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I want to write an autistic character right:

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What the title says. I have a character in a Twenty Minutes In The Future work who is turning out to be systematic, logical, and at some point I wrote down in notes that he is "Vulcan!me".

However, he's also turning into a foil of the MC, who himself is Born in the Wrong Decade and being left behind by augmented humans. (Because everyone else has technology helping them, he is left as The Ditz in comparison.) This prompted an idea for the "Vulcan" character: that he is high-functioning autistic, but uses transhuman and AI technologies to mitigate the inconveniences it causes. (i.e. by letting him ignore a messy room when there isn't a socially appropriate opportunity to fix it.) This would be in contrast to the MC, who is inconvenienced by being nominally human.

However, I know that autism is one of the conditions that writers seem to get wrong often, (i.e. by invoking Inspirationally Disabled, Disability Superpower, or related tropes) so I'd thought I'd ask here about how to do it "properly." Namely,
  1. Is this a viable or sensible idea in the first place?
  2. Should I write him in any specific way?
  3. Is there anything I should specifically avoid, whether for Unfortunate Implications or any other reason?

edited 1st Jan '12 6:37:07 PM by Yej

Da Rules excuse all the inaccuracy in the world. Listen to them, not me.
 2 Noir Grimoir, Sun, 1st Jan '12 7:58:11 PM from San Diego, CA
Rabid Fujoshi
Well just from what you said I'm wondering if you're a bit confused on what autism actually is.

You wrote: "(i.e. by letting him ignore a messy room when there isn't a socially appropriate opportunity to fix it.)"

Maybe you're thinking of OCD. Autism doesn't have anything to do with being bothered by messes, or being systematic or logical. I'm assuming the character doesn't have any intellectual disabilities (as in he's high functioning, of normal or above-normal intelligence).

The main thing Autistics have trouble with is social development, and when it's caught early, in those crucial child development years where we learn most of our social development, it can often be treated quite well. Autistics have trouble with recognizing facial expressions and social cues from body movement and vocal patterns and things like that. Most people instinctively pick up on these things, but Autistics don't, so they kind of have to learn them 'manually', and it isn't easy. They may have trouble interacting with others, not because they don't want to, but because it's very difficult for them to 'read the atmosphere', so they sometimes end up coming off as obnoxious or unthoughtful, when they aren't at all, it's just difficult for them to tell if you're interested or not. They have a tendency to fixate on subjects and enjoy independent activities but they can also be quite social when in an accepting environment.

Hope that information was helpful. I really don't think Autism is what you are looking for if you want a 'Spock-type' character, though.

edited 1st Jan '12 8:04:30 PM by NoirGrimoir

SPATULA, Supporters of Page Altering To Urgently Lead to Amelioration (supports not going through TRS for tweaks and minor improvements.)
 3 Flyboy, Sun, 1st Jan '12 8:07:10 PM from the United States
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You might be thinking of Asperger's (spelling?), which is apparently a form of autism.

In any case, I dunno, read a medical textbook or two on the matter?
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 4 Noir Grimoir, Sun, 1st Jan '12 8:11:53 PM from San Diego, CA
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Asperger's Syndrome is a high functioning form of Autism.
SPATULA, Supporters of Page Altering To Urgently Lead to Amelioration (supports not going through TRS for tweaks and minor improvements.)
Go meet one.
 
 6 Mr AHR, Mon, 2nd Jan '12 6:20:32 AM from ಠ_ಠ Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
 7 Shark Attack, Mon, 2nd Jan '12 3:27:57 PM from under and within the sea
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I suggest doing a lot— I mean, a lot a lot— of research before broaching this topic. From the description, it doesn't look like you know much about ASD and its characteristics ("Vulcan-like"? No.). Autism (or "autism spectrum disorder", which is more accurate) is a neurological condition with a number of symptoms and behaviours and no one person ever has all of them, or at the same level. It's an enormous field of study which includes other conditions, like Asperger syndrome, Rhett syndrome, and other pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs).

The Autism Society has some info— start here and read through to learn some general info. Autism Canada also has some good stuff here— the stuff on symptoms is better than the Autism Society's website.
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@Noir Grimoir,
Maybe you're thinking of OCD. Autism doesn't have anything to do with being bothered by messes, or being systematic or logical. I'm assuming the character doesn't have any intellectual disabilities (as in he's high functioning, of normal or above-normal intelligence).
I got the impression that autism could include compulsive behaviour from this section.

Hope that information was helpful. I really don't think Autism is what you are looking for if you want a 'Spock-type' character, though.
Probably not, but I was also forgetting when I wrote the OP that Spock is not actually all that logical. Thanks for the other information, though.

@[up][up], [up] Thanks for the links, I'll make sure to check those out. And, as mentioned, Spock is a bad comparison. Sherlock would be closer.

It also occurs to me that since it's not important that the disorder is autism specifically, it'd be safer for me just to either not name it, or name it as a condition that hasn't been discovered/named yet.

edited 3rd Jan '12 5:11:41 PM by Yej

Da Rules excuse all the inaccuracy in the world. Listen to them, not me.
 9 Noir Grimoir, Tue, 3rd Jan '12 7:37:36 PM from San Diego, CA
Rabid Fujoshi
It can include it, but it's more of a secondary thing. It's not really at the heart of a disorder.

People actually have speculated that characters like L and Sherlock Holmes were Autistic so using on of them as a guide would be much better than using a Vulcan.

Personally I think leaving it as Ambiguous Disorder is a better idea. then you don't have to worry about whether you're portraying things right.

edited 3rd Jan '12 7:37:47 PM by NoirGrimoir

SPATULA, Supporters of Page Altering To Urgently Lead to Amelioration (supports not going through TRS for tweaks and minor improvements.)
 10 Ori Doodle, Thu, 5th Jan '12 2:29:31 PM from Tracking Down My Nemesis Relationship Status: Sharing a spaghetti noodle
Blondes Have More Fun
Yej I think that last idea is your best one.

Better yet, don't even give him (or her) a set condition. Just write him as a really quirky and weird. there are plenty of people who behave oddly who have never actually been diagnosed. There's no need for medical terminology to write believable characters.
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 11 Last Hussar, Sun, 15th Jan '12 4:19:32 AM from the place is here.
The time is now,
Read up on Aspergers. Aspergers is (as has been pointed out above) a form of high functioning ASD. The biggest difference is Aspies can usually function in some way in 'the real world': Autism is usually associated with below average IQ, where as Aspergers' have above average (where average is 95-105 ish)

Traits of Autism/Aspergers Unable to read social situations that are ambiguous, or misreading them. — Unable to understand another person's point of view. — Socially inappropriate comments — Not appreciating every one is different, so John is more easily offended that Dave. Taking things literally. Fixed routines - changing plans on the fly really throws them. This can be down to someone saying they misread a rule last time you played, and the proper way to play is...

These can all combine- Last time Someone said A, you said B, and it was ok, so EVERYTIME A is said B is the response, it can never be wrong.

Obsessions, ignoring everything outside of that - ie knowing everything about the car on the TV news, but missing the fact it is in a crater caused by an earthquake.

Lack of facial expression - a blank look waiting for the next emotion to turn up.

Repetative behaviour, including physical tics - such as rocking on the spot.

Over investing in certian things (see obssession and fixed routine)

If you want to see a Aspie turned up to 11, then Sheldon in Big Bang Theory.

Do the job in front of you.
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The Write character and mention their autistic.

[up] The IQ bit is a misconception aspies don't a higher or lower rate on the test than the average human.

edited 15th Jan '12 1:54:08 PM by Vyctorian

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[up]Yeah - they just use it differently. (Not that I rate the IQ test at all, much. Over-rated guff, but a benchmark people like to use.)

It'd be easier if we could just count the average dentritic connections per synapse per person, and have done. And, didn't discriminate about the paths taken, either. <dreams on>
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 14 Kyrios 9, Sat, 10th Mar '12 7:44:00 AM from good question...
Gamer of Difficult Games
Noir Grimoire pretty much nailed it on the head. Having Asperger's myself, I can attest to that.
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[up] M'kay. I'll not name any (RL) names, then.
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Total posts: 15
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