Autism Parenting Magazine Issue 74 (Member's Dashboard) - Page 35

PERSONAL NARRATIVE Atypical View from an Autism Mom: AutismTV is Not a Hashtag! By Sharlene T. SMITH, PhD Atypical, The Good Doctor, The Accountant These are just a few TV shows that feature characters with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Sesame Street now has Julia, a character with autism. I find it thought-provoking how so many people are excited to tell parents of children on the spectrum that these shows exist. M ore than likely, we are already aware because we subscribe to every blog, newsletter, page, and support and ad- vocacy group imaginable. Although I have found the Sesame Street episodes educational, I have tried to watch a few episodes of Atypical. And despite widespread belief, I found the episodes to be atypi- cally painful to watch. As I sat through the first few minutes, I found it abso- lutely horrifying to know that is how the world views those on the spectrum. To be showing this view to the public, no matter how much awareness it brings to the ASD community, was painful to watch. How much news is good news for the autism community? If these shows are your first exposure to the autism community, is this how you will subconsciously view those on the spectrum? Although our kids already face the stigma of being who they are, will they face equal criticism for who they are not? If they don’t behave like those on the shows, are they to be considered “less” all over again? I must say I have not invested the time that would be expected in watching the episodes of the shows. Somehow, I am less interested in my real life pain, struggles, sacrifices, misunderstandings, judgments, empathies, sympathies, and strange looks than those depicted on a national TV show for entertainment purposes masked in the label “Autism Awareness.” For a mother whose child is only in first grade and in her second year of public school, it’s been the most exhausting educational experience EVER, and I hold a PhD. So watching a few episodes of what a child in a school setting experiences on a daily basis is heart- breaking. We know our children face challenges, and they work their butts off to rise to every challenge. But to add a documented visualization, editorial- ized and broadcasted for the world to see, is atypi- cally gut-wrenching. So even as I “Netflix and Chill” Autism Parenting Magazine | Issue 74 | 35