As a kid, we review all a time. During dinner. In a bathtub. Before descending defunct and before removing out of bed. During class. In a car. If I’d been wakeful of audiobooks, I’d substantially have review while biking to school.
Yet, we do not remember ever reading about an autistic character.
If we had, I’m certain a impression would have been like those we saw on TV: immature boys who hardly talked and who screamed when touched. we remember examination Mercury Rising and my mom explaining how formidable hold was for “kids like that.” we was duly impressed. How interesting, I thought.
It’s not that young, minimally created autistic boys shouldn’t be portrayed in media. They should be – distant improved than they are now, as they’re mostly reduced to tract inclination or props to make a surrounding characters demeanour some-more sympathetic.
It’s usually that we wish, we wish, we could have seen some-more sundry autistic illustration flourishing up. A girl, perhaps. A lady who did speak, who spoke aloud (because she couldn’t allay her voice) and during length (when something meddlesome her) and during inapt times (because she couldn’t establish what times were appropriate). A lady who was an impossibly picky eater, maybe, or who avoided eye hit though realising it, who jiggled her feet all a time, who dreaded “making a rounds” to hail her kin during birthdays. A lady who flitted from one all-consuming mania to another.
If I’d seen that lady in my books, we competence have thought, She looks familiar. And if, in that book, someone used a word Asperger’s or autism to explain those obsessions and oddities, we competence have mentioned it to my mom. We competence have been means to get a diagnosis before we ran into all sorts of difficulty after down a line.
Instead, we saw Rain Man on TV.
I never once thought, He looks familiar.
Representation – varied, accurate, deferential illustration – can assistance those of us adrift during sea to find an anchor. It helps us recognize ourselves.
Even if we already know a identity, correct illustration helps us accept that identity. It’s timeless that negative/no illustration has awful effects on self-esteem. When we see no one like us – or when we’re usually ever a uneasy sibling, never a drastic child sorceress – it sends a message. We’re not normal. We’re not welcome. We’re not heroes. We exist usually in propinquity to those around us.
Autistic people are overwhelmingly portrayed from that “those around us” perspective. When we’re delegate characters, books mostly concentration on how formidable we are to understanding with for a relatives. When we’re primary characters, books mostly concentration on how unusual, mysterious, and moving we are. We’re objects of fascination.
The thing is – we’re fascinating to others, maybe.
To us, it’s bland life.
Skewed portrayals impact us, though they also impact how people see us. That’s a dangerous thing.
Public recognition of autism is distant larger now than when we was flourishing up, that leads to some-more books featuring autistic characters. That’s a smashing improvement, though it’s still critical to note that those characters are overwhelmingly written, represented, edited, published, marketed, reviewed, and review by non-autistic people. It’s not surprising, then, that we’re mostly portrayed from that outward perspective, reduced to stereotypes, misconceptions, and props.
Similarly, Autism Awareness Month – celebrated in Apr any year – is overwhelmingly celebrated and publicised by non-autistic people and organisations. Some of a many distinguished autism groups are run wholly by non-autistic people, and a things pronounced about us in presumably useful recognition campaigns make chills run down my spine.
What about a incapacity rights observant “Nothing About Us Without Us”? However critical loyal allies are, a organisation can't be only tangible by outward narratives. We are here. We are talking. Verbal and non-verbal, all opposite a spectrum, all genders, all backgrounds, all ages.
And we’re being drowned out by others professing to pronounce on a behalf.
I’ve spent years enslaved my approach by Apr as a outcome of this kind of misrepresentation. This year, we wanted to do something different, something active and within my possess community:
I motionless to organize a month-long eventuality deliberating a state of autism illustration in center class and YA literature.
The subject fascinates me from many angles – as an author of an arriving YA novel with an autistic protagonist; as a reader of books with autistic characters; as an autistic romantic meddlesome in different representation; and as an editor of Disability in Kidlit, a website focusing on incapacity portrayals in children’s books.
More than anything, we wanted this eventuality to be exclusively from a autistic perspective.
Together with a rest of a Disability in Kidlit team, we done it happen. Throughout April, we’re hosting Autism on a Page, featuring daily posts – reviews, articles, and interviews – where people with autism share their thoughts on autism representation.
Our wish is that it will assistance authors write some-more accurate and deferential characters, and will assistance readers, booksellers, and librarians recognize both a good and a bad portrayals. We wish to outcome change from a inside.
And maybe, that’ll assistance some-more kids down a line review a book and think,
She looks familiar.