Autism Spectrum Australia

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  • Posted: 05/09/2014
  • Author: Thomas Kuzma
  • Comments: Loading.. .

Greetings readers! I hope you guys are doing quite well; my week has been fantastic. I celebrated my girlfriend’s birthday and my heart strings were tugged when I watched the latest Doctor Who episode, ‘Into the Dalek’. Then again, it could have been the heart burn.

Let’s get down to business, on a new week of Aspire. Over the past week this ( ) little fish has been circling the vast seas of the internet. It was a very heart-warming story and touched the little ‘Star Lord’ inside of me, no wait, he is on my desk. When I watched Guardians of the Galaxy for the first time, I too was gleeful to see a character with ‘autism-like’ qualities. Not only that, I was grateful that he wasn’t used for just comic relief but for the story.  If you turn on the TV today you can see a variety of characters that are on the spectrum, there’s almost a spectrum of them, don’t you think?

With the variety of shows on TV relating to all walks of life we have to ask ourselves ‘how is Autism being portrayed on television?’ The show ‘Packed to the Rafters’ had a very accurate representation of someone with Cerebral Palsy even though it was portrayed by someone without CP. Let’s find out what can help develop a great character with autism.

A professional opinion

Gliding through the valley of pop culture, I found just the right person to talk to – writer Peter Neale. Peter has written for various TV programs like Water Rats, The Ferals and Home and Away. Here is a snippet from our interview.

“When we look at the characters with autism being portrayed on television, we can see a lot of time and effort being put into keeping them to their true selves. For instance the recent Sherlock incarnations with House, Sherlock and the movie series have been good representatives for autism.  Prior to this, when autism wasn’t as widely-known as it is now, we had a different kind of savant type autistic characters (like Rainman) or mechanical “cliché” type characters. I would argue that this would be bad writing. Television writing has evolved since then and some of the best dramatic writing today is in television programs. Take HBO for example. The shows have 3-dimensional characters; characters with a lot of depth. So I feel that when writers produce these programs, I doubt that they would think of autism as their starting point for a character on the spectrum.

Disability is a label. It doesn’t matter who you are, you have goals and impediments. So when writing a character, you need to use the disability as an impediment, not a focal point. Remember, impediments make a story. Let’s say you had story about a gifted football player. If there is nothing stopping them from obtaining their goals, then you have no story. It would be boring. When you don’t think about somebody as a complex person; when you don’t know what they want and who they are and how they are able to get it; if you can’t make them live; then it’s bad writing.

As a writer, when I am writing a character with autism I am only interested in how people behave – it’s not that important if the character has autism or not. I think the characteristics in autism are shared amongst all of us. So when I create a character, I think about what they do and why they do it and by using various tools I try and get into their head.

Something that makes people on the spectrum stand out when writing is being able to focus for long periods of time on a story. When it comes to getting into someone’s head as a character, that needs tunnel vision and obsession, qualities seen in autism. Being able to bury yourself in a project with laser focus and a directed energy to working towards a project is an aspect of autism that is great for writing.”

My Two Cents

I have watched enough TV that if you looked into my mind you would find that between thoughts I have commercial breaks.  With the accumulated time I have spent watching TV I have managed to find many good representations of autism.

Take Abed Nadir for example. He is a pop culture savant, has trouble multi-tasking and has a hard time understanding social queues and sarcasm. His character wasn’t built on the premise as “The Token Autism Suffer”, he is a character created to have a wide imagination, strong focus and “shaman-like” wisdom. I feel like I can relate to him very well, we both have Polish backgrounds, a love for pop culture, movies and TV shows and we do our best to help out our friends.

We all know Sherlock Holmes has Asperger’s – I mean, he was given the characteristics of the condition before it became an official diagnosis. Today he is represented as being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome on the hit BBC show Sherlock. We can see how his autistic mind works, how he visually solves crimes and what happens when he is put under moments of anxiety and stress.

There is one example however, where I don’t exactly see eye to eye. Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory needs no introduction, we all know he is seen often to be rude, selfish, lacking in emotion, sometimes abrupt and a little crazy. Ever since that show started, I have been related to him by friends and family. The problem about this is that Sheldon and my personalities are very different. I have been known to be kind, wise and thoughtful of others whilst still having my funny personality. So when I’m compared to Sheldon, it hurts just that little bit. I assure you though I am not like Drax, the green guy from the start of the blog!

In Conclusion

We all watch TV, we laugh at the funny characters and have a great time. However there are times when we are related by our peers to the butt monkey from that series. I don’t know about you guys, but when that happens to me, it sucks. That isn’t always the case, there are times when we can relate to heroes, kings among men, the wise and the fearless. It’s moments like these that fill us with pride and courage.

There are a large variety of fictional characters out there. For those of us on the spectrum, we have our own. To finish this week’s movie, I suggest you watch Guardians of the Galaxy. While you are watching it, just take notice of Drax and see what he was focusing on, not caring about anything else. He also learns something at the end, try and figure out what that is too.

That about wraps it up for another week folks, I just want to say thank you to Becky and the awesome fundraising crew for putting together Aspect’s 12th Annual Comedy Night!


Here I am to start the rhyme

Like I start events and car races

I'm in forums, airports, cars and ships

But most of all the moon, you know, where space is

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