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Writing Autistic

Writing Autistic – Stimming – Part One

Crash course on what stimming actually is here.

So, I’ve got two main points to address here in terms of writing. How it fits into the narrative and how to write stims naturally, so I’ve split this into two parts.

How It Fits Into The Narrative

So, I covered this a bit on my Autism is Not a Character Flaw post, but there will be plenty of posts where I need to retread that ground, including this one.

An unfortunate reality of the world we live in is that many of the treatments and therapies for Autistic people (well, children really – there are currently next to no services for Autistic adults) aren’t designed to help the Autistic person. They’re designed to make them look as “normal” as possible, no matter how detrimental this might be.

We’re essentially put through conversion therapies, where we’re told that who we are is wrong on a fundamental level. We have to expend our energy on pretending to be something we’re not if we ever want to be accepted, we’re told.

The reason I bring up this particularly grim fact is that one of the most visible parts of being Autistic is stimming.

Which means it’s the first that people try to extinguish.

Why do I bring this up?

Because it’s often one of the biggest indicators of Autistic people not getting to stay Autistic.

For Allistic writers, stimming tends to be something they have the hardest time respecting.

We have a culture of trade-off with Autistic characters. They’re allowed to be socially inept if their genius is enough to make up for it. They’re allowed to struggle if that struggle can inform another character’s personality or their story arc, but not their own. Or they’re nothing more than a dehumanised plot-point.

The harder an Allistic writer tries to write a “positive” portrayal of autism, the closer they get to the socially inept genius, rather than the dehumanised plot-point, but in doing so they often erase parts of autism which are too “other”.

Stimming is usually the first to go.

If stimming is included, it’s usually something that the characters seek to stop. They have to be normalised again.

But stimming isn’t bad.

It’s visibly autistic.

And if that’s enough of a reason for you to think it’s bad, then you need to re-evaluate your thinking before attempting to write an Autistic character.

For a lot of us who were conditioned out of stimming, it can be harder for us to avert meltdowns. A lot of us just channelled our stims into less obvious movements. And, for many of us, reclaiming our more Autistic stims is a way of reclaiming parts of ourselves that society tried to strip away.

So, TL;DR – No storylines about Autistic characters learning not to stim unless you highlight the horror of that particular arc. And no omitting stimming because you fear writing about the parts of autism which are too “other”. That’s how you get the Insufferable Genius end of Hollywood Autism.


This was originally posted to myautisticpov.com on 27/5/15.

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