April is autism awareness month, and I’m excited to show you guys my favorite shows with autism representation. As a woman with autism, I spent a lot of my life not seeing myself in the media. However, in the past few years, there has been a huge shift. Not only is there more autistic representation TV than ever before, but it is GOOD representation too! While the days of poorly created autistic characters might not be fully behind us, I’m confident their days are numbered.
Check out these 5 TV shows with awesome autism representation:
Dead End Paranormal Park
Interested in Dolly Parton-inspired villains? How about ghosts and demons? What about both of those things in a show with great Autisim representation?
In Dead End Paranormal Park, Norma Khan, while not stated explicitly in the show, is confirmed to be autistic by the show’s creators. Of all the autistic characters, Norma is one of the most authentically written because her character is based on the creator’s own experience as autistic. Some of the main symptoms Norma exhibits are her special interest in singer/actor Pauline, social awkwardness, and her more literal/concrete thinking. The show has a heavy plot, but the episodes still have episodic villains. It truly is a show you can pick up and drop off at any time. Sadly, the show was canceled after the second season. However, that’s still many episodes of Norma being an awesome autistic representation to enjoy. Dead End Paranormal Park is available on Netflix.
Heartbreak High showcases a wide variety of characters as they go through high school. Quinn “Quinni” Gallagher-Jones is one of them. Quinni is a unique example of autistic representation because the actor playing Quinni is actually autistic. When I see Quinni navigate high school and heartbreak, I see myself. Not a caricature of an autistic person.
Quinni displays stimming, sensory avoidant behavior and other symptoms of autism throughout the show. Another unique thing about this character is that we see Quinni consistently use coping skills to regulate themselves and deal with the struggles of autism. Be it sitting in a bath, or creating a plan to deal with the unexpected, Quinni did what they had to do to navigate a neurotypical world.
The show also goes into the struggles of masking autism and coming out to peers. It can be a difficult and touchy subject, but the show handles it with a lot of grace and isn’t shy to show the social consequences people like Quinni face for simply being upfront with their neurodivergence. Heartbreak High is available on Netflix.
Extraordinary Attorney Woo
Extraordinary Attorney Woo is a Korean Drama with a Webtoon by the same name, that follows the story of an autistic lawyer who excels in her career. Her symptoms of autism are stemming, echolalia (repeating words/sounds), difficulty making eye contact, having special interests, and more. In addition to her special interest, she is a savant who has exceptional knowledge of whales and laws. These two things, yes even the whales, help her succeed in her career.
When the show was first coming out, many in the autism community, including myself, were worried. The main character is played by an allistic actress, and the character is a savant. This could have been problematic because savants seem to be overrepresented in the media when compared to other autistic individuals. Additionally, many are also weary of non-autistic people playing autistic characters.
However, the show went on to show autism in an honest and non-offensive manner. Not only do we see Woo’s special skills as a savant attorney, but we see her need for consistency as well as other not as shown autistic traits in media. Watching her be a picky eater, info dump, or fidget made me feel heard in a way other autistic characters played by allistic individuals hadn’t. Extraordinary Attorney Woo is streaming on Netflix.
The Ghost and Molly McGee
The Ghost and Molly McGee has already excelled in showcasing under-represented groups such as Jewish girls and AAPI. Season two of the show started off with a bang on April 1st with the introduction of a new character, June Chen. And she is autistic!
While there is still a lot to learn about this character as the show progresses, we are already in love with her. She isn’t shy about her autism and mentions it straight away. When presented with a gift, June is brutally honest about her disgust with it. Having to be reminded by her mother to recite a rehearsed thank you. This scene alone was extremely relatable as an autistic person, and I can’t wait to get to know her more. The Ghost and Molly McGee is streaming on the Disney Channel.
Bonus: Bob’s Burgers
While it isn’t confirmed by the show’s creators that any of the characters are autistic, many people in the autism community consider the characters autistic. Specifically the members of the Belcher family. From Tina Belcher’s interest in horses to Bob Belcher’s resistance to social interactions. It is hard to take a look at characters like Bob and Tina and not relate to them when you’re on the spectrum. Bob’s Burgers can be found on Hulu.
Who are your favorite characters that have solid autistic representation and did any of them make it on the list? Let us know!
This article was originally published on 4/5/23.