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Incidental Autism on TV and in the movies

More and more we are seeing what I like to think of as incidental autism on TV and in movies. It surely isn't a surprise consider somewhere around 1% of American millenials are on the spectrum. Autism awareness has beeen a mantra over the last 30 years, but it is no coincidence that the social understanding and education came with an exponential uptick in diagnosis. Autism is now a part of our culture. Most people have a relative or close friend on the spectrum. Kids grow up with autistic children in their classrooms. There are even autistic characters on television (Sesame Street and Parenthood come to mind). But what we also see is this incidental autism. Characters that are not intended to be on the autistic spectrum but have many of those familiar traits that we're used to seeing in our everyday lives.

Of course as a parent of someone on the spectrum, I have autism goggles. As I helped out at my child's school I would often notice other kids that were probably on the spectrum. Heck, in some cases teachers actually asked my opinion. Often I said, that nudging the parents towards getting a professional evaluation outside the school district would be a good idea. But I'm guessing that other folks less familiar can nowadays pick out these traits.

Two characters that are very popular and many bring up the fact they seem autistic are Sheldon on Big Bang Theory and Sherlock Holmes (Cumberbatch version). I'm of the mind that they are not on the spectrum but do display many of the traits associated with it. Interestingly enough, there've been some studies that have shown brain function similarites as well has social/behavioral similarities between geniuses/prodigies and ASD. I'll toss a couple of links at the bottom if you're interested.

Despite not being ASD, Sheldon has been a neat influence for Ethan. He likes the show a lot and is able to laugh at Sheldon's odd social behavior. It's good for him to be able to see it in action and relate to it. Also, Ethan picked up Sheldon's manner of directly asking, "That was sarcasm, right?" It's an area that Ethan has always struggled with, so having a way of comortably asking about it is awesome.

This latest incarnation of Sherlock seems so much more on the spectrum than other versions, because I think it's mirroring what we consider odd social function in today's society, and much of what we see is autism. But again, I think we're seeing that overlap of genius and autism.

The other day we saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Eddie Remayne's protrayal of New Scamander is probably the closest portrayal of someone on the spectrum that I've seen that didn't come right out and say this person has autism. Obviously, it's 1920's magical society, so yeah, not gonna say that he is, but my husband and I left the theatre thinking Newt was on the spectrum. He had the lack of eye contact, the social awkwardness, and single minded obsession with his creatures. More incidental autism influenced by our society today. And in this case I wouldn't put him in the genius category. We also loved how the movie allowed him to stay true to character and not have some schmaltzy romantic goodbye kiss. Newt's departure was wonderfully socially awkward and you could see his inner struggle with the emotional moment.

I'm sure there are lots more of shows/movies that I haven't seen. Purposeful or incidental, I think it's good for Ethan to see these portrayals. Perhaps he can see himself in some of these characters.

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