Netflix and the media have been hyping the newly streamed series "Atypical" for several weeks now. This show just started airing today on netflix and has already been mired in some controversy and it's highly probable that it will generate more. The show has a number of pros and cons which may be beyond the scope of this particular post though I may write about them in a subsequent post.
The underlying and unprecedented theme of the show is an 18-year-old boy on the autism spectrum who is a senior in high school who has trouble in relationships but wants to find a girlfriend but has trouble doing so. Celibacy is a major and mostly unpublicized problem for many males (and possibly females as well) on the spectrum. This is an issue scarcely mentioned in the media. Much of the exposure of males on the spectrum goes to John Elder Robison, Ari Ne'eman, and Michael John Carley and Steve Shore who combined have seven marriages between them. This was a compelling enough hook to entice me to watch at least some of the show. (at this point, I've watched the first four of eight episodes and I may or may not watch more of them).
I was incredibly piqued when I watched the opening of the first episode where Sam, the autistic protagonist, is doing a self-stimulatory behavior he calls "twiddling" where he holds a pencil in his left hand and flexes a rubber band in his left and right hands and describes doing this at a certain frequency. The camera next pans to his therapist, an attractive Asian woman. She asks him if he's interested in donating his brain to science.
I've called the self-stimulatory behavior that I do twiddling where I shake some shoelaces while holding a pencil in my left hand while I engage in Walter Mitty (for those who remember the old Thurber short-story and/or possible movie with Danny Kaye) type fantasies for about fifty-five years now, going back to about 1961 or 1962
About four and a half years ago, I was also on an NPR show which talked about a shortage in autism brain tissue and how I donated my brain (regretfully to autism speaks) to science. I also mentioned my twiddling and described it in that interview.
Bruno Bettelheim in his 1967 book The Empty Fortress also used the term "twiddling" to describe certain self-stims (i don't think the term stim had been invented yet), but he did not use the word "frequency" or describe any of his charges at the orthogenic school using a pencil (though it's been many years since I've read the book so my memory may be a bit sketchy). Though I used the word "twiddling" as a small child before Bettelheim's book was published, I realize it's unlikely he got the term from yours truly. It would seem highly improbable that the creators or writers of "Atypical" have ever read The Empty Fortress.
I'm wondering if it's a coincidence or if they borrowed from my life. I guess I will never know for certain but it does not seem that probable it is a coincidence though I suppose it is not impossible.
A number of persons, particularly ND's,including Ari Ne'eman, have complained about allistic (non-autistic) persons writing storylines about autism. But somehow I don't think they're going to go out of their way to help publicize "The Mu Rhythm Bluff" or any of the short stories I have on my website, inspired by my experiences as an autistic person.
Before Netflix released the show, I was contemplating watching it and writing some reviews of it. I may do this in a future blog post, but I'm not sure. However, I'll look forward to the ensuing controversy that I'm sure this show will generate in the autism blogosphere and cyberspace.
However, no one will probably care or note that they may have taken some stuff from my life as one of the composites of the autistic protagonist.