Question?: Autistic Savant

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Robert asks…

How are autistic people portrayed/stereotyped in the UK media?

I’m doing a college presentation on the way autistic people (young or old) are depicted in the British media.

admin answers:

We are rarely shown, generally stereotyped.

I was diagnosed w aspergers syndrome, AS, 2 yrs ago. Since then ive seen 1 bbc 3 documentary abt young people w AS., cant remember the title, srry.The second gen of skins had JJ, who was diagnosed AS in the series. Louis theroux did something this year on parents of autistic children. Also something about savants, tho that mayve been before i was diagnosed.
Thats it.

Its either- UNUSUAL FREAKS!! Gasp at their amazing maths skills! Or tragic children who cant even say ‘mummy’, or adults in care (abuse in care homes etc). The middle ground; most of us, in fact, is rarely, if ever, explored.
Cure for autism’ type articles appear in the press, but there’s still no cure, so that’s rot.

Obviously having it, i notice its media presence, or absence.

Do consider eg, (gosh, i sound so daily mail, but its true)- why eg the bbc, which makes an admittedly highly fictionalised version of the arthurian legend, Arthur, casts black actors as extras (non speaking) bt has no disabled ones (not that many black ppl in the uk then, certainly not in the south west, certainly not in court or army). Bt there would have been people w visible disabilities- lost eye, limb etc, as medical care was so iffy; where are they? Most of the black actors are extras, so not cast for their acting skill, but rather to be PC. Fine, bt this is racist (done for racial reasons); inclusivity is not extended to women (itd make more visual sense to have women in the army), gay or disabled people.
There are no disabled people on tv- but the bbc in particular is overly PC about black inclusion. Im not being racist- but- disabled? Or gay?? Nowhere. I was pleased to see the directors cast a disabled girl to play a disabled girl in that inbetweeners ep where they smack someone w a frisbee. Thats it. Ugh i do sound horribly like the daily mail- but really. Disability is never seen. So discrimination.

Autism is admittedly a fairly invisible condition, but few VISIBLY disabled people are seen at all on tv, anyway.
Autism doesnt figure; so your question about portrayal would be better rephrased as ‘why never shown?’ thn ‘how shown?’
tho i tire of the ‘eccentric scientific genius’ stereotype, sheldon cooper in the bbt is actually pretty good. Im a girl w AS, + therefore able to hide my AS-ness more (the female presentation is slightly different; women are more attuned to learning social skills than men, anyway) bt his behaviour is certainly stuff i recognise- tho if you met me, you wouldnt suspect til you knew me a while. Flick through a tony atwood book to get an idea on this- hes an amazing authority on aspergers.
We say its like being a spy, as we have to cover our ‘real’ selves, learn the social rules of your world, + ‘act’ a part, conceal our inner sheldon.

Most of what one reads in the media about any type of autism is concerned w children, as though its some Logan’s Run condition, + we all die off at 18, or 20. Obviously, as its life long, there are more over 18 than under, bt thats not what youd deduce from the media. Suicide rates are sky high for autism- it is a hideous condition for many.
For people with AS, we are typically above average intelligence, to off the scale IQs. Newton, da vinci, Einstein, steve jobs, bill gates clearly have/had it; again the eccentric scientist model. But there are just as many muscians, artists, actors and designers w it (one attempt at sub catagorisation of types within AS called one ‘the morrissey type’, ha ha). Its often less apparent in the arts type (me) than the science type (eg, my uncle) but does NOT mean *our* presentation is any less invidious.

This may sound like pointless whining or hair splitting bt thanks to eg bbc’s ‘saints and sinners’ there has been an exponential rise in attacks on the disabled recently. Only ever hearing abt the happy autism stories, or mis-perceiving disability as being visible, usually with a wheelchair etc, means that people with ASDs get told ‘you dont look like you have autism’. If someone cant ‘see’ a wheelchair, they think a disabled person is ‘a scrounger’; a fake.

Contry to what you will read, there ARE physical characterises of autism. Looking much younger than actual age, poor eye sight, a certain type of forehead, poor digestion, inflammatory conditions, hypermobile joints, allergies etc etc. Post a Q anyway, on wrongplanet.net, the most widely used autism forum, bt visit too, astheres an in-site search option so you ca find anything you want.
This is a nother, and uk only, forum~ http://www.asd-forum.org.uk

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