Also Affects How The World Views Them
Many people with autism have been victims of ignorance, prejudice, and harassment, and unfortunately, this can continue into adulthood, long after the schoolyard bullies have grown up and moved on. So, consider how the world treats your autistic characters, and ask yourself, is this an accurate representation of how things work in the real world?
People with autism are a marginalized group, and when writing about any marginalized identity, its super important to do it with accuracy and sensitivity. If youre not autistic yourself, the best thing you can do to figure out how the world treats people with autism is to ask people with autism. Do plenty of research and chat with as many people as you can who are willing to share their personal experiences with autism.
The key is to gather a broad picture of what it might be like to walk in autistic shoes, so to speak. This will help you write your entire cast of characters effectively, not just the autistic ones, but the neurotypical ones too.
Jerry Espenson Boston Legal
The legal drama Boston Legal, from the early 2000s, is likely one of the earliest television shows to have a character with Aspergers. Jerry Espenson, played by actor Christian Clemenson, may not be the most accurate portrayal of the Autism Spectrum, but the humor Jerry conveyed as a man and lawyer having to overcome the challenges brought on by Aspergers made him a favorite character for many viewers.
How To Write Autistic Characters Pt 1
Welcome to the first installment of my new mini-series, How to Write . In this series, Im covering a number of topics that I, in my person research, havent found a ton of in-depth resources for and/or feel like I could add my own two cents. As you can guess from the title of this post, today were going to start looking at autistic characters.
Now, the first part of writing any character whether they be neurodivergent or LGBTQ+ is to know what makes them that. For autism, Ill be using the definition from the Autism Self Advocacy Network :
Autism is a neurological variation that occurs in about one percent of the population and is classified as a developmental disability The terms Autistic and autism spectrum often are used to refer inclusively to people who have an official diagnosis on the autism spectrum or who self-identify with the Autistic community. While all Autistics are as unique as any other human beings, they share some characteristics typical of autism in common.
Now, what does that actually mean? First, I want to emphasize the fact that autism is a spectrum condition. That means that while many people may identify as autistic, no two autistic people experience the same situation. Some people use the terms high-functioning and low-functioning to help further categorize autism, however that is controversial and I will avoid doing so.
So how do you write an autistic character?
Listen to autistic people.
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How Do You Create An Accurate And Interesting Portrayal Of Autism
Film scholars will often tell you that humans only really have 7-9 kinds of stories to tellbut, the way I see it is that, if you really want to boil a plot down to its main components, then it doesnt matter whether youre reading War and Peace or watching Shrek the 3rd as, the truth is, theres only 1 real storyline and it comes in three parts:
In this regard, stories focusing on autistic people were always going to be popular because, as many in our community can attest, this is our life: we grow up unaware that our way of thinking is different to that of the norm until, one day, we have to deal with the reality of how different our way of thinking truly is, subsequently leading to an uphill battle which hopefully closes in a happy ever after.
The problem is that, in many books, TV shows or films where autism is a central part, its too often the case that autism itself will be the challenge used to break families apart, ruin careers or miss a shot at love.
Where this is the case, its almost always apparent that the writer has a fundamental lack of understanding, when it comes to knowing how things go down in the autism community but, the real crime in these stories is that mishandling of autism is a missed opportunity for those that dont realise that, yes, autism is a challenge, but its also a compelling normal once we learn to adapt.
Hire A Sensitive Reader
A sensitivity reader is a member of a marginalized group who is paid to read through work that involves that group. You can hire a sensitivity reader at any point in your writing process, before, during, or after completing your manuscript.
An autistic sensitivity reader will give you valuable insights, direct feedback, and guidance for going forward, so you can develop your character with accuracy, education, and of course, sensitivity and avoid missing the mark.
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Autistic People Feel Empathy And Emotion
Theres an all too common myth that autistic people struggle with empathy and lack real emotions. But these damaging stereotypes are simply not true.
Lets start with emotions. Autistic people feel emotions just like anyone else. They laugh, cry, get embarrassed, and fall in love like the rest of us. And unfortunately, its not a magical free pass from the painful moments in life either.
The difference lies in the way that some autistic people portray their inner feelings to the rest of the world. A person who seems cold or emotionless may simply have a different way of processing and communicating how they feel, so try to bear this in mind when youre fleshing out your autistic character and engaging them in dialogue with the rest of the cast.
When it comes to empathy, theres a similar misconception. The stereotype that autistic people lack empathy comes from the autistic tendency to struggle with cognitive empathy.
Cognitive empathy relates to the part of your brain that predicts how your actions might make other people feel, and for some autistic people, this can be challenging. Its why some people with autism interrupt frequently or say things that might hurt other peoples feelings or seem insensitive. Its not that theyre not empathetic its just that sometimes, autistic people have a harder time reading social cues.
Sheldon Cooperthe Big Bang Theory
The character of Sheldon displays many characteristics of autistic spectrum disorder. The shows creators have said they did not deliberately write Sheldon as an autistic character, however Jim Parsons, the actor who plays him, has said he has always assumed the character has Asperger syndrome.
This character is somewhat polarising. Although he does show an autistic character living a successful life and able to show personal growth, he is an exaggerated character. Some people feel that this contributes to perpetuating some harmful stereotypes.
This is a common criticism of autistic characters in film and television.
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Keep It Moving But Dont Rush
- Action is important. It drives the story and its interesting. You should make sure to put enough action in your work. Things should be happening.
- BUT a novel is not a play or a movie or a comic. What makes reading a full-length novel so entertaining is the detail. The in-depth characterisation and description. The emotion and thought processes.
- So, keep it moving, but dont sacrifice the juicy details. Dont skip from one action or dialogue scene to the next without taking your readers deeper into the intricacies of the story and characters.
- Its a delicate balance that can only truly be found by reading a lot and practicing.
How To Write High
There are many different kinds of autistic spectrum disorder. People may classically think of children who struggle to communicate, have meltdowns, learning delays, and lack of any self-control. However this is not all there is to the autistic spectrum.
Every autistic person is different and has different symptoms.
The term high functioning also has many different meanings. For the sake of clarity in this context I am using it to refer to those autistic people who have an adult intellect and are able to live independently, both practically and financially.
This definition does not take into account the many ways autistic people can have high-functioning aspects to their character, however is accurate for the kind of character writing this post aims to address.
Girls present very differently to boys .
The IQ of the person concerned is a huge factor in how they are affected, as is their sensitivity to sensory stimuli.
Many people believe it is wrong to call autism a disorder at all and it should be considered a form of neurodiversity. In the case of high-functioning autism, there is a particularly compelling argument for this.
Many high-functioning autistic people have good jobs and successful relationships. These are people who are succeeding at lifeand in many cases it is largely because of their autistic tendencies.
Neurodiversity should therefore not be written as something which needs to be fixed.
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