“Just a stereotype!”

Twitter Post: "It's ironic to insist that autism is a spectrum that can present in a wide variety of ways, and then dismiss any presentation that you don't relate to as being just a stereotype. It's dehumanizing."

I find it problematic when people dismiss certain legitimate presentations of autism as mere “stereotypes” just because they don’t personally identify with those presentations.

Being super nerdy, socially awkward, and liking science? Just a stereotype!

Having very high support needs, openly stimming in public, and being non-verbal? Just a stereotype!

Having a successful career as a doctor or having savant like skills? Just a stereotype!

Being socially isolated, monotone, and lacking empathy? Just a stereotype!

It’s ironic to insist that autism is a spectrum that can present in a wide variety of ways, and then dismiss any presentation that you don’t relate to as being just a stereotype. It’s dehumanizing.

We also all have different ideas of what being stereotypically autistic looks like. For example, growing up with my very high support needs, “obviously autistic” brother meant that this was my idea of autism for most of my life. 

On the other hand, I relate more to characters like Sam from Atypical and Data & Barclay from Star Trek. If I had known that characters like these could be considered autistic, I would have suspected autism in myself a lot sooner than I did. 

So it bothers me when nerdy and socially awkward characters like these are dismissed as being just white, male stereotypes. I’m neither white nor a man. I’m not just a stereotype and neither are these characters.

Similarly, it also bothers me when very high support needs, “obviously autistic” presentations are dismissed as stereotypes because of my experience of growing up with a brother that presented that way.

Autism is a spectrum and not every presentation of it is going to personally reflect your experience. But talking about any one of these presentations is better than not talking about it at all, because there will be some autistic people that relate.

No one autistic advocate or movie character is going to perfectly represent all possible presentations of autism, and that’s ok. Making some autistic people feel less alone is better than none.

One thought on ““Just a stereotype!”

  1. I like/love the characters I’ve encountered that people say are stereotypes: Sheldon Cooper, Raymond Babbitt, Shaun Murphy….

    I think people confuse we-need-more-variety-in-autistic-characters with we-need-to-hate-ones-we can’t-relate-to-enough.

    I’m also not in line with only autistic actors should play autistic characters. Because…a good skilled actor should be able to get into the mind of the character. I’m reading the autobiography of Karen Grassle from Little House on the Prairie. If a 1970’s hippie can get into the mind of a 1800’s pioneer women, I’m pretty sure a non-autistic person can manage to play an autistic person. Also…I ask how do we know the actors playing these autistic characters aren’t actually autistic and just don’t realize it yet? I wouldn’t be shocked if Freddie Highmore turned out to be autistic.

    P.S-I notice you aren’t responding to my comments. I hope they aren’t causing you stress!!! I sometimes get stressed with comments. Please don’t feel obligated to respond. It is totally okay. Seriously. I’ve been stressed today because two people commented on one of my Instagram posts. All I could manage to respond with was clicking the heart. I could kind of relate to your recent post about walking away from conversations. I don’t think I’ve done that face to face, but I feel like I do that online a lot. I become speechless and just heart things.

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