9 Fictional characters with autism
These nine fictional autistic characters showcase the many facets to life on the spectrum, without being defined by their difference.
1. Chloe O'Brian, 24
An analyst at the Counter-Terrorist Unit of Los Angeles, played by Mary Lynn Rajskub, Chloe is extremely intelligent, loyal and kind character.
Autistic viewers have often felt a kinship with O'Brien because of her frequent displays of social awkwardness, her intelligence and her particular wit.
Blogger "Jar of Geek" discussed his personal empathy with Rajskub's character in a post from 2016, saying, "Chloe is one of the few characters I really identify with. Even though it was never official that Chloe was on the autism spectrum, she had many of the same problems relating to people that I have, a similar intelligence, a similar sense of humour, and a similar fierce loyalty to those she considers friends. I could never be Jack Bauer, but I could be Chloe."
2. Daniel Connelly, PS I Love You
It's, unfortunately, a rare thing to encounter a fictional character who portrays a positive presentation of autism, but an even rarer one to find an autistic romantic hero. Daniel Connelly from PS I Love You is an exception.
While some autistic people have struggled with the suggestions within the film that autism is synonymous for rudeness, others enjoyed the well-rounded character of Daniel and the way his character is far from defined by his autism. It shrugs off the suggestion that autistic people can't enjoy fulfilling and deeply intimate romantic relationships and shows that they can be handsome, desirable, and many other things besides simply autistic.
3. Nathan, X+Y
Inspired by the documentary Beautiful Young Minds, X+Y tells the story of Nathan, a young boy who struggles with people but feels at home with numbers.
Following his diagnosis with autism, Nathan struggles to connect with anybody except his father, who tragically dies in a car accident at the start of the film. The film follows his journey through grief, in which he discovers new and often unexpected connections.
Daniel Lightwing, on whom Nathan was based, told interviewers that he "cried the first three times I watched it. It says things I was feeling but could not express."
4. Julia, Sesame Street
This four-year-old, red-haired muppet was introduced to the cast of children's favourite Sesame Street in 2017, as a way to teach children about the differences of their autistic friends and classmates.
Autistic self-advocates were consulted in the creation of Julia, who is easily overwhelmed by loud noises, carries around a beloved rabbit toy which she strokes for comfort, and is often overly enthusiastic or excitable.
The puppeteer of Julia, Stacey Gordon, has a son with autism, which inspires the gestures and movements she gives to the puppet.
5. JJ, Skins
The phenomenally popular teen drama Skins introduced JJ, an autistic teenage boy, in its third season.
JJ is extremely articulate, and clever at school, and has two close friends, who dub themselves the "three musketeers". What JJ finds challenging, is with interacting with those who are outside of his friendship group, and his struggles to increase his confidence and make new friends are a focus of both series three and four.
6. Sam Gardener, Atypical
This coming-of-age Netflix original centres around Sam, an autistic teen who decides he is ready to start dating. While the first season drew some criticism for the lack of autistic input into its development, seasons two and three have been praised for their inclusion of autistic actors and writers, helping to create a more authentic description of growing up on the spectrum.
YouTube user the_aceofspades commented, "As an autistic person I like how they are actually portraying an autistic character who actually has romantic desire, instead of just like being really into trains."
7. Symmetra, Overwatch
Film and TV aren't the only important forms of media when it comes to autism representation. Overwatch is a "hero shooter" game, set 60 years into Earth's future.
Rumours had spread around fans of the game that Symmetra might be autistic for some time. In 2017, the creators of the game confirmed the theory was correct in a letter to a young fan. The game's director, Jeff Kaplan said: "Symmetra is autistic. She is one of our most beloved heroes and we think she does a great job of representing just how awesome someone with autism can be.”
In the character's official origin story, she says about herself: "Asking where I fit on the spectrum, it used to bother me. Because I knew it was true. It doesn’t bother me anymore. Because I can do things nobody else can do.”
8. Amélie Poulain, Amélie
Autism is not a storyline of the hugely-acclaimed French film, Amélie, but the debate around whether its eponymous heroine falls on the spectrum has taken place since its release.
Character traits including her quirky behaviour, tendency to misread social interactions, and sensory hypersensitivity have all been used to argue the case for Amélie's autism.
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