'Atypical' - a Netflix family comedy that charts the experiences of an autistic teenager - has received praised and criticism for its depiction of individuals with autism. For me, it was an introduction to a topic I know little about and began to highlight the challenges and opportunities for those with autism, but many found it provided a simplistic and stereotypical view of something highly complex.
But while there is a fair amount that Atypical got wrong in its depictions, there is still a lot it gets right. And I am really pleased to see a TV show focused on an area that doesn't often receive a lot of attention - it's one of the few ways for these discussions to enter the mainstream and this is something that could have a lot of benefits.
Research has shown that autistic adults can be a real asset to all sorts of businesses, but the number of autistic people actually in work is shockingly low. Perhaps it's partly because people are simply unaware of the huge amount that these individuals can contribute to organisations, and maybe they just need a couple of pointers. As discussions around diversity and the benefits it brings to businesses continue to increase, we should remember that diversity goes beyond the glass ceiling encountered by women in the workplace.
The definition of diversity is still fairly narrow - we tend to focus almost solely on women and people from minority ethnic groups. While there is no doubt that these groups deserve a great deal of attention, there are also other demographics to consider. Workplaces need to think about how to ensure equality between the sexes and different ethnic groups in business, but they also need to think about catering for those with special educational needs. And a show like Atypical might be a good start.
The mainstream media can be a valuable educational tool and a fantastic means to increase our awareness, and there are few brands out there that enjoy as great an influence as Netflix. So here's to the third season of Atypical - let's hope that it continues to build on its successes and failures, and works to provide a true depiction of autism that brings the subject to a wider audience.
“Atypical” improves on the first in significant ways. Sam is now in his senior year and his decision to go to art school breaks the mold a little — usually, autistic adults in films and TV shows get pigeonholed as programmers, scientists or math whizzes, as seen in “Adam,” “The Good Doctor” and of course, “Rain Man.” In his peer group of autistic teens, we get an even wider variety of aspirations. One wants to be a dentist. Another loves ambulances and would, perhaps, be a wonderful EMT or ambulance driver someday. I have an MFA in creative writing — most of us aren’t Bill Gates or Sheldon Cooper of “The Big Bang Theory,” and it was nice to see that acknowledged here.