“We now watch, hear and read a great deal about what it is like to be autistic… Autism narratives is a new genre: not expert reports by clinicians or reflections by theorists, but stories about people with autism, told by the people themselves, or their families, or by novelists, or by writers of stories for children”
–Ian Hacking “Autistic Autobiography”
There are movies like Rain Man and Snow Cake, autobiographies like Born On a Blue Day and Thinking in Pictures, works of fiction such as Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and articles appearing in Wired Magazine and The New York Times among others. The new autism narrative provides a social cure for autism that science is incapable of doing just yet.
Media and literature give the public the ability to greater understand an individual with autism. With insight into why someone with autism is behaving the way they are and how they might be thinking the public is armed and ready to address the differences they will encounter when dealing with someone autistic. There is no longer a need to protect oneself from the other and stay away. Understanding provides confidence and banishes the fear. People with autism can integrate into society to the extent that the severity of the disorder allows them. The public will be ready and able to accept them and interact with them. That is the social cure the increasing number of depictions of autism is creating. We can read, watch, and begin to understand what no longer has to be stigmatized, foreign, and other.
The literature we will focus on consists of one work of fiction and one work of non-fiction. Mark Haddon’s acclaimed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time will serve in our analysis of the autistic narrative through fictional works. Temple Grandin’s autobiography Thinking in Pictures will be the focus of the discussion of the autistic narrative through non-fiction works. In both books the autistic person suffers from high functioning autism, which means s/he has the ability to function in society relatively normally. The works will provide us with insight into how that functioning may occur inside the mind of the autistic.
Paradoxically, while the autistic narrative sheds light on the mind of the autistic person and is the start of a social cure, it does so by creating a misrepresentation of the disorder to the public. The autistic narrative genre relies on characteristics like savant skills, avoiding eye contact or touch, and swaying or rocking back and forth as a type of repetitive behavior, to indicate to the audience that the character in question is autistic. The proliferation of these characteristics generates a stereotype and gives the public the impression that the characteristics are universally true for all autistic people which is often not the case. While the depictions of autistic characters may be fairly accurate from a scientific standpoint they perpetuate stereotypes of autism that lead to an overall misrepresentation of the disorder.