1. Bravocube

    Bravocube Member

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    Opinion On My Portrayal Of Autism

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Bravocube, Aug 14, 2017.

    So I am making a character in a comic of mine. He is supposed to be on the spectrum. I'm aware that Autism is a spectrum thing and there isn't necessarily a right or wrong way to portray it. I'm also aware it's more important he has a personality and such, and not making his entire plight about Autism and it's symptoms.

    That being said, Henry (The character's name) shows some symptoms. He can't handle being in places that are louder then average, they give him sensory overload. He isn't the best at socializing, and tends to observe from a distance and didn't really initiate most of his friendships.

    Figures of speech will confuse him a bit, but he does understand sarcasm. He also tends to be a bit overly blunt, but he clearly doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. He just lacks a bit of tact when it comes to social skills. If you ask a rhetorical question like "What did I do wrong?" He'll actually try to tell you what he thinks may have gone wrong and potentially make that person feel worse. He does apologize if you explain to him though and means it when he does. He likes to keep things on a schedule and while he doesn't completely freak out when it changes, it will visibly frustrate him and annoy him.

    He also tends to not look directly at people when speaking to them and fidgets with his gloves or hands when talking to people. He had more symptoms as a child, but grew out of some of them.

    What I'm struggling with is sex. I keep reading that autistic people tend to be asexual, or very very into sex. Is that true? Henry does enjoy sex a lot, but I want to make sure I portray this right and I can't find a lot of good material online for it.
     
  2. Trish

    Trish Lost.. got any breadcrumbs I can follow? Supporter Contributor

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    I can't respond to the sex part, (as those aren't conversations I have with the people on the spectrum in my life) but the rest of it sounds fine, and plausible to me.
     
  3. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    You need @mashers and his excellent articles on autism. :)

    This all sounds very plausible based on my experiences with autism, besides the last part. It is quite common for people with autism to have no or little interest in sex (or even be repulsed by it due to sensory issues) but I've never heard of an autistic person being unusually interested in sex. Not saying it can't happen, of course, but I'm not sure it's a dichotomy as your post suggests.
     
  4. Trish

    Trish Lost.. got any breadcrumbs I can follow? Supporter Contributor

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    Actually, I was thinking about this. I would totally agree with you, except that I'm 99.9% sure that my neighbor is on the spectrum (though I am not privy to whether or not he's been formally diagnosed, but both of his kids are) and he is obsessed with sex. He's that guy that sends totally inappropriate text messages, spends all his time on youporn (which I have him to thank for even knowing that's a thing) and will say whatever pops into his head - example - "You should wear that shirt more. Your tits look great in it." I realize it makes him sound like an asshole, but I really don't think he means to be. He just doesn't think anyone should have a problem with what he considers to be facts.
     
  5. izzybot

    izzybot Oportet Vivere Contributor

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    Yeah, that seems off to me. It's probably not as binaristic as you've been reading and more of a continuum like most things are. Otherwise, from your description, sounds fine.

    People with tactile sensory issues could easily be more likely to have issues with sex. On the flipside, if they're having sex in such a way that it tickles their stimmy feelings, sure, they could be more into it than other folks. I just don't think it's black and white.

    TMI maybe but also useful to illustrate my point:
    I know that as someone who is sensitive to various tactile things - sometimes good, sometimes bad - I find just holding a vibrator very pleasant. It's not sexual, it just feels good in the same way stimming does. I also like touching bassy speakers and my dishwasher when it's running :rolleyes:
     
  6. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Overall it sounds like you’ve got a really good characterisation of autism here. Your character sounds very much like me. I would identify strongly with him, and would absolutely recognise him as autistic if this characterisation came across in the writing, and he wouldn’t come across as stereotyped. I think I would really enjoy reading this character.

    I can’t give a generalised answer to your question about sex because I only have my own experience to go on. However, there are resources available. I would suggest looking up Wenn Lawson, who has written quite a bit about sex, sexuality and gender identity in autism.

    Your comment about people with autism either being asexual or being very very into sex does ring true for most activities in autism, and it’s possible that sex would be no different in that regard. However as @izzybot said, it's unlikely that it's as simple as that, as there will be shades of importance and enjoyment of sex across the spectrum.

    There is evidence published in peer-reviewed journals about sexuality in autism. A quick search on Google Scholar for “autism sexuality” (without the quotes) returned a lot of results. Perhaps have a look through and read the abstracts of some of the articles to get a feel for the current understanding of sexual behaviour and attitudes in the autism community. Just be aware of the sample they have used, as not everything will apply to your character.

    Also, ask yourself why you think it's important to understand sexuality within the spectrum. If your character is autistic and enjoys sex, that's absolutely fine. I don't think anybody who understands anything about autism is going to question that. Some people might wonder why he likes sex if they only have stereotypical or erroneous views of autism (e.g. all autistic people dislike physical touch, autistic people don't have feelings, autistic people don't care about other people), but your character is a good demonstration that these things are false.



    I thought I’d feed back on the description of your character. I hope it helps.

    You’ve got the most important part right by recognising that the stereotypes represent only a small part of the spectrum. You’ve also recognised that autism doesn’t define a person, which is absolutely correct.

    I like that the first trait you mentioned is sensory overload. Definitely accentuate. If you are writing from his POV, you can describe how he feels in the presence of overloading stimuli (cf. The Curious Incident for a good example in fiction, and autobiographies by well-known autistic people for factual examples). If he isn’t a POV character, try to observe how people with autism actually behave when overload (i.e. don’t just make him flap and rock and groan, as this is stereotypical).

    Observing from a distance and tending not to initiate is another tick - it might help to think about what specifically is motivating this behaviour. Is it that he wants to be more involved but doesn’t know how? Or wants to but it’s too anxiety-provoking? Or doesn’t want to? Any of these are possible, but it would be a good idea to decide beforehand what his attitude towards social overtures is.

    Figures of speech are definitely going to be confusing. Depending on the age of the character he might have learned some by rote, but might still not fully understand them. You can show this by having him use them in an inappropriate context.

    Being blunt but not wanting to hurt people’s feelings is spot on. This will also endear him to the reader, as they will see that his desire is to communicate and to do so “appropriately”, even if he gets it wrong. Ditto with apologising when it has been explained to him why he upset somebody. This relates to the discussion of the different types of empathy in my article on this site.



    I like that you’ve given him a preference for routine and consistency, but haven’t gone with the utter meltdown if his toothbrush is at the wrong angle.
     
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  7. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I've just realised this might have been a bit unclear. What I meant was that for many people with autism, any given activity is likely to either be of zero interest, or be extremely interesting or motivating, sometimes to the point of obsession. It's often an all-or-nothing level of interest. And sex could be one of those interests.
     
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  8. Bravocube

    Bravocube Member

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    I'm unsure of it as well, but I'm just reporting what I found in my own research! Whether it's true or not I'm not 100% sure.
     
  9. Bravocube

    Bravocube Member

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    Oh thank god for you! Thank you, I was looking for everyone's opinion but the fact that you relate to it and such means a lot. I did a lot of research on this already, I'm so glad it shows. To answer your question, I want to know how his future relationship with another main character is going to work. The romance aspect of it and the sexual aspect of it as well. The character he's with isn't autistic and has a pretty high libido. I wanted to make him have a high libido as well. I felt as though that would be in character for him, considering details about him I didn't mention mention in this post. I just wanted to make sure it didn't conflict with the fact he was autistic, because I keep reading/seeing a lot of them as ace. You answered that perfectly, though! I appreciate your help so much!

    There are parts of the story where it's told more through his eyes. The POV ball is tossed around a little depending on the part of the story. It mostly switches between him and another girl closer to him. I wouldn't write him during that overload. Normally he just get's visibly distressed, trying to subtly cover his ears or muffle the sound. If he gets really overwhelmed he won't even try politeness. He'll curl up/make himself small as possible and just kind of shuts down. Tears are possible as well depending on the stress level.

    A few things motivate it. He had a difficult past, which makes him feel even more like he doesn't fit in and no one will ever like him how hard he tries. Autism just makes it even more of a challenge for him so in adulthood he eventually just stopped trying and stuck with the one or two people he was already comfortable with.

    The last two are already like him! Some character's take awhile to warm up to him, but others find it endearing. The thing is, this takes place in Victorian Times so I can't confirm he is on the spectrum, unless it's outside the story on my blog. The character's notice something is off about him. Characters who are stuck in an old way of thinking find him irritating, but the more progressive bunch (look at me trying to avoid spoilers) Just see it as him having a different way of being and invite him into their family of sorts no problem. It's really sweet to be honest. I think a lot of people will like it because the other characters take the time to get to know him, and what causes sensory overload and do their best to help him feel comfortable.
     
  10. rktho

    rktho Five WIPs are more efficient than one

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    I'm on the spectrum and I'm not obsessed with sex or asexual... Though as a high-functioning case I may be a poor example.
     
  11. Bravocube

    Bravocube Member

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    Noted! Thank you, that's helpful information to know!
     
  12. rktho

    rktho Five WIPs are more efficient than one

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    I do have a tendency to alienate people one way or another in awkward ways, usually creepy and/or embarrassing. One time I hugged a girl from behind... She didn't say anything but I realized as soon as I did that you're supposed to hug lower than you would hugging from the front...
     
  13. Bravocube

    Bravocube Member

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    Ohhh whoops-. I hope she wasn't too cross with you!
     
  14. rktho

    rktho Five WIPs are more efficient than one

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    She seemed alright, but I'm haunted by it.
     
  15. Bravocube

    Bravocube Member

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    Ohhh I'm so sorry that happened to you then!
     
  16. Partridge

    Partridge Active Member

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    I'm Autistic. I've "managed" it so I can cope with most every day situations, and have really worked on my communication skills since my teenage years. So if you want to know anything, or ask me anything, send me a message :)
     
  17. rktho

    rktho Five WIPs are more efficient than one

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    Oh, you think that's bad...
     
  18. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    @rktho
    We all have things we look back on and cringe. Times when we feel like we did something stupid and should have known better. But the point is that we didn't know better. The people who matter will understand that, and will see the effort it takes to learn these things. So try not to feel too bad about those things.
     
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  19. Bravocube

    Bravocube Member

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    Agreed! I've done a lot of dumb stupid things. I learned from them, though and don't do them anymore.
     

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