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ONTD Original: 7 'Totally Not Autistic' Female Characters That Are 'Definitely Autistic'

Disclaimer: I decided to do this ONTD Original after reading many misconceptions regarding autism in recent posts on here. Just so we're clear, I'm a Black woman who have been diagnosed with the Asperger syndrome in adulthood. Asperger syndrome (or Asperger's) is the high-functioning form of autism which means that I can work, live, engage in normal activities (such as memorizing lines) just like a neurotypical person would. However, I exhibit autistic traits in social settings that are often misunderstood as "quirkness", "social awkwarness" or "shyness/introversion".

Most autistic women do not know they are autistic. Autism is severely under-diagnosed among women due to the common misconceptions people have on autism, misconceptions which are based on the way men exhibit autistic traits. Just so you know: men and women do not exhibit autism in the same way and for decades psychologists didn't even think women could have autism! Autism in women is harder to detect and harder to diagnose and you will see why through this post. Of course, I'm not a mental healthcare professional so this is just my unprofessional opinion based on myself and the different literature I've read regarding autism in women.
Remember: autism is a spectrum, while all autistic women exhibit the same signs of autism, they're all different and manifest autism differently!

There might be some mild spoilers in this post too!


1. Cassie Ainsworth (Skins UK)



Character's background: Cassie Ainsworth is a British teen who's portrayed as a spacy, eccentric girl who's suffering from anorexia.

Why I think she’s on the spectrum: From the start, Cassie is a character who has a rich inner world, a deep thinker who's often lost in her thoughts, philosophizes and checks out (blank stare), which is a common trait of autism. She spends her time observing her surroundings and picking up on things others do not such as Sid having a crush on Michelle. Cassie also finds refuge when alone. She easily reads people and understands them. She has unusual speech patterns aka she speaks in an airy way and often repeats certain words such as "lovely" and "wow" (echolalia). She often has facial expressions and body movements that not common. She's very honest and blunt and often says what's on her mind (she famously said to Sid that just because his dad is dead doesn't mean that he can whatever he wants). As for her having anorexia, it has been documented that anorexia and autism can overlap. While only a very small number of people who are on the spectrum also suffer from anorexia, this link definitely exists. Indeed, both anorexic and autistic people have anxiety and wish to have control over something since they don't have control over their life. Here, they're controlling their weight. This is also her special interest (subject she's obsessed with, a common trait of women who have Asperger's).


2. Amélie Poulain (Amélie)



Character’s background: Amélie Poulain is a Parisian waitress who goes on a quest to help people around her with their problems.

Why I think she’s on the spectrum: One of the biggest signs that Amélie is on the spectrum is her hypersensitivity to sounds (she hates sounds that are too loud, high-pitched or sudden), odors and textures (she hates the smell and texture of newspaper), being touched or shoved etc. People on the spectrum are hypersensible to the 5 senses: we can hear small sounds, we smell things more intensely, can have a great dislike for certain textures (chewy textures for example), dislike touch, be sensible to the light. She also admits to be sometimes obsessed with certain food as well as hyperfocusing (or having a special interest) over certain things (mobile games, cleaning her vinyls, encyclopedias and scientific facts). She has a fixed routine and doesn't stray away from it (every day she spends 1 hour playing mobile games). She stims (aka she repeats the certain movements as a calming method) since she says she's always tapping her fingers on everything throughout the day. Other stimming habits autistic people can have (and neurotypical people as well but not at the same regularity): twirling one's hair around one's fingers, scribbling, blinking repetitively, rearranging objects, pacing, biting one's fingernails, cracking one's knuckles and more. She loves observing others and reading them. She has a wild imagination, thinks outside the box and is often in her own world.


3. Beth Harmon (The Queen’s Gambit)



Character’s background: Beth Harmon is an American orphan born in the 50s who has a passion and talent for chess and thrives to dominate the male-only world of chess.

Why I think she’s on the spectrum: Beth is another perfect example of an autistic woman. She has a rich inner world as she often plays chess in her head, a strong ability to think in a non-linear way (aka her thoughts are going all over the place at once). Her special interest is clearly chess (aka her obsession is chess). She's often seen observing others and not speaking much. She is a non-conformist who decides to compete in a male-only field, despite what others think of it. Beth has a hard time understanding implicitness: when she's invited at a slumber party, she fails to understand when other girls implicitly ask her if she has a boyfriend, taking what they said literally. When her birth mother dies, her reaction is noted as strange as she's very quiet and closed off. In fact, she might be shutting down, which is a reaction people on the spectrum can have when they're experiencing a great shock.

4. Lily Iglehart (Sex Education)



Character’s background: Lily Iglehart is an English teen who's obsessed with losing her virginity.

Why I think she’s spectrum: Lily is a great example which shows the diversity of female autistic representation. Here, her special interest is sex. Unlike autistic men, autistic women often obsess over topics/hobbies that are common for women which is often why people don't pick it up. Autistic men will obsess over uncommon hobbies such as trains while autistic women will obsess over makeup. These special interests can be reading/writing, music, fashion, celebrities, fandoms, cooking, sports, drawing, social/environmental issues like ecology (see Greta Thunberg who's been diagnosed with Asperger's) etc. The only difference is the intensity of such interests. Autistic women will literally be obsessed with this topic/hobby instead of just liking it. Lily is hyperfocused on sex and losing her viriginity. She's also obsessed with erotic cartoons featuring tentacles that she spends her time drawing. Her having a specific passion is a common trait for autistic girls and women. Lily behaves in a non-conformist way as she spends several episodes proposing sex to random boys at school, doesn't care what others think of her. She also has a rich inner world and wild imagination, though it is focused on sex with tentacles. She often can't read others' reaction to her and can't pick up social cues.


5. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter)



Character’s background: Hermione Granger is the smartest witch of her class as well as Harry Potter's best friend.

Why I think she’s spectrum: While this is controversial for many Potterheads (because, you know, autistic is the synonym of the r-word), Hermione definitely shows a lot of autistic traits. Let's start by the fact that Hermione is higly intelligent, a "walking encyclopedia" (often nicknamed "Miss Know-It-All) and is very organized. She's very rigid in her beliefs and has fixed obsessions such as saving house elves from their conditions. Her special interest is magic. She has unusual speech patterns such as infodumping about magic all the time. She often has difficulty understand others' emotions and is very blunt. She has a fixed routine of studying at the library as she dislikes loud sounds. She takes criticism to heart. She also adopted her cat Crookshanks because no one wanted him (autistic women often, in childhood, rescue or collect animals). As the story progresses, Hermione seems to adapt more and more to others... which for me is just a sign that she started to "mask" her signs. Unlike autistic men, autistic women have a greater will to integrate and will often "mask" their symptoms, that is to say they're going to mimick the behaviors of neurotypical people to fit in. It can be mimick their speech patterns, way of dressing, hobbies and more. This is one of the reasons it's hard to diagnose autistic women - because they hide it! Hermione has also a lot of empathy (notably for the house elves) and intensely relate to others' emotions.

6. Temperance 'Bones' Brennan (Bones)



Character’s background: Temperance Brennan is a famed forensic anthropologist who solves crimes.

Why I think she’s spectrum: This character is so obviously on the spectrum that I don't even know how to break it down. First of all, Bones is highly intelligent, has unusual speech patterns, is very rigid in her beliefs and has a hard time understanding implicitness. Her special interest is anthropology. She often says inappropriate sentences or acts inappropriately due to her not grasping unwritten social rules. She also admits to having been bullied in the past (autistic women are often bullied at school).

7. Sawako Kuronuma (Kimi Ni Todoke)



Character’s background: Sawako is an introverted school girl, often mistaken by her peers as Sadako, the horror movie character, because of her scary aura and long black hair.

Why I think she’s spectrum: Sawako is a deep thinker who's often in her own world. She has trouble understanding implicitness and can't pick up social cues. She also has a difficulty to behave like neurotypical people do and is very socially awkward, for example she can't smile without looking scary or greet people correctly. She tries hard to fit in and makes friends and wishes she was sociable as Kazehaya. She's also very honest and blunt.

Notable mentions:
- Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter): First of all, Luna is a non-conformist. Though people call her "Loony Lovegood", she doesn't care much about it. She's good at reading situations and people and thinking outside the box, she famously told Harry that Voldemort wanted him to isolate himself.
- Amy Farrah Fowler (The Big Bang Theory): she's obviously on the spectrum given her unusual speech patterns, rigidity in her ways and behaviors, special interest for science etc.
- Sonya Cross (The Bridge): she's one of the only "officially" autistic women on this list. But since I didn't watch this show so I can’t do a break down.
- Astrid Farnsworth (Fringe): I have never watched Fringe but she's a popular guess.
- Allison Reynolds (The Breakfast Club): popular guess as well. While I've seen the movie, I was too lazy to break down this one but I definitely think she's on the spectrum
- Lisbeth Salander (The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo): I have never seen this movie or read the book but this is a popular guess.
- Daria (Daria): another popular guess

Popular guesses I don't think are on the spectrum:
- Phoebe Buffay (Friends): While Phoebe shows some autistic traits (unusual speech patterns, rich inner world, unexpected reactions/behaviors), I don't think she's on the spectrum, I think she's just the result of her dysfunctional family and years living in the streets.
- Jessica Day (New Girl): Jessica Day shows some autistic traits as well (unusual speech patterns, rich inner world, social awkwardness), but I think she's just an "adorkable" character or maybe has ADHD at best.
- Sugar Motta (Glee): Sugar Motta introduces herself as having Asperger's but aside from her rudeness, OP doesn't think she has Asperger's. She's a stereotype of what a lot of neurotypical people think people who have Asperger's act like.


To read more "signs" of autism, check out this list of 100+ autistic traits

Of course, this is just my opinion, not the truth!

Sources: me, various literatures, this article
Tags: ableism / disability rights, anime / manga, bones (fox), harry potter, netflix, ontd original, skins (uk)
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Great post. BMed
So, this post elevated ONTD to another level

Thanks OP, for your time and brilliance in educating us.
YES!!! I love this so much, especially after our convo yesterday. Great post!! I love Bones and so many ladies on this list. My BFF from high school has Asperger and we’ve talked so much about stuff like this, media representation of people on the spectrum and especially those “unofficial” autistic characters that really read that way.
I don't know much about this subject, but by just reading this post and the article linked about the traits, I wonder if Cheryl Blossom is in the spectrum as well. This is a very informative post, OP.
Yeah often ADHD symptoms can overlap with some spectrum traits I've learned recently with a new Dr.
That's interesting. I could relate with some of these things though I'm not autistic. It is how my adhd manifests though.
Yeah I was diagnosed at 10ish for adhd and always felt there was something different about me etc. My new Dr was really awesome and had me do a long reassessment with autism questionnaire too just incase. Although a lot I identified with, not officially autistic. Still struggle a lot with family and friends judgments and ignorance unfortunately..
same!! i was diagnosed with ADHD when i was like 29, i think, and while i do identify with some other traits that often appear in autistic women i THINK for me they're generally more rooted in specific trauma (like aversion to touch). but then again i do have a history of things that are like stimming behaviors? so who tf can say i guess (i mean, a professional, but lol $$$)

bloopbloop01

3 months ago

Yeah, when I brought a big list of symptoms to my doctor because I suspected I had ADHD, she didn't want to diagnose ADHD before a full assessment since so many overlapped with ASD. I've always heard them referred to as "brain cousins," so it makes sense the line between is blurrier in reality than diagnostics reflect.

theladyflash

3 months ago

I only recently learned this as well. Before I was diagnosed as autistic in my late teens, I was diagnosed with at least three or four different things, one of which was ADHD. I've recently been talking to a new doctor and she's blown my mind saying I likely have ADHD as well and that's why I've been struggling more as an adult, even as some autism things have gotten easier to handle.

theladyflash

3 months ago

ahkna

3 months ago

veggie

3 months ago

theladyflash

3 months ago

jennabee123

3 months ago

la_fours

3 months ago

veggie

3 months ago

la_fours

3 months ago

veggie

3 months ago

la_fours

3 months ago

Yeah, my mom started telling me I was autistic when I was in high school (never diagnosed... would have been helpful if she took me to a therapist) but something about that didn't fit quite right. I read about ADHD in women and I was like "oh, this seems much closer!" Just got to actually figure out my insurance so I can see someone...
I’m just working through getting diagnosed at 37 for ADHD. It’s tough

theladyflash

3 months ago

Yeah when my psych diagnosed me with ADHD he told me there’s a genetic link between ADHD and autism. Def true for my family since out of my family of four, two are autistic and counting me, two have ADHD lol

theladyflash

3 months ago

i feel like there's been a greater awareness of how autism & adhd manifest in women and girls and it's pushed a lot of friends to get diagnosed. i def feel like i could identify with either, esp reading through this post but idk if it would be worth it to pursue a diagnosis at this point, as opposed to trying to manage their effects
Yup I also suspect that I might have ADHD as well but with the COVID and everything, I really don't have the time to seek out a diagnosis.
I've sometimes wondered about myself.I was diagnosed at like age 6 or 7 for ADHD, and I showed all the extreme symptoms that turned out to be more common for boys than girl. But now as an adult, reading all the symptoms for autism in women also fit me now. But then ADHD and Autism are suppose to have a lot of overlap.

I do wish I could afford a therapist, cause that would be nice.
Thank you for this op! Great post and very informative, I'm still learning about autism, honestly I didn't know much until I made a friend who is on the spectrum >_
This is a great post.

My friend found out just a couple years ago, well into her 30s.
I haven’t seen many of these but I def agree about Beth Harmon! I felt like that was pretty strongly implied across the series, especially with her visualizing the chess boards, kind of felt like showing her non linear thinking as you said, along with a lot of other hints. But most importantly, I loved that Beth is portrayed as both autistic and sexually/romantically desirable. She has agency over her sexuality (even if she uses it in maladaptive ways sometimes) and I think that’s not commonly shown in portrayals of neurodivergent or disabled women.
OP just so you know a lot of autistic people reject the “functioning” label and it’s considered offensive to a lot of us. the label of functioning was created by neurotypicals and if you research you’ll see why a lot of autistic reject self identifying as high functioning or low functioning the same with aspergers which is now an outdated Dx
Sorry I didn't know that a lot of autistic people rejected that term. I'm not American (I'm French) and this term is accepted in our circles...
Interesting how it varies from language to language, isn't it? For example, I know the term disabled person is accepted in the US but here in Brazil the correct term is person with disability.

ishumy

3 months ago

su_metal

3 months ago

ginainabottle

3 months ago

zoaster_toaster

3 months ago

warwarwar

3 months ago

zoaster_toaster

3 months ago

nefertitii

3 months ago

evilfirepixie8

3 months ago

warwarwar

3 months ago

futrefilmdirctr

3 months ago

zoaster_toaster

3 months ago

ginainabottle

3 months ago

zoaster_toaster

3 months ago

evilfirepixie8

3 months ago

zoaster_toaster

3 months ago

umilicious

3 months ago

And while it's still used as an official diagnosis in many places, the use of "Aspergers" is also quite controversial in the autistic community, as Asperger was a nazi and the diagnosis itself (along with functioning labels) has been used to create a hierarchy / supremacy in autistic circles.

pivotandsway

3 months ago

Oh yes, Cassie is a good choice. Great post op!
Fantastic post, and I agree with all your choices tbh. It seems that writers have no qualms about giving typically autistic traits to characters they mean to be "quirky" yet when it comes to actually casting autistic actors and/or making it clear that the character is on the spectrum it's pff, nothing.

Since this post is very informative, I'd like to ask for book recs on the subject of disabilities? I've been reading a lot on disability in general but I'd like some more specific recs (either on autism or other disabilities).
I agree 100%, but I also think there will a lot of people, a lot of writers, who don’t know that they are in fact using autistic traits for a character. Based on their rl experiences and consumption of media, they may think they’re simply using “quirky” traits. I think we’re still at the beginning of really understanding the autism spectrum
I quite liked Funny, You Don't Look Autistic: A Comedian's Guide to Life on the Spectrum by Michael McCreary. It's kind of an 'intro' book about autism. As someone autistic, I found it relatable and informative (plus he's from outside Toronto like me) and funny.

Thank you, I've added it to my list ❤️
I dont think it is intentional. A lot of autistic traits are used in things like stereotypical characters.
Are you looking for books that educate you on the disabilities themselves or books written by disabled people, with their POV?

For the latter, "Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century". Came out this year and consists of essays from a variety of Deaf and disabled folks.

ginainabottle

3 months ago

evilfirepixie8

3 months ago

I'm late but I came across a book called Odd Girl Out: An Autistic Woman in a Neurotypical World at the library just before Covid lockdowns started and enjoyed it a lot. It was slow to start but got better. It's written by a woman who waa diagnosed with autism in her 40s (I think?) after her 4 kids grew up, it's funny/maddening how women and girls with autism can get so far through life without getting diagnosed.

ginainabottle

3 months ago

great post op! this was an interesting read.
Great post, OP. I haven't seen a lot of these, but I agree with Amelie for sure.

I often wonder if I'm on the spectrum, but assessment is so expensive. For now, it's just something to think about every so often, I suppose.
Omg haha Sawako on my ONTD, taking it one-step further, Sunako from The Wallflower (they're kinda from the same trope). What's particularly nice abt that one is that all her friends are her friends particularly bc they appreciate her "quirks", her quirks often make her a hero.
Agreed! And totally love that manga :)
She's definitely on the spectrum, you're right!
this is a great post OP!

I thought that Bones was supposed to be autistic. I think i read a post about it and i kinda accepted it as unofficial official.

It's so weird to me that how things present in men are considered the standard and how they are present in women are an aberration. If half those effected present differently then it shouldn't be a side note. :/ and I know why it's like that but how that information is related should change.


The more I think about Bones the more laughable it is that she’s “not” autistic when she reads as perhaps actually TOO on the nose as someone on the spectrum especially in the later seasons where they start writing her as as someone who no longer gets sarcasms or euphemisms and takes everything incredibly literally.
She's honestly a stereotype. When I read that the creator (or Emily Deschanel) said she was "almost" autistic, I yelled. ALMOST??? ALMOST???
From what I read, the creator said he based Bones on his friend with Asperger's but "Fox thought it would be a bad idea to give the character a label"
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