“Considering that much of what society at large learns on disorders on the autism spectrum is produced by representations of autism in novels, TV-series, movies or autobiographies, it will be of vital importance to scrutinize these representations and to check whether or not they are, in fact, misrepresenting autism”
Douwe Draaisma “Stereotypes of Autism”
The autistic narrative provides neurotypical people with a greater understanding of autism. In this way the disorder begins to lose the stigma attached to it. Depictions of both low functioning and high functioning autistics are based on diagnostic understandings of autism however, they tend to cause the public to skew the realities of the disorder. For example, very few people with autism are categorized as having savant skills yet, a disproportionate number of characters with autism display these skills. These depictions then lead to a categorical misrepresentation of autism. The public believes that most people with autism are high functioning and can live a relatively normal life with a few quirks. Take Temple Grandin, an accomplished woman with a Ph.D. Everyone has quirks, so perhaps people with autism are not that different?
This is exactly what part the autistic community is advocating for themselves. Amy Harmon claims, “…those who deviate from the shrinking subset of neurologically “normal” want tolerance, not just of their diagnoses, but of their behavioral quirks. They say brain differences, like body differences, should be embraced, and argue for an acceptance of “neurodiversity”” (“Neurodiversity Forever; The Disability Movement Turns to Brains”). What part of the autistic community is really advocating for is even more extreme than what Harmon suggests. Part of the autistic community does not want to be categorized as having a disorder. They do not want to be cured and believe that they should be accepted in society as they are.
The public is repeatedly exposed to the depictions of people with high functioning autism like Christopher in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Temple Grandin who both have a form of high functioning autism. The harsh realities of autism are replaced with stereotyped depictions. Someone with low functioning autism may have a severely difficult time functioning normally in society. It may even be impossible for some who never develop verbal language skills among other handicaps. One could argue that the societal effects of the autistic narrative is not worth the inaccuracy of the overall representation of autism.
As it currently stands autism is a disorder in the DSM that is increasingly effecting more American citizens. The movement towards accepting neurodiversity means that an increasing number of people with autism (presumably high functioning autism) will be accepted in society. While science continues to search for the cause of the disorder and a cure for autism, the media and literature can continue providing the much needed social cure for autism so that people with autism may fully enter society. The misrepresentations are a small price to pay given the lives of neurodiverse people that can be changed with acceptance into mainstream society. This readiness for acceptance is what the autistic narrative achieves. It provides the social cure.