There are a lot of shows on television (cable, Netflix, Amazon Prime, you name it…) these days that claim to have an autistic character. Often, it’s the main character. Some people are big fans of those shows, and those people may not like my opinion. But… I do have an opinion, and I’d like to share it.
I remember a few years back when my husband and I sat down to watch the movie Adam, have you seen it? We really enjoyed the movie. It was humorous and insightful while, at the same time, being thought provoking. After watching Adam, the hubby and I had many conversations about our son and what his life might be like when he is older. We had found so many similarities in the movie character and our kid. The thought of what would happen when we were gone was very much on our minds. We both liked the movie for the story and the emotion.
Remembering how that movie affected us was why I started watching all the shows I could find with similar subjects. That meant shows with autistic characters.
But I’ve been disappointed. A lot. And I’m pretty sure there are still many shows out there that I haven’t watched, but I’ve watched enough to just call it quits.
I think one of my biggest complaints with these shows is the way autism is portrayed. It seems that all Hollywood wants the world to see in regards to autism is genius, science obsessed people. Because, apparently, all autistic people are geniuses, right?
But that image being portrayed by Hollywood is what a lot of society takes as fact. Not too long ago, I had a conversation with someone and when I said that my son was not into science, she said something to the effect of, “Wow, that breaks down a stereotype.”
I guess it does.
According to the vast majority of television shows with autistic characters, my son should be a child genius, scientifically and mathematically gifted, preparing for some sort of medical or other scientific career.
It just really bugs me. It bugs me because having autism does not equal being a genius. It also does not equal a vast interest in science. It does not equal a love of math or problem solving.
Do you know why?
Because people with autism are just people. They vary in the same way everyone else varies. The wondrous variety of the autism spectrum is what makes it so special.
My son is great at math. One might say he is gifted, who knows… But what I do know is that given the choice between drawing and figuring out an equation, he would choose drawing every time. Just because he is good at math doesn’t mean he wants to do math. And science is like some form of medieval torture to him. He loathes it! He is a creative soul, as are many autistics.
My second complaint about these shows is the way autism moms are portrayed. Come on, you know what I mean… Warrior moms! Moms who try every single therapy and diet available in an effort to “cure” their kids, or at least make autism go away. Ugh.
The portrayal of autism moms on television makes me want to pluck my eyes out!
I guess there are moms out there like that, maybe, I don’t know… I’ve never met one.
Sure, I’ve met moms who try different diets and therapies, but never one who tries everything. Usually, by the time people have tried three or four different methods, they are ready to just live life. At least that’s my experience.
Most autism moms I know don’t want a cure; they want acceptance.
But Hollywood just doesn’t get it. They make autism moms look like complete nuts. And I don’t fall into the nut category. Yes, my son has been in therapy. A lot of therapy. It started when he was about twenty months old. It went on and on and on… And one day, like many autism moms, I pulled the plug.
Enough was enough.
I would rather my son learn to love himself for who he is than always be trying to achieve a life that isn’t what he was created for. I’m sorry is that offends anyone, but I’m also not sorry. My son wasn’t created to be like everyone else and all that therapy was teaching him was that he had a problem to fix.
I don’t see him as having a problem.
I see the world around him being difficult. I see him having difficulties, but not him having a problem… Not him being broken… Not him needing a cure.
I guess I fall into the category of autism moms who just want acceptance… and the most important form of acceptance out there is the acceptance my son can have of himself.
We are not all crazy moms who burn ourselves out. Many of us are normal moms who just want to love our kids… Hollywood doesn’t like that story.
Hollywood doesn’t like the variety of the autism spectrum. What Hollywood likes is the extremes on both sides… the geniuses, or the very low functioning. For Hollywood, there is no in-between. At least that’s my take on it. The same extremes apply to moms. It’s either the crazy mom who never breathes, or a total loser who shouldn’t be parenting. People like me just don’t exist in Hollywood.
Maybe the shows don’t bother you. Maybe you find them entertaining. That’s fine. I don’t need anyone to agree with me here. I just hope that perhaps people will think about what I’ve written and about what society is learning about autism through these shows. Think about it as you try to achieve acceptance for your kids (or as you try to get your kids to accept themselves), because when the viewpoint of a culture is formed mainly by misleading television shows, it’s a bit scary. One day my kid will try to get a job… I can only hope his future employer doesn’t get all their information from Hollywood.