Just picked a random picture for this post, which connects to the weekly subject of autism. Last year, I mentioned that I might be creating an autistic character because I noticed he had similar behaviors to my son. To be fair, I played this character in a game back in 2001-2002 and have been designing him since. So, him and his behaviors predate my son. That is actually not what this post is about though. It’s just that it seems to always come up.
Anyway . . .
The challenge I’m having is that Darwin Slepsnor could be autistic, but I’m not sure and I don’t know where to go with it. I worry because he is kind of a comedic character even though he’s the main hero. This is because he’s impulsive and jumps to conclusions that he refuses to let go of, so he can be kind of silly. So, I worry that I’m not heading in the right direction, but this is a key part of his personality. Unlike Luke Callindor and Clyde, Darwin was a helpful, carefree goofball who was excited to be on an adventure that he barely comprehended the scope of. He was with friends and had fun with a slight emotional distance from the negative things. It will definitely be a different hero than what I typically write. Yet, there are what could be autistic tendencies:
- Rigidity in Thought– In the game, the group came across a bridge that was clearly broken by the boulder sitting in it. Darwin didn’t roll well because he didn’t have a lot of common sense, so he said a dragon did it. The rest of group argued with him and pointed out the boulder, but he simply stated that the dragon obviously dropped the boulder. So, he would adjust, but stick to his first answer, especially if he was excited or annoyed. Is this autistic? It shows how he won’t budge from what he wants or thinks even if it’s wrong. I’ve seen this in many autistic students.
- Lack of Social Grace– While he has a general concept of how to act in public, Darwin doesn’t understand limits. He will ask awkward questions and make comments even if they are not on topic. If people get annoyed, he won’t really understand why until someone explains it later. He might get upset himself because he’s gotten himself in trouble. Sometimes, an autistic child has been scolded or punished so much that even the thought that they made a mistake will cause a meltdown. Given that Darwin’s parents aren’t going to think much of him and see him almost as an embarrassment, it could be that this is the case.
- No Sense of Danger– Darwin won’t always realize that he’s in physical trouble, especially if he’s focused on something else. Not sure if this is a standard autistic trait, but I’ve seen it with kids crossing the street. They’re focused on getting to their destination, so they go without looking. I guess this is more about not being fully aware of their surroundings when their minds are on something else. Darwin can be rather oblivious to details unless it’s something he’s really interested in, so this could be a part of it too.
- Savant?– I really worry that I’m doing this with him because he’s going to be a unique type of caster. He might just be a channeler with a specialty, but it’s one that has never been seen before. Darwin has no training and works off instincts, which could work in regards to magic since those with natural talent (Song Casters, Channelers, Cronus, etc.) are similar. They can create new spells on the fly too. Maybe this isn’t as big an issue as I thought.
Those are what Darwin can do, but I really don’t know if that means he’s autistic. Weird how I’m analyzing a character in my head. The problem is that he doesn’t really have meltdowns and I haven’t given him any sensory overload issues. From my own experience and training, those with autism do best with routine and stability. So, would someone with autism go on a series of adventures where there is no routine and an almost constant stream of new experiences? That sounds insulting, especially after taking my son on trips, but those didn’t involve magic battles and demons. We also had an itinerary that gave him an idea of what’s happening. These adventures could be Darwin trying to push out of his routine since he now has magic and gets a taste of helping others. I feel like I should give him some meltdown triggers if I want to go this way such as sensitive to smells or a tactile issue. A restricted diet could work, which makes him difficult when camping. Again, I have to figure out if he’s going to be on the spectrum or not then if such a person would go on an adventure.
Could I be overthinking this? I won’t be using the term in the book because I don’t think it would get used in Windemere. That also places a lot onto Darwin’s shoulders, which is dangerous for a character I write with humor. Maybe I should just write the character and see where the pieces fall. The outlines are coming along slowly and I’ve made marks of areas where I can put things if I want. Guess I just needed to vent a bit because I don’t want to insult anyone, but I also want Darwin to come out right. Feels like this is a part of him that I need to figure out and he’s being difficult.