Atypical is Not Your Typical Show About Autism. Thank You Netflix!

I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team, so I am lucky to call watching TV work. All opinions, and snacks they send me, are my own. Hands off!

Holy cow you guys! Have you seen the new series that premiered on Netflix this month?!?!? It’s called Atypical, and it’s about an 18-year-old boy, named Sam, who has autism (Asperger’s more specifically…although it’s recently been reclassified into a larger autism umbrella, I still find that term to be useful when trying to give a quick description to someone). But I digress…it’s about the teen and his attempt to wade into the dating waters, and all of the implications of that for him, and for his family.

Atypical, Netflix’s newest original series, hits the sweet spot of accuracy about autism and entertainment.

I will admit that I was reluctant to actually sit down and watch this show. That’s nothing new though when I am facing a show, movie, book, or sometimes even a conversation, when I know that autism is going to be the centre of the discussion. I worry that it will present a watered-down version of what autism is, like showing a quirky kid who is different, but clearly is going to have their own tech empire, so no one is really worried about him, and he has his own group of friends who get him and he’s happy as a clam playing dungeons and dragons with them in the basement every weekend.

Or another show that encourages viewers to ask me that inevitable question about how many toothpicks are on the ground. Or when they can take my kid to Vegas.

If it’s higher than around 15, she won’t have any idea, and unless she’s getting a bag of chips out of it, she doesn’t care enough to count them. And if you take her to Vegas she will be too busy stimming in front of the slot machines and taking full advantage of the all-you-can-eat buffet to be of any help in amassing fortunes. She would just make you spend it all at Toys R Us anyway.

But there’s something I worry about more than spreading inaccurate information, or reinforcing blanket stereotypes.

What if the show is dead-on?

What if it’s too damn real?

I don’t have time to be shaken to the core. And I don’t have the support garments to be shaken at all. I need to protect myself, and my stretched-to-capacity yoga pants, from reality sadness at all costs. If I don’t read nutritional labels or choose to watch The Notebook, why in the hell would I voluntarily subject myself to a show that more accurately represents our experiences with autism, and risk feeling all the things I purposely keep buried under layers of fried cheese and ice cream?

Because Netflix sent me ketchup popcorn, that’s why. You can talk me into anything with ketchup popcorn.

The next challenge became how to get a free minute of peace and quiet to actually watch the show. It’s rated for a mature audience, it’s summer and my kids are up until midnight, and if I lock myself in the bathroom for an hour, Maddy is sure to work on finding out what a million toothpicks looks like when they’ve been flushed down the toilet and inserted into the central vac pipes.

But today I had time. I had scared the other two away by doing chores, so I was guaranteed not to see them while the vacuum was still out, and Maddy was happily ensconced in her own show on a fully-charged iPad, with noise-cancelling headphones, and the couch to herself. So I jumped on the opportunity to watch the first two episodes on my iPad while I started a new puzzle.

It was SO GOOD! The only reason I’m not watching the rest of them right now, home safety be damned, is because I am at trapped at a dance studio with an uncrackable wifi password. I could really use some of those Rainman savant code-cracking skills right now. Oh the irony. Maybe. I seriously don’t know anymore. Damn you Alanis.

I don’t want to give any spoilers away, so I’m just going to tell you to go and watch it, and we’ll meet back here to discuss. Seriously so good! (Since I wrote this post, I finished watching the first half of the season, and then watched the entire season again because there were so many “my God someone gets it” moments that had to be shared with my husband…the only person, who really understands what our exact situation is like. It’s such an amazing show…please watch it! And send me more ketchup popcorn!)

I do have to share one thing though that came up in the first five minutes. His special interest is penguins from Antarctica. He wants to live there because it’s so quiet (me too buddy, me too), and he likes it because it’s apparently a desert, and he likes that it is not what it looks like.

Atypical, Netflix’s newest original series, hits the sweet spot of accuracy about autism and entertainment.

Sam rocks his noise-canceling headphones, just like Maddy, in Atypical on Netflix.

But the mind-blowing thing is that Maddy also loves penguins, and constantly asks me to take her to Antarctica to see them! At the beginning of the summer I was talking to Maddy about what she wants to do this summer, since she didn’t get into the camp she usually attends. She had what started as a somewhat reasonable list of outings, such as Legoland, the zoo, aquarium, movie theatre, shopping mall, etc. Then she slid in Antarctica. I said that one was just a tad outside our budget, and it’s a long way away. She told me “airport.” I asked what we would do at the airport. Fly on a plane of course. Where? To Antarctica. Boom! Problem solved. If anyone sees her leaving the house with a suitcase, please alert the airlines! She tried to order movie tickets on my phone the other day, so I feel like buying a plane ticket and ordering an uber might not be that much of a stretch. The only saving grace is the credit card companies who won’t let me buy a happy meal without a fight.

Sam from Atypical shares a love of Penguins with Maddy. An Atypical autism special interest!

Maddy asked her sister to dress up in Maddy’s penguin costume.

Penguins and Antarctica are not one of the more traditional autistic special interests, like trains or dinosaurs. I actually might even sue Netflix, because I think they stole that interest from Maddy.

Or they can send me more popcorn and we’ll call it even.

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