You need to be watching Atypical. This coming of age series was released on Netflix not long ago, but it...

You need to be watching Atypical. This coming of age series was released on Netflix not long ago, but it has already received great feedback. It is about 18 year old, Sam Gardner, who is on the autism spectrum. The show follows his journey to find a girlfriend after seeking encouragement and advice from his therapist. It gives an inside look at the struggles Sam faces in high school and creates an awareness and understanding surrounding  autism.

I took interest to the show as it was relevant in my life. I grew up with an autistic brother and am quite familiar with the lack of serious representation of autism in the media. My brother and Sam are very different, While Sam has high functioning autism, my brother is completely non-verbal and requires 24 hour supervision and care. He can’t take normal classes at school or have a job, but I see my brothers struggles in Sam. The kids at school avoid him and strangers give him dirty looks in public. To see a character in the media face struggles my brother has faced his entire life makes me feel that steps are being taken.

Over the last year, I’ve seen a disappointing amount of jokes and memes targeting people like my brother and Sam. It breaks my heart that someone lacks the proper education about autism and finds humour in these situations. I grew up with autism awareness in my family because my parents and therapists were always there to answer my questions about my brother so I am lucky to have received this knowledge at a young age. But as I grew up, I learned that people really did not understand my brother and the other students at my elementary school with autism. They mocked them, called them weird and retarded; kids always asked me what was wrong with my brother. I remember from a young age trying to explain to these kids that my brother had autism, but they really did not get it. It was an overwhelming feeling to know all these things people were saying about my brother, while he had no idea. However, Sam realizes these things. He understands completely when someone is making fun of him and he has to carry that around with him. No one should ever have to face bullying, especially personal attacks against things they cannot control.

Having this representation of autism in the media creates a look into how a person with autism thinks and how they are the same as everyone else. Through Sam’s narration and conversations with his therapist, Julia, we learn that he wants to be treated like a normal teenage boy. He wants to have a girlfriend and to pick out his own clothes. Sam is striving towards independence and acceptance from his peers. He uses things he knows, like facts about Antarctica and its wildlife, and applies it to everyday situations, like dating.

Although no two cases of autism are the same, with different behaviours, comforts, and triggers, Sam represents the struggle that people like my brother face everyday, and when people use this as a joke, they don’t understand that it is contributing to the stigma surrounding autism. Having a show that represents this struggle gives me faith that someday, we can all work together to create better autism awareness.