By Jamie Miller
To start, yes, I am on the autism scale. I also have ADHD and Asperger’s. Basically, I’m just very talkative and a bit hyper with a sensitivity to strong sounds, tastes and smells. For example, if I clean up after my dogs, I have to wear a mask similar to ones worn to prevent the spread of COVID-19. On the brightside, I always have a mask on me. But for the most part, the only time I notice my symptoms is when I have to stretch my socks so that they don’t feel tight on my feet, or noticing a stray spice on my cheeseburger when I bite into it.
Though as a child I must say it could be very challenging at times: more than once I had to leave a movie theater with my mother because the sounds were too loud. What to most was the Sandman punching Spider-Man in “Spider-Man 3” was to me the equivalent of a bomb going off right next to me.
School also had its challenges. Though I have gotten a handle on it now. I had my struggles as a child. For instance when sitting in math class I would “zone out” so to speak if a teacher was talking about fractions my mind was off in my writing. I also had a habit of talking too loudly – a habit I must admit I have yet to break-though I was able to for the most part do whatever the other kids could. A big part of this was pride on my part, the whole idea of anything you can do I can do.
For the most part a big thing I remember was a lack of understanding, for some key people in my life. I remember more than once being screamed at because I didn’t understand my homework. Having it more than implied that I was an idiot, that I was trying to use my autism as a crutch, as an excuse. Perhaps that’s why I had that drive. Perhaps it was me trying to flip the bird to this person and show them that they were the idiot for not believing in me. Now I realize that it was likely more them than me, they never wrapped their head around the fact that I was autistic. I guess to them that meant there was something wrong with me and by extension them.
Though the thing I remember more than anything about watching TV as a child with autism was the lack of representation.
Now, I’m not here to be the person yelling at the sky “I want more autistic characters,” rather when you do have autisitc characters they teeter on the edge of parody. Though not explicitly said to be, Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory” often had a lot of the, for lack of a better term, hallmarks that autistic characters have. For example: lack of social boundaries or cues and lack of humor understanding. And though I’ll be the first to admit I laughed really hard at him sometimes, that seems to be one of the only archetypes of the portrayal. Most shows or movies you go to with autistic people tend to have some version of that portrayal, but hey, at least Cooper gets a girlfriend. It’s not that I hate these kinds of portrayals per say, I hate that these are pretty much the only portrayals we get – that every autisic person you see on TV is for lack of a better term machine like. They tend to be written like some kind of walking supercomputer that has to be helped and guided by a “normal person.”
Speaking on my autism itself, for the most part it never really bothers me much anymore. What does bother me is when I hear anti-vaxxers rant and rave about vaccines causing autism like it is some kind of plague, a disease that needs to be cured. Though they may not notice when they say these things that autistic people, including me, hear this nonsense. It enrages me to hear people say they think we are a disease that needs to be cured. And I get it, autism can be challenging at times, especially when the child is young. I know better than anyone who doesn’t deal with this disorder personally or is close with someone who has autism.
But we do have advantages as well. In my case though, I am far from a super genius. I can remember facts and storylines from my writing that are beyond what you probably could. I also like to think I am a better writer because of my autism. I see things differently than most people. I think differently. I’ve actually used some of my quirks such as stretching my socks in my comics as I do as if my socks are too tight I literally can not focus on anything else. So yeah, autistic people like me do not need to be cured, nor pitied. We need to be treated like people. After all, how hard is that?