Positive Representations of Autism in Media
There are more and more examples of autism in media every day, and many of them are extremely positive! As autism representation increases, the world grows to better understand autism. This cycle is slowly but surely helping to reduce confusion and misinformation about ASD.
We’ve collected a list of beneficial examples of autism representation in media, and information on why more representation is a good thing.
Why Good Representation Matters
Autism representation has come a long way, but not every inclusion of an autistic character is a “good” one. Certain portrayals rely more on stereotypes and caricatures, rather than spreading empathy and educating people on what ASD is actually like. Many people base their perceptions on the people they see in their favorite pieces of media, which is why positive representation is so important.
Fighting Against Stereotypes
You may have noticed that most autistic characters in movies, TV shows, and books are white men. While white men can have autism, this doesn’t reflect the reality that anyone can have autism. This kind of generalization can make it harder for people who aren’t white men to get an accurate diagnosis.
In addition, a common trend in media is to show autistic people as incredibly inspirational or exceptional. Although many autistic people are inspirational and exceptional, they don’t have to be in order to have value. This generalization can put pressure on autistic people to change the world or be a genius. But remember, everyone has unique and special talents, as well as inherent value, no matter what they decide to do with their lives.
Many pieces of media also over-exaggerate the characteristics of autism, implying that everyone with autism is obsessed with routines or speaks bluntly. The truth is that autism is a spectrum—some autistic people do adhere to routines while others may not. The best autism representations show that every person with autism is an individual.
Examples of Positive Autism Representations
In the last decade, we’ve seen a lot of great autistic representation in media, and we wanted to share some of our favorite examples!
Loop is an animated short film from Pixar about two kids canoeing on a lake. Renee is a non-verbal autistic girl, while Marcus is a chatty boy. The short is all about how these two children from different backgrounds can still learn to understand each other. The character of Renee is very special to see, because we rarely get to see girls with autism in media! This representation is very excellent because it helps other girls feel more understood.
Love on the Spectrum was originally an Australian reality TV show that now has an American version. This show follows several different autsitic adults as they explore love and dating. Because the show follows real people, Love on the Spectrum is a great way to showcase the wide range of individuals who can have autism, as well as their unique stories. Unlike some other representations of autism, Love on the Spectrum isn’t “just” about how its subjects have autism. It’s also about how the subjects are people. Autism is a detail about them, not their only personality trait.
The Reason I Jump is an immersive documentary about five different non-speaking autistic people from all over the world. The film simulates the sensory experience that many non-speaking autistic people have. This makes The Reason I Jump educational for people without autism and validating for those it represents. Films like this are a great way to share the experience of autism with others.
Underdogs is a fantastic young-adult novel about a group of neurodivergent teenagers who need to work together to save the world. Written by Chris Bonnello, Underdogs is a book that makes it clear why you should be reading books by autistic authors. The book is gripping, exciting, and it captivated audiences so much that a sequel was written: Underdogs: Tooth and Nail.
Autism Live is an excellent web show from our friend Shannon Penrod created to support all the caregivers, parents, and teachers who work with and care for people on the spectrum. One of our favorite parts about Autism Live’s format is that viewers and listeners can submit questions to the show. Then, Autism Live brings on experts to answer the questions and discuss fascinating topics!
We know there are many more examples of great representations of autism in media, so join our Facebook community and share your favorites with us. The Ability Life Solutions community is always excited to read, watch, or listen to more great stories!