I got interviewed by a student at Curtin University her article appears below
Atypical: Netflix’s not so typical take on autism
“Inclusion of special needs young people in TV shows can be tricky, especially in comedies. But there’s a sweet, honest tone to the new Atypical.” Roger Catlin, Rotten Tomatoes
“Too often, Atypical defaults to the typical.” Noel Murray, Rotten Tomatoes
‘Atypical’ is Netflix’s attempt to accurately portray a young adult with autism. The show follows 18-year-old Sam on his journey to find love through the confusing haze of school and parents.
It received mixed reviews, with 97 percent of Google users voting that they ‘liked’ the show. While the show was loved by many people it was also thought of as generic and badly researched. In a CBC Morning interview, Canadian Autistic rights advocate, Patricia George-Zwicker, said she was disappointed in the representation of people with autism in the show.
“I won’t say that it’s completely negative because they had some very good points.
First of all it walked right into the stereotype that autism is a white male condition and there’s still a lot of stats that try to back that up but we now know that autism presents differently in girls.
We also now know that for whatever reason there’s a greater representation of LGBTQ in our community outside of normalised community. So we’re seeing the very stereotypical view of what autism is.
That it’s a white male condition. You know we’re seeing every stereotype. There are times that there is literally lines that read out of the diagnostic criteria. It’s such a rigid view of autism that its completely unbelievable. I
’ve spoken to friends of mine who are autistic white male nerds, and they’re made very uncomfortable by the representation as well.”
George-Zwicker, on the spectrum herself, tweeted her distaste for the show. She only got through 11 minutes of the first episode before she had to shut it off.
“Here’s the thing – until actual autistic people control the narrative around autism no one will really know what being autistic is actually like.”
Nick McAllister, wasn’t diagnosed with autism until he was 42-years-old. McAllister explained that his doctor didn’t believe him when he wanted to get tested for autism because “this type of thing only occurs in children”.
“After repeated badgering, he sent me away and I got assessed. I was right and he was left red faced.” he said.
The number of people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder continues to rise in Australia. Autism is now 31 percent of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, according to the NDIS Quarterly Report from 2015. These numbers compared to recent years suggest that there is a rise in autism diagnosis but some argue that this is due to greater autism awareness, better diagnosis technology and equipment as well as diagnosis of milder cases.
McAllister was in two minds about the show but from those around him had only heard positive things.
“What hurt me the most I would say is that the lady who wrote and created the show has no affiliation with anyone within the autistic community.
She did research which is an insult in itself.
The actor playing the title character Sam spoke to some autistic friends. Again why not get an autistic actor to play this part?
Other things which they got wrong or incorrect were his behaviour traits. It was as if they’d grouped together every trait that is linked directly to wherever you fall on the spectrum.”
He describes autism as exhausting and is frustrated with the lack of opportunities people with autism are given. He expresses his urge for better employment opportunities for those on the spectrum.
“I don’t even understand it myself and I’m 42! It’s such a complex thing to unravel. We want to be included within society and we want to integrate with those not on the spectrum.”
He has been going to the social groups at Autism West for the past two months.
Janine Ripper, Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Autism West believes the company’s biggest goal is to empower young adults and adults with autism.
“I think we’re trying to empower people on the spectrum. It’s young people on the spectrum between 10 and 30 and its really focusing on that teenage to adult section when after they’ve left school. They may be disengaged, being bullied at school or put on the outer a bit. And to really help to reconnect them with people, with people similar to themselves and with the community. So its empowerment and connection. We’re also helping them build their social skills.”
Theresa Kidd is one of two project managers for the Curtin Specialist Mentoring Program.
“CSMP has been designed to support students on the Autism Spectrum and related conditions to improve their retention, academic success and well-being at university through the employment of a peer-to-peer mentoring program.”
She explains that all mentors receive special training before being given a mentee to ensure that they can give full support and guidance to every mentee’s individual needs.
Kidd said she agrees that in ‘Atypical’ there are aspects of the main character’s presentation that may be an accurate representation of some people with autism. Although each person with autism is different and it is difficult to accurately represent autism for all.
“Once you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism.”
“Unfortunately, some of the themes running through the show, such as social and communication difficulties, bullying, problems navigating intimate relationships, and high family stress and parental relationship breakdowns are not uncommon within this population.”
In our interview, Nick McAllister asked the question of where the support was for adults on the spectrum over 35? Many older adults on the spectrum are lost for job opportunities and only wanting to enable themselves to work towards a better future. He wanted a solution and I didn’t know the answer.
“Don’t judge us, we are a valuable member of society. Just take your time in getting to know us and understand how we operate on a daily basis.”