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Today is the blog project Autistic People Are. Folks are blogging about autism because, if you type "Autistic people are" into Google, it suggests things like "annoying" and "dangerous." Well that's not helpful. So here are my thoughts on the matter...


Autistic People Are Whatever They Want To Be

Just like anyone else, really. They follow their interests and develop their skills. They just tend to do those things differently than neurotypical folks do. That's okay. Autistic people can be pretty much anything, depending on what talents they have and what choices they make.

Based on my observations, these include:
Autistic people are writers.
Autistic people are bloggers.
Autistic people are artists.
Autistic people are musicians.
Autistic people are animal behaviorists.
Autistic people are hobby-linguists.
Autistic people are computer experts.
Autistic people are science fiction fans.
Autistic people are activists.

I have a poetic series, An Army of One: The Autistic Secession in Space, in which a majority of the characters are people somewhere on the autistic spectrum. Those characters were inspired by a combination of research into autistic traits along with prompts and comments from my audience, some of whom are also on the spectrum or know people who are. So there's a widening range of diversity as I describe character types and people say, "Okay, but what about X?" and I introduce new characters or deepen existing ones.

Thus far, these characters include:
starfarers
spies
soldiers
heroes
maintenance techs
astronomers
codebreakers
surveillance techs
clockmakers
paper pushers
mathematicians
opera fans
hardware designers
data handlers
gardeners
computer programmers

There are also characters of artificial intelligence, whose personalities are designed along similar lines.

So Google is being more than a bit blinker-sighted on this topic. Autistic people can be anything, to the same degree anyone else can, allowing for variations in opportunity and personal potential. It's not okay to narrow someone else's opportunities on purpose just because you don't like how their brain works. It's their brain. They can do what they want with it.  When the search results are heavily data-cropped, this is a major nuisance for people trying to research a topic so as to write or talk about it responsibly.  That's a problem for everyone.

If you're writing about autistic people, in fact or in literature, try to keep in mind the breadth of diversity.  In nonfiction, try to balance the similarities and differences between neurovariant and neurotypical people.  If it goes all one way or all the other, that's an incomplete and misleading portrayal.  In fiction, one thing that might be fun for character generation is randomly selecting a profession. Here's one for modern characters and one for speculative genres. Then ask yourself what an autistic person might bring to that job and how they would approach its inherent challenges.  This can lead to storylines that diverge from the most commonly told ones, which is a good idea anyhow.  

In either case, understand that this field will require more digging than average to get past the surface layer of crappy-to-mediocre data and reach a level that contains more nuanced and useful descriptions.  In particular, try to find some stuff written BY people with autism, not just stuff written ABOUT them by outsiders.  I've gathered some resources on autism and science fiction based on my needs for An Army of One, if you want to see examples.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-03 02:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chordatesrock.livejournal.com
Noticing that the lists were incomplete, my first thought was, "oh, I should point out the things autistic people are that aren't listed." For obvious reasons, that does not work, which is the point.

*laugh*

Date: 2013-03-03 02:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Yep. A list about what people are is inherently incomplete, there being billions of people and things that people can be or do. (List all the lists that don't list themselves...) But it's still fun to give some examples.

What are a few of your favorites?

Re: *laugh*

Date: 2013-03-03 02:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chordatesrock.livejournal.com
In real life: fashion-obsessed teenage girls, overly-emotional mothers with PTSD, scientists who research autism, models and mathematicians.

In fiction: purveyors of porn.

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