Written and Researched by Natalie Boquist
One of my favorite books as a kid was Rain Reign. I remember first buying the book at a school book fair because of the pretty cover—it’s a cover that’s still one of my favorites today. However, it was the story of the book that has stuck with me even more. Rain Reign, by Ann M. Martin, focuses on Rose, an eleven year old autistic girl. For eight year old me, the book was a glimpse into someone who was different from me but also similar. Rose was also a young girl who would do anything for her dog.
Autism in the media is a complicated subject. While there has been an increase in autistic representation in shows and movies over the past few years, according to the media advocacy organization GLAAD, there are still many stereotypes and a lack of representation in the way autistsic people are portrayed in the media. Typically, austitic characters are white males who can also have savant syndrome. While around 10% of autistic people also have savant syndrome, the media often does not also portray other types of autistic people (Gambacurta).
Representation in media matters. Media is an outlet to the world, allowing readers and viewers to understand experiences outside their own and listen to the voices of people willing to share their story. Lack of representation and misrepresentation in the media harms minorities by preventing them from finding any sense of relatability within the media. Showing a diverse array of stories of autistic people allows autistic people to see themselves on screen. Representation can help inspire people, especially children, through seeing people like themselves in shows and movies (“The Importance of Representation in Media.”).
While there is still a lack of accurate representation of autism, some shows have been praised for their representation. Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, for example, is a show that focuses on autistic teenager Matilda. Matilda is played by Kayla Cromer, who is on the autism spectrum. In an interview with Teen Vogue, Cromer says that “there are so many people trying with a disability to get into this business, but nobody wants to give us a chance.”
Autism representation in the media, whether it be books, TV shows, or movies, still has a long way to go. Over 75,000,000 people are estimated to have autism; however, there are very few shows that accurately portray this reality (“How Many People Are Diagnosed with Autism in the U.s.”). But the increase in representation in recent years is a step in the right direction, and supporting shows and movies with autistic actors is a great way to help maintain the growing momentum.
Gambacurta, Corinne. “Autism Representation in the Media.” Researchautism.org. N.p., 6 Jan. 2020. Web. 27 Oct. 2021.
“The Importance of Representation in Media.” Racetoacure.org. N.p., 12 June 2021. Web. 27 Oct. 2021.
“How Many People Are Diagnosed with Autism in the U.s.” Tpathways.org. N.p., 2 Jan. 2021. Web. 27 Oct. 2021.