Today I have gathered together a small pile of #ActuallyAutistics to lend me their perspectives for a collab post!
April is Autism Acceptance Month — as we all know! — and this year I wanted to actually do things for it. One thing that happens every year is: we autistics curate lists of book recommendations…and then feel very sour about the limited amount we can even talk about.
Our sparse collection of recs are proffered (because despite 1 in 70 people being autistic, we don’t show up in literature very much) and we try to raise our voices above the clamour to confirm that — “UH, NO, that book is NOT good rep!! Would the neurotypicals please stop…stop recommending it every April!!!”
Mostly we’re left wanting. Aching to see things in books that we don’t get to see.
So today I’m asking four autistic bookworms and authors to tell me what they wish they saw in books with autism representation.
It’s easy to say “we need more books with autistic characters” but hey let’s get specific about it.
Some Terminology If You’re Not Familiar With It!
Neurodiverse = someone with atypical thinking (could be autistic, adhd, Tourette’s, anxiety disorder, etc.)
Neurotypical = the opposite of neurodiverse and not autistic (the bulk of the population)
Stim = self-soothing repetitive movement (autistics are well known for rocking/flapping, etc. but stimming goes well beyond those stereoteypes)
ASD = autism spectrum disorder
ND = neurodivergence / neurodiverse
More Autism Posts
💛 How To Tell If A Book Has Good Autism Rep
💛 What It’s Like To Write an #Ownvoices Autism Novel
💛 my review of Kids Like Us by Hilary Reyl (a great autism story!)
*:·ﾟ✧*:·ﾟ✧ Daley Downing *:·ﾟ✧*:·ﾟ✧
(Please check out Daley’s Blog | Twitter | and her novels Masters & Beginners, Rulers & Mages, Healers & Warriors — supporting autistic authors is honestly an amazing thing to do this month!…and every month! I also have read M&B and adored it!)
Here’s what we need more of in books featuring neurodivergence (I like to cut to the chase) – One, more books featuring ND to begin with, and two, more books promoting ND as simply a way of being, not something requiring pity or a medical cure.
Here’s what we need less of: The second part of what I just said. To go along with this, I’d really like to see more characters who are autistic or have a learning disorder or a developmental disability and don’t feel the need to hide that or be ashamed of themselves. And we can get more of that by supporting authors and publishers who write/publish the positive stuff.
*:·ﾟ✧*:·ﾟ✧ Becca from @ Becca’s Book Realm *:·ﾟ✧*:·ﾟ✧
I’d love to see less autistic characters who are mathematical geniuses, or geniuses in general. Less autistic characters who are able to spout endless facts off the top of their head. I’d love to see more autistic characters being casually included in SFF and non contemporary books that don’t center around them being autistic. More autistic romances where the autistic person isn’t a cishet white boy. Autistics who LIKE being touched and cuddled and hugged, who seek out sensory stuff instead of just avoiding it. Because we’re all different and not all of us experience the world in the same way.
*:·ﾟ✧*:·ﾟ✧ Jessica Grimsley *:·ﾟ✧*:·ﾟ✧
I would like to see less of just the savant rep and portraying Autistic characters as people who need fixing. I think what people often talk about with Autistic people is how they need improve “this” and work on “that” but never how wonderful they can be – not just on a savant level.
I’d love to see more of how, like neurotypicals, we are individuals. We can be anything. Maybe that would help so that when people meet us in real life, they don’t expect either a genius or a helpless “thing”. Instead, they can expect kind and caring people who are their own person. Of course the struggles can be extremely challenging and exhausting, but I love it when people understand that Autistic people are so much more than the struggles. And the world needs to know this.
*:·ﾟ✧*:·ﾟ✧ C.R.R. Hillin *:·ﾟ✧*:·ﾟ✧
The short answer: I want more Ty Blackthorn. What I want in fiction is to see people like ME in the mainstream. Which seems like not a lot to ask for, but here we are ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ If I know anything about autism is that it’s often completely invisible to the average crowd because they have no idea what they’re looking for and their expectations are colored by…wherever the heck people learn this stuff. Social osmosis? I am not the person to ask about this.
I’m an Aspie (a term which is now outdated, but I am sick and tired of explaining that to people I swear to God) and 80% of my wedding party (all the men, plus me) were Aspies too. And I didn’t know, because the neurodiverse don’t discriminate–if someone is a little dorky and antisocial, we just assume that’s how they are and cherish the heck out of them anyway. So what I would really like to see is a character low on the spectrum, one that is autistic but acts like the average person. I love Ty Blackthorn so so much, but he was still very obviously autistic – I want something more subtle still. I want the average reader to fall in love with them, relate to their adorkable struggles and their anxiety and hatred of crowds and their naive assumptions that everyone means exactly what they say, and THEN find out they’re autistic. I want the reader’s understanding of what autism is shaken to the core. And most importantly, I want it to have nothing to do with the story, except as characterization.
Aspies aren’t mentally ill, they aren’t scary, they aren’t robots, and they don’t need pity. They need people to see the world the way they do: the same way as everyone else, but with less concern over pointless social rules and quirks and nuances and more concern with what actually matters: honesty, emotion, and intellect. They need to be seen as normal, healthy, and happy. We need more books by Aspies and for Aspies that help all readers understand that there are so many of us, and that we don’t struggle with who we are–we struggle with a world that was just not designed for us. I wrote an autistic character into The Orphan’s Code (you’ll never guess who), and I have a book with a modern-day Aspie in the works, but I can’t single-handedly change the opinions of a vast majority of the population – though I sure as hell am gonna try.
*:·ﾟ✧*:·ﾟ✧ hey it’s Me! your favourite Fury!*:·ﾟ✧*:·ﾟ✧
(Also don’t forget my #ownvoices autistic book came out last week — The Boy Who Steals Houses!)
I absolutely LOVE what everyone’s been saying here and there’s barely any more that I want to add!
I think the underlying statement that we’re all asking for is: less stereotypes, more autistics who are just out in the world living their best life. When I pick up a book with an autistic character, honestly my stomach just clenches. I’ve read so many horrible ones that want cures, want to fix the autistic character, praise them for hiding their traits, and use their autism as the comic relief. (Reason #29893 why that Netflix show Atypical is disgusting. The autism in there is a joke.) Reading books where the author thinks it’s better if the autistic isn’t, well, autistic — it’s a slap in the face. It has to stop.
I want autistics who stim more (this is seemingly rare in books?! despite us doing it SO MUCH) and I definitely want autistics in more fantasy settings. More stories where they have an adventure — instead of autism being their only plot. I want queer autistics and POC autistics. I want less plots centring around “help the socially deficient autistic fall in love! lol! that will be hard!”🙄because actually romance isn’t the pinnacle of life for all of us?! I do want to read about autistics with higher-needs…they are stigmatised as “burdens” on their families and that also needs to stop. Every part of the autism spectrum deserves love. And sure, life isn’t easy with severe autism?? But that doesn’t mean you can’t be happy, loved, and fulfilled.
What I most want is autistics in books who are loved and cherished and never asked to change. It shouldn’t be unreasonable to ask that. It shouldn’t.
if you’re autistic, i’d love to hear what *YOU* want to see more of in books with autistic characters too! and if you’re not autistic — please still chime in! how often do you read autistic characters in books?