As you scroll through your social media, your algorithm is filled with autism advice and stories other parents and experts share. A couple of autism memes pop up, and you’re stuck in a dilemma: should you find them funny just because they’re relatable?
These pictures highlighting a particular topic can be funny and offensive to the wrong audience. This can be especially true if they are autism memes or others that deal with subjects such as individuals with special needs. But how do we know if an autism meme is funny or offensive? Let’s find out.
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What are Memes?
By definition, a meme is usually an image intended to be humorous that can be spread rapidly over the internet. We’ve probably all seen them during our days on sites like Facebook or Instagram.
Some may feature images from popular television shows, while others are pictures that just happened to be taken at the right time to allow them to be funny with the right captioning. While these are usually good-natured, sometimes they can cross a line, but when it comes to autism, when do memes cross that line?
Are Autism Memes Offensive?
Some autism memes should be immediately recognized as offensive, while others may only be offensive to the individual. I recently spoke with autism advocate Andrew Arboe, who is autistic, about whether memes are relatable or offensive.
Arboe says that the poster should try to be aware of the situation to the best of their abilities. While it’s impossible to know the backstory of everyone who may see a meme on the internet, it’s still important to consider the backstories of who the poster knows will see it. Arboe says, “Knowing to ask yourself the context of the environment and the joke one wants to make can make a difference.”
Autism memes intended to be offensive can go a long way along the path of belittling people. Arboe points out some autism memes are very clearly “mean-spirited and hateful” while others are simply “edgy to get a reaction.” These can certainly hurt the feelings of a person with autism.
Some memes have been seen as offensive even when meant to be relatable. Memes featuring images from the show The Good Doctor highlight the autistic main character’s prowess, but it’s also not hard to understand how that can be offensive for the parents of an autistic person who doesn’t have those savant abilities.
Still, there is a meme of Spongebob Squarepants where he looks down on someone with his teeth sticking out. While the image is fine on its own, it’s often used with a phrase to denigrate someone. This can be easily offensive when directed to the autism community. As Arboe says, “It all goes into the intent of the meme.”
The “Autistic Screeching” meme caused a lot of controversy, too. The meme is used to mock the extreme anger that political and religious ideologies often display. While some people on the spectrum found the meme funny, many thought it was offensive. Whether it’s funny or not is up for debate, but the question remains: do these memes have any societal value?
Are Autism Memes Relatable?
Much like autism memes being offensive, it comes down to the intent more than anything else. When discussing relatability, Arboe says the correct memes “can provide life lessons and relatable situations.”
He likens it to how many on the autism spectrum may relate to Disney movies and their emotions when watching those films. He says memes connected to well-known properties can help “autistic people connect it with the visuals and automatically relate to it.”
Another example of relatable memes can, once again, come from Spongebob Squarepants. The cartoon character is so pervasive in society that memes from the show can be good or bad depending on the context.
Relatable Autism Memes
Many advocates use autism memes to help connect the community at large. One example is the Autism Parenting Magazine Facebook group. This group is a safe place for autism parents and caregivers to unite and relate.
If you’re interested in more autism-friendly and relatable memes, you can check out our Instagram account. We created a safe community that shares their experiences through humor, personal stories, and useful advice.
Should you share autism memes? That’s a question that’s really up to the individual. Memes highlighting some aspects of autism can go a long way when raising awareness and acceptance for the community.
While others may insult or denigrate the community as a whole or individuals within it. The best anyone can do is to pay close attention to the meme’s content and consider what they know about who they know will see it from them.
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Q: What are autism memes, and why are they a topic of discussion?
A: Autism memes are internet-based images, videos, or text that use humor and satire to depict various aspects of autism spectrum disorders. They are often discussed because they can be both entertaining and controversial.
Q: Are autism memes always offensive?
A: No, not all autism memes are offensive. Some aim to raise awareness, foster understanding, and provide a sense of belonging for individuals with ASD. However, some can be offensive, spreading stereotypes and misconceptions.
Q: How can one differentiate between offensive and relatable autism memes?
A: The line between offensive and relatable autism memes can be subjective. A good rule of thumb is to consider the intent behind the meme. If it promotes understanding, empathy, and positive awareness, it’s more likely to be relatable. Offensive memes tend to stereotype or make fun of autistic individuals.
Q: Do autistic individuals themselves create or share autism memes?
A: Many autistic individuals create and share memes related to their experiences. These memes can be relatable and help build a sense of community among people with ASD.
Q: What should one consider before sharing or engaging with autism memes?
A: Before sharing or engaging with autism memes, it’s essential to consider their content and potential impact. Ask yourself whether the meme is respectful, educational, and promotes understanding or if it perpetuates harmful stereotypes.