I don’t necessarily write autistic characters every now and then to make a statement, or to even raise awareness, though it’s definitely a big bonus. I write autistic characters in some of my books because they’re real.
They walk among us.
Or, we walk among you.
I found out I was autistic in my late twenties. Ironically, I read a book in which a character might as well have been me. It sparked my curiosity, because that guy in that book had the same questions I did. What the freaking frakk is so important about staring into each other’s eyeballs so much? Why did I have to suppress sheer rage just because a goddamn label in the neckline of a shirt rubbed against my skin? Why did sudden noises give me heart palpitations? Why didn’t I react like most others did? And did I really have an unhealthy attachment to my headphones?
When you’re diagnosed later in life, chances are a person has perfected the act of pretending to fit in. While I don’t understand certain social cues or always pick up on them, I can fake them damn well. I learn by shoving memories into a mental catalogue, memories of how others react to specific things, and if I make a wrong move, I probably won’t do it again. Instead I’ll mimic what’s normal. This is one of the reasons many—who found out about Autism later—get the grating question, “But you don’t seem autistic” here and there.
Would it help if I behaved like Rain Man?
I’m not interested in Rain Man. I’m interested in those who can’t guess the number of toothpicks on the floor with a single glance.
Whether it’s a car mechanic in Bakersfield or a three-year-old little girl who doesn’t speak, I write Autism on the spectrum that it exists. Everyday struggles included, some more relatable than others, some more severe than others. I want it real because Autism isn’t all adorable quirks and funny mishaps, though they take place, too… We are pretty fucking cute. But most of all, Autism is personal and can alienate someone in the blink of an eye. All it takes is a neurotypical person’s perfectly normal reaction for an autistic person to feel different. And if that person doesn’t know about Autism, he or she can easily turn that into there’s something wrong with me.
You only have to scratch the surface before you realize how common Autism is. Yet, it’s so easily misunderstood and misrepresented. Other than the fact that Autism is an interesting topic for me, that’s why I write autistic characters on occasion. Because we’re friggin’ everywhere. And this applies to many mental disorders, so when an author has the insight and ability, I think it’s kind of cool they/we give these disorders a voice. If then someone learns something on the way, fucking A.
A little understanding never killed anyone.
Autism in my perfect world of fiction is about normalizing something that’s already common.
Crap. I guess this qualifies as a statement, after all.