Sunday, October 17, 2021

Highlighting Autistic Representation in Media

For some time, the representation of autistic people in books and film has definitely not reflected the autistic community at all. There has, however, been quite a shift, with more Autistic creators being noticed for their incredible work. Below, we’re going to highlight some Autistic creators that we love, and how you can find their work!

Elle McNicoll

Elle McNicoll is one of these people.

In her interview with The Guardian, McNicoll mentions that during job interviews, publishers told her that no one would want to read books with disabled characters that have positive representation.

A lot of the reactions were, ‘Waterstones don’t like books like that’,” she says.

Alison Flood from The Guardian, interviewing Elle Mcnicoll
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Ironically, McNicoll won the £5,000 Waterstones children’s book prize for her novel A Kind of Spark, where her main character, Addie, is a young autistic girl full of passion and courage.

McNicoll’s debut speaks volumes on why characters like Addie are needed. As an autistic adult myself, I grew up without seeing anyone like myself in novels and became increasingly frustrated with inaccurate representation in TV programs such as Sheldon Cooper or Shaun Murphy: white males who were geniuses but interacted with other people as if robots.

Addie is a disabled character that doesn’t have a tragic story — something disabled people have wanted in books and media for a very long time.

The hugely positive reaction to A Kind of Spark, and the fact it has also won the Blue Peter Prize for best story and named Blackwell’s book of 2020, proves how much we need this representation.

Everything’s Going to be Okay

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Turning to television, Kayla Cromer hit the ground running with her character Matilda in Everything’s Going to be Okay.

With a score of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, this series was full of hilarity and humble moments, but most importantly had autistic actors playing autistic characters.

Actress Lillian Carrier, who played Drea, was also the show’s Autism Consultant which meant autistic creatives had a voice in what was written at all times. You can clearly see this come through in the episodes, as there are no harmful stereotypes and the characters get to live fulfilling, true lives instead of being depicted poorly.

The increase in positive representation for autistic people in the media gives me hope that more autistic creatives will be given the platform to showcase their work.

The reason we have these brilliant books and shows us that the projects were led by autistic people themselves; if a story needs to be told about disabled people, then disabled people need to be doing the telling.

As shown by the responses to A Kind of Spark and Everything’s Going to be Okay, an entire community and its allies are hungry for positive, accurate representation. Let us hope that publishing and film production continue to bring it to the table.

Holly Smale

Smale is the award-winning author of Geek Girl and was diagnosed as autistic at age 39. She has since become a strong advocate for the autistic community on Twitter.

Chloe Hayden

A Youtuber, singer, and spokesperson for the autistic community, Hayden works incredibly hard in all her projects and has starred in many short films. You can find her Youtube channel here.

Abigail Balfe

Balfe published her book A Different Sort of Normal July this year, and it is a real-life illustrated story about growing up autistic. Balfe hopes her book will help other young autistic children to feel proud of who they are.

While there are many more autistic creators, we wanted to highlight a few of our favorites. Who are some of your favorite creators?

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