Here's hoping this is the right place to ask about this!
I recently took up the idea of using an origional character with Autism. I've found a couple of sites that seem trustworthy, but I was wondering if anyone could suggest some sites, or give notes of personal experience. Even books, or links to articles are appreciated. I really want to get this right.
Anything specializing on how they act or possibly percieve thier surrondings would be greatly appreciated.
Also note that it takes place in the marauder's era.
I have a brother with autism, so I researched a little before. I don't know if these are the best books and sites, but they're the ones I used and they were helpful.
Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Complete Guide to Understanding Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and Other ASDs by Chantal Kira
Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wished You Knew by Ellen Notbohm
Hope these are helpful
It will be interesting to see this character...
My cousin is autistic, but he is only five years old so I cannot tell you much about what adults with autism are like.
Here is some of what I know about children with autism can act like:
- Make little or no eye contact
- Show little or no interest in playing with other children
- Can have a delay in speech
- Like objects to be ordered (for example, may line toy cars into a line instead of playing with them)
- May not play made up or make believe games
- Can react badly to loud noises
My cousin is five years old and shows all of these signs. He cannot pronounce some syllables and does not talk in complete sentences. He would rather play by himself than with other children, and does not make eye contact or react when you call his name. He likes everything to be in a straight line; it bothers him when things are out of order. He also reacts to loud noises. I am not sure if this is a recorded sign of autism.
This is all the information that I am confident enough to give you just from personal experience.
Here are some reliable sites researching autism:
The National Autism Association
The Autism Society of America
The Autism Research Institute
Autism Collaboration - This site lists other reliable source websites for autism.
Hope this helps! Let me know if you are looking for any specific information.
I don't have too much experience with the type of autism generally thought of when the word 'autism' is uttered, but I do know what it's like through my therapeutic riding program (I volunteer), so I do have a bit of experience.
My triplet brother, however, suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, which is a rarer, albeit less harsh, generally speaking, form of Autism, and as I'm a bit of his caretaker and tend to act like a much-despised mother figure to him, I can tell you much about that!
And we're fifteen, my brother and sister and I, so I can tell you what it's like a variety of ages.
- Autistic children and children with forms of it take forever to talk. Like, seriously forever. I was the first to talk in my family - and my first word was spaghetti, no kidding, somewhat later that most babies start talking - but my brother didn't talk until he was three or so, maybe older, and that was with speech therapy. Some autistic children don't talk at all, even when they're older, think five, six, seven and upwards from there. Most do eventually talk, but their social interactions with people through speech are often limited unless they are extremely comfortable with those people.
- They will not know how to express their feelings without resorting to extremes. If they don't want to wear a hat, they don't just say that they don't want to wear a hat. They throw the hat down on the ground and stomp all over it and scream that they don't want to wear a hat. If they don't like something, they really don't like something. I'll try to play music on the radio in the car, and my brother reacts by whining, then plugging his ears in an extremely silly-looking way (more on this and the reason later) and humming really obnoxiously. Similarly, it's extremely easy to set them off. If you say something teasing, even if only in obvious jest, they'll overreact, generally resort to or at the very least threaten violent measures, shake their fists at you, etc. My brother has come at my with knives and scissors more than once when I use my over-active sarcasm habit, and I've also known him to get into fights (verbal ones!) with kids at his school (it's an LD school) over a simple difference in interpretation. They also won't let those kinds of things go for extremely long periods of time. Also, I've had kids at the riding program with various forms of autism - severe forms of it - who react verrrryyy strongly to the smallest things, and you physically have to pull them off the horses because they cannot check their emotions. If you're writing a character in a school environment, though, they probably don't have it that bad - no sane parent would send a kid with a severe form of autism to boarding school, under any conditions. Think Ariana Dumbledore.
- Kind of a continuation of the above. They're not good at gauging their reactions. If a school's having a tornado, even just a tornado drill or fire drill, there's a good chance that they'll completely freak out instead of reacting with a bit of rationality. No rationality at all, really. It has a bit to do with the alarm - like Ashley said, they don't react well to loud noises - but it goes on after the alarm goes off, so that's not all of it.
- Social ineptness. It does not matter how mild or grave or what form the particular case of autism is, there will always be social ineptness. Like I said, they don't know how to react to different situations that most would likely find very obvious in the appropriate reaction, and therefore resort to extremes. You can go further with this using websites and things, too.
And also in the socially-inept category belongs the inability to follow advice that is given continuously - I'm talking over the course of four, five years and longer - and has been proven to be for their own good.
- Autistic children, like Ashley said, don't tend to make eye contact.
- And in a sort of similar vein, they don't understand the concept of personal space. Either that, or they're so overly obsessed with it that they'll refuse to let anybody help. Slightly scary either way, because you do not want someone who is shorter but also heavier and much, much more angry and uncontrollable/uncheckable than you cowering six inches in front of your face, brandishing a potato peeler. Not fun, believe me.
- Or personal anything, really. They don't often understand the concept of difference opinions other than their own, or even if they do they still get offended. They don't understand that different people have different tastes in music, clothes, room temperature (xD), etc.
- Sufferers of autism and forms of it are VERY dependent. It's both annoying and sad at the same time. If you've ever had to forgo any of your close friends to supervise your autistic sibling - if you've been asked by your teachers to take care of them, and known you've had to comply - if you're spurned because of it - if you're PAID to 'babysit' someone who's actually older than you - albeit only by a single minute - just for a single hour - if you have become impervious to the stares and the murmurs behind fingers - then you know. If you don't, it's hard to explain. Because even though they can hate you, they can hit you and beat you and attack you all the time, you go through with it anyway, because you are the one thing that is constant for them.
When I was in kindergarten and first grade, I was switching schools and shuffled around in classes for the sole reason of being my brother's lifeline. I never liked doing it - we have never really gotten on - but it was the only thing that could be done. You learn to deal with it.
- They're not stupid. Remember that. They're usually extremely intelligent - insightful - intuitive - but people don't give them a chance.
- They're almost always very artistic as well. My brother auctions off his drawings, sells them for money, and has actually earned a considerable amount through this, because they are, in a word, stunning. Many autistic kids also draw, paint, etc. It gives them a sense of control that they don't normally have over themselves, as they control the paintbrush, pencil, whatever. At least, that's my psychologist point of view on it.
- And finally, this may just be Asperger's, but people who have it only, or nearly only, eat white foods. Think baked potato, pasta, white bread, etc., but not sweet potato, Ramen, or whole wheat bread. Marshmallows. Weird, I know - I don't understand it either! - but it's just one of those weird things.
Above all, BE CAREFUL. It's easy to over-gauge these kinds of things, and if you do, especially if you're writing in a school environment, a character that was once in a school environment, or a character that will be in a school environment, especially a boarding school like Hogwarts, you will not be able to realistically pull off any severe autism. It's going to mild. My brother has a form of Asperger's that's on the stronger side of moderate, and he's been pulled out of all normal school systems, because even in private schools, special public school programs catering to his sort of thing, etc., he simply couldn't deal with it.
So yeah. TREAD CAREFULLY. Writing about mental disorders is very, very hard.
Sounds like an interesting character, though. If you want to know anything more about any sort of mental disorder along these lines - I'm currently working on a research paper that includes some information on mental disorders, and in addition to autism/Asperger's, I also have a great deal of personal experience with forms of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (shellshock, if you prefer), and/or dealing with a large variety of other mental disorders, go ahead and drop me a PM - beyond my brother's several mental disorders (Asperger's is just at the forefront), I've worked with my sister and best friend's depression and PTSD, plus others. Yeah, I'm basically the parent/social worker/psychologist-on-call. And if you just want more autism/Asperger's info, feel free to drop me a PM for that, too [:
-- Amanda (TFPS)
EDIT: I've read a few excellent stories her on MNFF dealing with autism, and one of my favourites is this one by babekitty_92. It's a true account, and it is very real and describes personally the kind of things one experiences.
Yes, speak to Abbi/babekitty_92. She was a wonderful help when I was writing my fic with a character who is autistic.
The first thing to remember is that not all autistic children are the same. They are not all like Rainman/Rayman, and they all have various different personalities and quirks.
Many autistic children find it hard to talk, many are fine with talking. I reccomend you try and find a copy of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime. It is a wonderful book, and the main character is autistic.
My Dad used to work at a school for children with sevre autism. The cases there were so extreme, that you got a bonus if you were still working there after 6 months, it was that stressful.
There was one girl who was amazingly talented at music. She had a beautiful singing voice, could play piano by ear (self taught) and could listen to a piece of music and write out the notes, absolutely perfect. She also had to have four adults on her at all times, because someone said/did something she didn't like, she would get really panicky and start attacking other people.
There was another boy, who I actually met. He couldn't talk very well. However, my Dad and another guy who worked at the school brought him round to my house. We planned to take him for a walk through the nature reserve, but the new, unfamilar place scared him, and he put his hands over his ears, shut his eyes, squatted on the ground (this was in the middle of a road, by the way, even though it is very quiet), and muttered "not happy" over and over again very quickly, steadily getting louder. After a while, my Dad said, "okay, Siddy. We'll go back home then." He then stood up, smiled at my Dad and said, "I was only joking, only joking, only joking," over and over again, and then hugged my Dad.
Another boy at the school loved Disney video's, and kept them in alphabetical order. If anony touched them, or even, on one occasion, looked at them, he would get really angry and attack them. My Dad brought him home once when I was at school, and told him that he could pick a video from our den, where all the old Disney video's which we don't watch are kept. Apparently, my mum opened the door, and he barged past her, headed straight for the den - how he knew where it was, I don't know - and came out a few minutes later with his arms full of video's.
Yet another boy attacked people whenever he saw someone wearing a hat, because he didn't like them. My Dad was driving with him in the backseat, on their way to the beach one day, when he saw a man in a car wearing a hat. He promptly attacked my Dad while he was driving down the A14, and my Dad had to swerve onto the verge and try to restrain and then calm him down in the car, which took a hell of a lot of explaining to the police.
These are all very extreme cases. There is an estimate that one in nine of us have autistic tendancies, and don't even know it. Autistic people don't look any different, and quite often you can talk to someone with autism without ever knowing. Autism can mean so many different things. While some autistic people might be very talented at drawing or music or maths, it does not mean all autistic people are. There are so many different levels, it really depend on how sevre you want the autism to be.
My brother is severely autistic (and Abbi is also a great person to speak to about it).
Their habits tend to really depend on how severe their autism is. For instance, I had a good friend with autism, but it was mild, and her IQ was off the charts.
My brother is eleven in real life, but is mentally three. He loves Blue's Clues and anything like that, but also loves golf.
Autistic kids tend to center their attention around repetitive things. My brother loves gold to no end, and when you think about it, you can see why. It's a very repetitive game. It's the same with bowling. He'll move matchbox cars in a line for hours.
They kinda live in their own little world. They get panicky, like Evie said, if their routine is thrown off. My brother is big (I'm still bigger), and he hurts. One time, I opened the microwave when he usually does it, and he punched me in the stomach so hard he knocked the wind out of me.
But don't portray your character as dumb. Autistic kids aren't dumb. My brother is more manipulative that anyone you'll ever meet, I can guarantee you.
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to PM me.
Wow. Thank you all that have replied so much. To respond to anything that may have been warned ot me or what not. I plan on treading very carefully on this. I've seen a lot of mental disorders including one wiht my cousin. My Aunt and uncle refuse to recognize his issues as anything but ADHD despite the fact that the highest dosage of Riddelin has done nothing to help him. I also became best friends with someone who was mentally and physically disabled. We still talk quite often. So I would never dream of doing this wrong.
For those that offered pming. I will definently check with you every time I write a chapter. To be perfectly honest you might wish you hadn't volunteered. Also I saught*spelling* out a beta who has some experience with Autism.
For those that offered links to stories, I'll definently be reading and leaving comments of thanks. I've got a general idea of the character's actions (her name is Adelaide), but I want to check it all out to make sure I've got it all right.
As far as the dependents I picked up on that right away. I've met a few autistic children or rather seen them in public. Anyhow that part is taken care of.
And finally (I think I got it all) as for those that warned against taking the disability as a sign of little intelligence, that's not to be worried about at all. I got that covered.
Again I will be checking in with those that offered, going through stories and links ASAP. Thanks again for all that replied. I was begining to fear I wouldn't get a responce.
Note: If it would be alright with you all I will post Adelaide's detailed bio to you so you can give it the once over. I have a good idea about what to do but I'm not sure, and I want this down right.
I assume your character is going to be a savant? There is a documentary on youtube about a savant called Kim Peek. I would recommend watching that before you write your fic.
I agree with everyone about Abbi's story- I loved it.
I have a cousin with Asperger's. He's turning eight in a few days (I'm actually going to his birthday party tomorrow).
Sammy... obsesses over things. You can't get him to talk about anything besides video games. Everything's always about Pokemon, Spongebob, Mario or something like that. If you try to talk about something else, he'll listen for a few minutes and then say "Uh-huh. And you know what? In Super Smash Brothers..." or something like that. Every conversation centers around Nintendo DS, Gamecube, or a TV show.
The social thing isn't that bad for him, but he's been in therapy ever since he was diagnosed, so that probably helped a lot.
He really likes routines, too. Every time he gets a haircut (which scared him to no end the first time) he gets a "surprise"- which, of course, he picks out. When he wants a new toy, he says "I think it's time for me to get a haircut." If my grandpa (who always takes him) ever suggested that he was big enough to get a haircut without a toy, the tears and the screaming and the tantrums would start.
A really good book to read is Al Capone Does my Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko. The main character's sister, Natalie, has a pretty severe case of autism.
Ooh! That just reminded me of another thing. Pronouns. Lots of autistic kids don't understand or use pronouns.
Ummm, let's see, what else... touching. Some kids with autism don't let you touch them and don't like being held.
Another big one is not being able to interpret emotion or understand that other people have feelings. Sammy must have been four or five, pretty early in his therapy, and we were playing a game. The game pieces were red, blue, green, and yellow. I let him pick, and he chose green. Then I said "I want to be red." He looked at me and said, "No, I think you want to be blue."
Please PM if you have questions (along with everybody else you're going to PM ) and let me know when this story goes up. I want to read it! ~megan~
PS: Yes, post the bio!