Autistic Authors, and Autistics and Autism in Literature: A Commentary
(Can be found in Kindle and Paperback here.)
Three Excerpts From “Autistic Authors”
“Autistic Authors” #1:
While we can understand how someone can be misdiagnosed, can we really believe that an autism diagnosis can be faked? After all, for self-diagnosed “autistics” to “look the part” on demand they have to appear autistic to anyone who may question their diagnosis.
Can it be done?
As proof, I offer Dustin Hoffman and Claire Danes, who played Rainman in Rainman, and Temple Grandin in Temple Grandin respectively on the big screen. While any moviegoer knows that people who portray other people on the screen are just actors, both Hoffman and Danes convinced millions of people around the world that they were watching an accurate portrayal of autism. Furthermore, in the case of Rainman, Kim Peek, the autistic man upon whom Rainman was based, shares only a few qualities with Hoffman’s character. Thus while Hoffman’s Rainman isn’t exactly a lie or a fraud, it’s not exactly true either.
Hoffman and Danes didn’t instantly fall into their roles. Rather, they were coached, and told how to behave. In fact, Hoffman was actually coached by Temple Grandin. It is not so much of a stretch, then, to posit that, like Hoffman and Danes, anyone could learn how to imitate someone with autism and carry out this act for a lifetime?
“Autistic Authors” #2:
Have you ever noticed that some really terrible products have been hawked in commercial ads by celebrities? Unethical authors/journalists/bloggers do the same. “Look at me!” They will say. “Pay attention to me, and not so much in the believability of what I am telling you.”
There are only a select few people who can get away with tacking their resume after their names. Three common examples are doctors (M.D.s), doctors (Ph.D.s), and people we commonly known to be associated with a certain profession, title, diagnosis, or combination thereof. Examples: Country Musician Taylor Swift, President Barack Obama, Autistic Author Temple Grandin.
The media can be guilty for ascribing labels to people who cannot and should not be labeled, and to people who do not want to be labeled. Donna Williams is much more than an author, and she is much more than autistic. Williams is an artist, a lecturer, and friend to many. Communicate with her and she will tell you that she is a person who has autism, not the embodiment of autism itself. Yet to the media, she is oftentimes, and more often than not “Autistic Author Donna Williams.”
It seems that in this generation more people than ever have taken to creating their own image and then spend a great deal of time trying to get people to buy into that image. I believe that even though this is a very common practice, it may still be an unethical thing to do, because if you are not who you say you are, and if you have not accomplished what you say you have, what you are doing by promoting an “image” of yourself is inciting people to buy into an illusion.
Even authors are guilty of this kind of thing.
“Autistic Authors” #3:
Adding to the overall problem, with the proliferation of “autistic authors” comes a whole new list of new “sources” which may be quoted, and if any of these “autistic authors” have an agenda, or if they are poor researchers, they hardly qualify as sources.
What is one way an unethical autistic author can become a “source?”
Well, as with blogging, many “authors” from one organization with an agenda can now publish books on the same topic. If these authors publish their books in succession, each new author can quote the previous one, thereby giving credibility to an otherwise incredible “source.”
This is how “authorities” on autism are “made” in many instances. But keeping in mind that these “authorities” may be no more knowledgeable about the subjects they are writing about than the readers who buy their books, it is important to research the authors themselves and find out more about them.