Dr. Focused Smith Atypical View from an Autism Mom: AutismTV is NOT a Hashtag!

Atypical, The Good Doctor, The Accountant

These are just a few TV shows that feature the stars the autism spectrum. Sesame Street now has Julia, a character with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). I find it thought-provoking how so many people are excited to tell parents of children on the spectrum that these shows exist.

Dr. Focused Smith Atypical View from an Autism Mom: AutismTV is NOT a Hashtag! http://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/typical-view-from-autism-mom/

More than likely, we are already aware because we subscribe to every blog, newsletter, page, support and advocacy group imaginable. Although I have found the Sesame Street episodes educational, I have tried to watch a few episodes of Atypical. And despite widespread belief, I found the episodes to be atypically painful to watch.

As I sat through the first few minutes, I found it absolutely horrifying to know that is how the world views those on the spectrum. To be showing this view to the public, no matter how much awareness it brings to the ASD community, was painful to watch. How much news is good news for the autism community? If these shows are your first exposure to the autism community, is this how you will subconsciously view those on the spectrum?

Although our kids already face the stigma of being who they are, will they face equal criticism for who they are not? If they don’t behave like those on the shows, are they to be considered “less” all over again? I must say that I have not invested the time that would be expected in watching the episodes of the shows.

Somehow, I am less interested in my real life pain, struggles, sacrifices, misunderstandings, judgments, empathy’s, sympathies, and strange looks depicted on a national TV show for entertainment purposes masked in the label “Autism Awareness.”

For a mother whose child is only in first grade and in her 2nd year of public school, it’s been the most exhausting educational experience EVE to the world to see, is atypically gut-wrenching. So even as I Netflix and Chill with apple juice on a Saturday with my ME time, I can’t bring myself to watch these shows. I find it to be more like enduring task than an enlightening awareness moment.

I have gotten several calls from several friends that are so well-meaning and ultra-supportive of my journey as an ASD mom. I could hear the excitement in their voice to share the news of such a publicized awareness to the autism community.

I wondered today, “Have they ever watched these shows?” Why? To gain insight the challenges that face a family on a daily basis? Or if they haven’t watched them, why not? Because although you see the awareness and know that myself and entire families live this REALITY 24 hours a day, you don’t care enough about my daily experiences and challenges to take one hour out of your day to view fiction?

As bold and brazen as I am, I have never asked these questions. Why? Because something in my spirit tells me I may know the answer. But how? There has not been added conversation on #autismacceptance since the episodes have aired. No one has called and said they’ve watched an episode and thought about us. Neither have they called and asked if we experienced behaviors in an episode. And if they have watched, why haven’t they called with the same enthusiasm as the calls saying the show existed?

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Of the shows above, only one character is a female, Julia the Sesame Street character. What about our autistic girls? Will we soon get to see them depicted on the big and small screen as different yet successful functioning members of society? We live in a society with a short attention span.

Its trendy to be an advocate for a cause. I am confident there will be a time that I will build the courage to sit through the entire episode, then another and eventually a season of all the shows. I will ultimately applaud the creators, and the writers, the cast, along with casting directors. That time is not now. When that time comes, will AutismTV still be a trend?

I just want to say that I LOVE the awareness, despite any drawbacks. I emphatically declare, with passion, THIS OUR LIVES, day-in, and day-out. We don’t view AustismTV as a trendy advocacy cause or a hashtag. Don’t judge us if, after an exhausting day of unexplained triggers, meltdowns, and transitions, we aren’t as excited to spend our viewing pleasures watching some of those same experiences on television.

What can you do? If you can do anything for us: watch, listen, understand, support, provide wine, but whatever you do don’t judge. AutismTV may be the latest advocacy trend. The characters of the stories may be a screenplay, but our ASD characters in our lives are very REAL. AutismTV is NOT a hashtag.

This series goal is @empowering_transformation in those impacted by any child on the spectrum and others who are “different NEVER less.” The @DrFocusedSmith vision is to illustrate that although a view may be “atypical,” it doesn’t mean the view is insignificant and it does lend credibility to more thought-provoking conversation on the subject. Often feeling isolated in her experiences, she wonders if others see situations from a similar perspective.

#AutismAcceptance #AutismMommaBear #Empowering_Transformation
#DrFocusedSmith @phdfromNorthSantee

This is article was featured in Issue 74 – Every Voice Matters

Sharlene Smith

Sharlene T. Smith, PhD, is an autism mom of a six-year-old miracle princess born a 2.0 lb micro preemie. She is an @Empowering_Transformation Coach and Motivational Speaker with 20 years experience in Secondary and Higher Education. #DrFocusedSmith admits that being an advocate for her daughter on the spectrum is her greatest responsibility.

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James Guttman - October 1, 2018 Reply

I struggled with whether or not to comment. I have written a number of articles for Autism Parenting Magazine and love the content they offer. This is not one of those.

My son is seven, non-verbal, and what some would term as “severe” in his Autism. No shows have ever truly depicted his particular experience with Autism.

That said, I understand that Autism affects everyone differently. These shows are meant to raise awareness that Autism exists and hopefully, if need be, lead to conversations for those who might not otherwise have them. They are not meant to depict each individual. No one is “disappointed” that my son doesn’t do the things they see on TV.

It’s arrogant to assume that people should think about your “struggles” when they watch them or call you after. It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s about making life easier for those with Autism and making sure those who might not know someone personally on the spectrum have a slightly better understanding than they did before. (continued…)

James Guttman - October 1, 2018 Reply


You listed “real life pain, struggles, sacrifices, misunderstandings, judgments, empathy’s, sympathies, and strange looks” as things you deal with. However, there is much more that goes into the rewarding job of being an advocate, something you mention as your greatest responsibility. However, there are positives upon positives that I get from raising my son. Many of these shows depict these positives as well. Perhaps, you should expand your view and not make everything so dire that you can’t see the forest for the trees.

I just have to say that I needed to comment because points of view like yours do a disservice for those of us who are genuinely trying to gain understanding for the children we love. Lecturing people and making things about yourself won’t lead to that. It’ll just push people away and leave us further isolated from others than we were before.

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