Exactly What Is Autism
At first glance, autism can seem hard to understand. These days, its typically diagnosed as a spectrum disorder and you may hear it referred to as ASD . The autism spectrum includes classical autism, but it also includes other conditions: Aspergers syndrome, Hellers syndrome and the seeming catch-all of pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified are all under the umbrella of ASD. These conditions are all neurodevelopmental disorders that affect individuals in different ways, but those affected by one of these conditions often share a number of common traits and behaviors. Theres no concrete cause of ASD, though some risk factors have potentially been identified including genetic factors and prenatal issues.
When autism is referred to in shows like Atypical and Parenthood, the affected individual usually falls closer to the high-functioning Aspergers end of the spectrum. There are social challenges that must be faced and the character may suffer some sensory issues such as aversions to loud noises or bright lights. More severe or lower-functioning cases typically arent portrayed, though;Touchs inclusion of a fully non-verbal character with autism did attempt this.
Dont Miss: How To Get Rid Of Autism Diagnosis
Why Some People Are Outraged Over New Netflix Show Atypical
The series, which debuted August 14 on the streaming service, follows the story of a teenage boy named Sam who is on the spectrum.
Though autism is a theme well see in abundance in television this year and many disability advocates praise networks for bringing this group of people to the small screen, will they be as satisfied once they see the shows portrayal of autistic people?
So far, Atypical has received mixed reviews. Many viewers praise the show for its efforts, relating the storyline to autistic people in their lives. Others, including autistic actor Mickey Rowe, criticized the shows flawed portrayal of Sam.
Rowe offered criticism of the shows writers, claiming that the show only furthers stereotypes and seems to use the disorder as a source of humor rather than a platform for education.
Though he appreciates reports that claim writers worked with top autism researchers to portray the disorder properly, Rowe says the script seems to play into stereotypes that Ive experienced firsthand that could have easily avoided and that may present damaging information about autistic people, he told Teen Vogue.
The nature of this show hits close to home for Rowe, but one lead investigators at the UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment understands his concerns.
Should Autistic Actors Play Autistic Characters
As the world of art becomes more and more diverse, it becomes less and less strange to switch on the TV, go to your local cinema or visit a nearby theatre and see a depiction of an autistic character. However, with autistic characters becoming more common than ever, some are left wondering: why doesnt our rise in representation carry over to a rise in autistic actors?
This is something I have been thinking about in recent months and, unlike those within the autistic community who are firm subscribers to the nothing about us without us model of thinking, I believe I have a different answer; one which, at worse, will provide a bit of perspective as to where all the autistic actors are and, at best, will help push this conversation into a more progressive direction.
Also Check: When Did Autism First Start
Recommended Reading: What Is The Best Pet For An Autistic Child
Meet Tal Anderson Star Of Atypical
Dive into the story of Tal Andersonan autistic woman who did not let her ASD diagnosis stop her from making her dream of acting a reality.
Tal Anderson made her debut as Sid on Netflixs hit show Atypical in 2019, a comedy-drama series about a teenagers life with aspergers. This was a perfect role for Tal who, like Sid, has a strong work ethic and determination. Tal enjoys portraying Sid, who is sassy and has a no-nonsense approach to lifealways speaking her mind. Unlike Sid, though, Tal is careful not to offend others and has learned to control her comments.;;;;;
Portraying An Autistic Character
Proper research is very important for a non-autistic actor to plays the character in autism. Tom Purser is ahead of Guidance ;volunteering and campaigns at the National Autistic Society in the U.K. Purser said:
From our research we know that many people learn about autism and base their understanding of what its like to be autistic, on films and TV shows. So, its absolutely essential that writers and producers make sure their stories and characters are realistic and reflect both the challenges and strengths that can come with being autistic.
He further explained autistic character is always good when they relate the character closely to real-life. This is also the best way to get the involvement with consulting autistic people and also casting them for the character. The National Autistic society works with many producers and writer of the show/movies like Calm with Horses, and The Reason I Jump. Because of the important role in the movies, people get to learn more about autism and autistic people.
You May Like: Is Dr Shaun Murphy Really Autistic
Plot Of Atypical Season 4
Like the title hints, Atypical is not your ordinary transitioning series. The story is centered on 18-year-old Sam Gardner who lives with autism.
In Atypical Season 2, we saw how Elsa and Dougs marriage crumbled because of an affair that Elsa had. We mostly see how they are acclimating to their new status in Season 3. As for their kids, Casey just had her first kiss with Izzie.
This was a pivotal moment for queer representation in the industry. Atypical was successful in showing how difficult it could be to come to terms with ones sexuality.
In season 4, we will see how the Gardner parents work things out, if they decide to. We should also expect more scenes involving the budding romance between Casey and Izzie.
It has also been confirmed that Sam and Zahid are going to make up and move in together, as planned.
Ways To Build A Strong Personal Brand
I went to film school to learn to tell stories from the other side of the camera, as well as in front of the camera, Anderson explained. I think it helps me with my acting.
In 2018, she graduated as valedictorian of her class, packed her bags and traveled across the country with nothing but a solid film education and a dream.;
Her destination: Los Angeles.
Once she arrived, she landed a post-production apprentice for a nonprofit media company in South Pasadena, where she edited promos and videos. Four months later, she set out to find an agent and become an actress.
Anderson landed her first few gigs in 2019, in FXs Better Things, an HP commercial, and a pilot presentation with Wanda Sykes. And then, her agent, Gail Williamson at KMR Talent, sent her on an audition for Atypical.;
Tal Anderson originally tried out for a smaller role on Atypical but landed a more prominent role thanks to her authentic acting.
My agent sent me out for an audition for a completely different part in season three, you know, not for Sid, and I didnt get a callback. So I was like, Well, thats a bummer, Anderson said. But then my agent called and told me that I had booked the show, but a different character. And I was really confused but still happy.
Anderson plays Sid, a character she describes as super sassy and confident.
Tal Anderson plays Sid on Atypical, who becomes friends with Sam, the main character, played by Keir Gilchrist.
Also Check: Do Autistic Toddlers Dance To Music
Autism Has Been A Blessing
For Tal, her autism has provided her with gifts for acting and film productions. I believe my autism gives me some advantages in acting. The biggest one is that I tend to be hyper-focused and very persistent. Once I am given a role to work on, I continue to work on it until I feel I understand the character, she explains. Also, I am not emotionally attached to opportunities. I have auditioned for many exciting roles and have not booked them. They were fun and challenging auditions to prepare for, and I enjoyed doing them, but once I audition I tend to move on to the next audition and do not dwell on the fact that I didnt book the role. If I did, I think I might get discouraged, because there is a lot of rejection in this business. Instead, I just enjoy the process and keep learning and moving forward.
Advice For Young People On The Spectrum
Some advice Tal shares with young adults who desire a career in acting: A career in acting is not something that happens quickly. If you desire to be an actor, you need to start first by training and learning because by working on technique you will be able to decide if you really want to do it. Also, find something you enjoy doing for work while you are developing your acting career. In film school, I learned and fell in love with film and video editing, and I do freelance editing on independent films and web series. I love editing as well as acting, and this keeps me in the industry and busy so that I dont get discouraged when times or auditions are slow.
As Tal transitions into adulthood and pursues her acting career, her goals include: playing a role in a major motion picture, a Marvel or horror film, and being a series regular on a television show. She also desires to use her platform to help others with autism achieve their dreams.
Transitioning into adulthood has been a challenge for Tal, but hard work and her parents love and support have opened doors for success.
Recommended Reading: What Causes Autism Exploring The Environmental Contribution
Is Keir Gilchrist Autistic
Despite playing an autistic character, Gilchrist is not autistic.
The actor did a great deal of research to get to the point where he could play an autistic person, including reading works by writer and speaker David Finch.
Speaking to Variety, he said: “My rep set me up with Robia , the creator of the show, so I got to sit down with her for a couple of hours.
“It was a very lengthy audition process, and we talked a lot about the various ways in which I could play Sam.
“The most helpful piece of research was the book The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband.
“The book ended up being a really big contributing factor in creating Sam’s character.”
There are other important things to take into consideration when portraying someone on the autistic spectrum, and according to Gilchrist it was important to remember how he was a “very specific character.”
He told Vulture: “It took a lot of energy doing this role because Sam’s mind is going so fast at all times. While everyone else is over here on this plane, he’s up here doing his own thing.
“While working I was constantly working against my instincts. Didn’t really make much eye contact with people.
“What I’m used to is engaging with the people that I’m in the scene with. Sam, he engages for sure, but it’s in a different way.
“It almost took me a while to shake the role off after doing that for so many weeks. I had to get back to me after.”
First Person Autism: Review Of Netflix Series Atypical
About two weeks ago, I began to watch the show Atypical on Netflix. This is a program that was of great interest to me, as it is about an 18-year-old high school senior who is living with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The plot revolves around this young man as he tries to find a girlfriend and have an intimate relationship for the first time. I looked forward to seeing how this progressed due to my own experiences in high school with wanting to date and feel loved by a partner. However, I quickly realized that were certain aspects of Atypical that made me feel slightly uneasy due to the broad generalizations of autism that were displayed at times. Despite this, I was not disappointed with this program overall, as it provided a thoughtful and entertaining perspective about a topic that is often ignored when we talk about growing up with autism.
Read Also: Does Autism Affect Life Expectancy
How Has Atypical And Your Character Sam In Particular Evolved Since The First Season
Well, from season one to season three, Sams really gone from somebody that everybody in the family and surrounding Sam feels like they need to take care of to Sam actually becoming the caretaker himself. I think by season three, hes actually really matured, as people do around that age, and all of a sudden is actually taking care of his friends and his family and sister. His role has really shifted as hes matured and gained life experience and gotten out of the house more. Thats been a fun change in terms of my character arc to play.
Fixation On Specific Things Was Spot
Karly said Sam’s fixation on certain things was a constant struggle she had.
In season three, Sam becomes obsessed with the statistic that “four out of five autistic students don’t graduate college within four years”.
He is consumed by the idea that he will become that statistic and his narrow focus was something Karly related to.
Karly likened it to when her class studied philosophy she became all-consumed by Plato’s allegory of the cave and concepts of moral relativism, absolutism and nihilism.
“I loved it, but I just, you know, lost sleep over it because I was just so overstimulated.”
Also Check: Does Lionel Messi Have Autism
Background Production And Release
The coming-of-age series, originally known as Antarctica, was created and written by Robia Rashid, who previously worked on How I Met Your Mother and The Goldbergs as a producer. For a more accurate portrayal, she consulted with Michelle Dean, a California State University professor who worked at UCLA‘s Center for Autism Research and Treatment. Gilchrist said in an interview for Vulture, ” wrote the script. We talked a ton and I did research and I watched movies and I read books”. The supporting character Christopher is played by Anthony Jacques, who is autistic.
Season 1 was released on August 11, 2017, and consisted of eight episodes. On September 13, 2017, Atypical was renewed for a ten-episode second season. David Finch, who is autistic, joined the writing team. Eight autistic actors from The Miracle Project have supporting roles in the second season as members of a peer support group which Sam joins, and other autistic actors play neurotypical characters. Executive producer Mary Rohlich also said the show was “bringing in more female directors and female diversity”: seven of the ten episodes were directed by women and half of the writing team were female.
A Review Of Netflix Atypical Season : Meet The Gardners
Atypical is streaming on Netflix.
***; Spoiler Free ***
When Netflix announced their new series, Atypical, about an everyday family living with a teenage son on the autism spectrum, I was interested to see how theyd handle the subject. After watching the trailer though, I wasnt sure whether they were laughing at autism or about it an absolutely crucial distinction in my opinion. Id also read some reviews saying how bad it was and that it portrayed autistic people as stereotypes, so to be honest my hopes for the series werent terribly high, but nonetheless I decided to see for myself. I have to say Im very glad I did.
Atypical introduces us to the Gardner family: mom Elsa and dad Doug and their teenage children Casey and Sam . The show explores the changing dynamics between different family members as the children go through the agonies of adolescence, while keeping the main focus on how Sams autism has impacted them all as individuals. Anyone whos lived in a family thats touched by autism will recognise the way it can dominate everyones day to day lives, and I felt the producers did a good job of highlighting this aspect of life on the spectrum. They also managed it without implying that autism is some kind of tragedy, which I appreciated very much.
Season two is now available and Ill be reviewing it soon, so watch out for more insights into Sams journey towards adulthood, and the everyday challenges it brings for him and his family.
Read Also: What Does The Puzzle Mean For Autism
An Advocate For Her Community
Acting has also enabled Tal to be an advocate in the autism community. Atypical has made me more visible. For the first time, people other than my family are interested in what I have to say. I am grateful to be able to advocate for inclusion and representation just by doing my job and when I am asked, I am able to tell people how important I think autism awareness is. I can speak for myself and for others who dont yet have a voice. Im very grateful for Atypical giving me the opportunity to represent others in the autism community as Sid, Tal adds.
Working on the cast of Atypical has been an amazing experience for Tal: Keir Gilchrist is the best. He is very kind and is a serious, hard-working actor. Its so great having the chance to work with him, and I really appreciate how supportive and encouraging he has been to me. I also appreciate his amazing performance as Sam. He puts so much work into authentically portraying Sam. Actually, everyone on the show is so talented and so great to work with. They welcomed me and treated me like family.