General

Another Quick Update (March 1st)

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger). I apologise for the lack of content on here recently. I’ve been trying to get some other projects done, as I mentioned in my last update. However, even that has been challenging, as I’ve been busy at work these past couple of months. Rest assured, I do have plans for my next few posts. These include another edition of Are They Autistic? – if I can find the series I’m looking for online. I don’t know when I’ll post it, but in the meantime I have some new content uploaded to Autistic Blogger Creates. Please enjoy and stay tuned.

The Art of a Synopsis: The Hero’s Journey – Autistic Blogger Creates (wordpress.com)

My First Synopsis (and it’s many drafts): Hulkamania Brother – Autistic Blogger Creates (wordpress.com)

‘Hulkamania™ Brother’ (1st Draft) – Autistic Blogger Creates (wordpress.com)

‘Hulkamania™ Brother’ (2nd Draft) – Autistic Blogger Creates (wordpress.com)

Hulkamania™ Brother (3rd Draft) – Autistic Blogger Creates (wordpress.com)

Hulkamania™ Brother (4th Draft) – Autistic Blogger Creates (wordpress.com)

General, Updates

New Year Update (2021)

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger). I’m here with an update to let you know how I’ve been and what my writing plans are.

First of all, I want to thank everyone who’s continued supporting me through these challenging times. It’s safe to say 2020 will be a year most people would rather forget. I’ve tried not to mention the pandemic on this site, as I know most people go online for escapism. It’s also why I’ve avoided writing more Into My Autistic Mind posts.

That being said, I’m amazed at how many of you have tuned into my site recently. Over the past twelve months, I’ve had more than 5000 views from 3,700 visitors. That’s an increase of 150% from last year! Additionally, I’ve gained several new followers, and most of my new audience comes from overseas – particularly the United States. I’m grateful to everyone who takes the time to read my posts.

I want to continue working on this blog. However, I also want to focus on some of my other projects. Keep in mind, every article and review I write takes me about a month to finish. And this inevitably takes time away from these projects. You might remember the Autism Book (preview) I posted back in June. I was hoping to rewrite more of it by now. But my limited spare time – and state of mind – hasn’t made that possible. 

Another thing I’ve admittedly neglected is my second blog: Autistic Blogger Creates. When I first launched it, I said I’d post new content every fortnight. But I haven’t been doing that.

In the coming months, I want to focus on getting some of these other projects done. Mainly, adding new content to Autistic Blogger Creates and working on my Autism Book. Hopefully, this shouldn’t delay any posts to this site. But I’ll let you know if things change. Another goal I hope to achieve is to start vlogging. There’s so much I want to talk about in my reviews. But I only have a limited number of words to tell them in. By video blogging, I can go into more detail. Plus, I can develop my creative skills through video editing, and expand my audience by branching out to sites like YouTube. I’ll keep you posted on any progress I make.

Anyway, that’s all I have for this update. Let’s hope that 2021 truly is a healthier and happier new year. Stay tuned and stay safe.

(Image courtesy of: 3 Ways to Sell More Novels in 2021 – IndieReader)

Anime Reviews, Reviews

The Promised Neverland Review

Before you ask: no, this series has nothing to do with Peter Pan or anything J. M. Barrie-related. The closest comparison you can make is both stories heavily feature children, and that’s all. As for how it relates to any bible tales – I’ll talk about that when I get to it. There isn’t too much that ties in.

Every once in a while, there comes along an anime which gets everyone’s attention. Opinions may vary, but there’s no denying the incredible success it has. The manga sells like wildfire, YouTubers react to the whole series, and you even get live-action adaptions made in both Japan and other countries. There have been many mainstream animes like this in recent years: Death NoteAttack on Titan and Sword Art Online, to name a few. But then there was 2019. And everyone agreed the masterpiece of that year was The Promised Neverland. Initially released as a manga in Weekly Shounen Jump, the anime adaption became highly praised within the otaku community. It won two Crunchyroll Awards in 2020 and is widely considered one of the best animes of the 2010s. How did it earn that moniker? Let’s take a look.

Before we start, I should warn you: the first episode contains a major plot-twist. It’s one of the highlights of the series if you don’t know what’s coming. So if you’d rather not be spoiled, I’d recommend at least watching episode 1 before you continue. If you’ve already seen it – or you don’t care that much – I’ll carry on.

In the year 2045, three bright young kids: Emma, Norman and Ray, grow up in the Grace Field Orphanage – alongside 35 other siblings. For the children living there, Grace Field is a paradise. They have warm beds, delicious food, a loving caretaker who acts as their mother. And aside from the occasional schooling, they’re free to roam the big forest and fields and play to their hearts’ content. Putting it simply: their lives couldn’t be happier. However, nothing is as it seems. One night when one of the younger girls is adopted, Emma and Norman realise she left her toy bunny behind. They go to the gate to try and return it. Only to discover the horrifying truth. The outside world is full of demons! Giant, hideous, flesh-eating monsters. Worst still, their orphanage is no orphanage. It’s a farm! Kids who’re adopted get slaughtered and sold as human meat! And it’s their mother, Isabella, who’s selling them off. Desperate not to lose any more family, Emma and Norman join forces with Ray. Now they have to come up with a plan to escape with their siblings before the next shipment.

As you probably guessed, the big plot-twist is the revelation of the demons. What makes it so shocking is how utterly unexpected it is. Nothing ever hints at their existence. The opening credits don’t show them; the promotional trailers don’t reference them; not even the DVD/Blu-Ray case implies anything – unless you notice it says horror next to the rating. Another reason it works so well is how it drastically alters the episode’s tone. Beforehand, everything we see shows the kids living happy, joyous lives. It tricks us into a false sense of security, making us feel as they do. There are some hints that something more is going on – most noticeably the ID numbers on the kids’ necks. But until we see the first victim’s corpse, nothing prepares us for the horrors to come. The fact they kill off Conny – the sweetest most innocent girl – shows us they’re not messing around. The Promised Neverland is a dark fantasy.

Perhaps more impactful than the twist, though, is what it represents: a loss of innocence. These kids have spent their whole lives in a safe, warm environment where nothing can hurt them. They’re ignorant of the outside world, believing it’s a place where they can live out their hopes and dreams – a promised land if you will. However, nothing is ever so simple. As you get older, you realise how dangerously unforgiving life is if you’re not prepared for it. In the case of these children, their fantasies are slaughtered the moment they step outside. It’s even worse for Emma. After witnessing Conny’s death, her child-like spirit is broken. She tries denying what she saw; desperate to believe her siblings aren’t dead and her mom isn’t evil. But as reality sets in, she’s overwhelmed by grief – letting out a horrifying scream. From then on, she has to be the grown-up; forcing herself to smile and be brave for her siblings. Emma can never go back to those blissful days – no matter how much she wants to.

Do you know what’s impressive? Everything I’ve brought up so far only takes place in the first episode. The rest of the series is just as mindblowing. There are cliffhangers, red herrings, moments of pure joy or hopelessness, and a whole abundance of information. The more that’s revealed, the more you want to rewatch the series to pick up on everything it foreshadows. The episodes know how to keep their audience engaged. Especially with their characters.

Firstly there’s Emma, an amply optimistic girl who’s the most physically-skilled of the kids. Before discovering the truth, she was the life and soul at Grace Field; caring for the little ones and playing in a lively manner. She loves her family and can’t bear the thought of anyone dying. Additionally, she’s a fast learner and adapts quickly to situations. She even comes up with ideas to rival her friends’ intellect. What I love most about Emma, though, is her diversity. She’s mature for her age but still has vulnerable moments. She tries to stay positive but will occasionally cry. And although she gets along with most people, she can show aggression or hatred towards them. Emma is a multilayered individual – which is what I admire in a female lead.

You also have Ray, the strategist of the group who tends to think more rationally. Although he has a somewhat distant nature, it’s evident he’s been friends with Emma and Norman for years. He’s on board with helping them escape, but he tends to clash with some of their ideas. Particularly, Emma’s insistence on saving everyone. He knows the more kids who try to run, the harder it’ll be. Plus, they have to consider how they’ll all survive once they’re free. It’s not that he’s selfish. He’s just considerate of his best friends – they mean the world to him. I could elaborate more on Ray’s character, but that would be going into spoiler territory. Instead, I’ll say we never learn his full story until the very end.

Then you have Norman, who’s arguably the smartest of the three. He comes up with most of the escape plans and knows what to do if things go wrong. He even outwits Emma and Ray sometimes. Furthermore, he’s the middle ground between them. He loves his siblings as much as Emma, but he understands Ray’s point about there being too many. Regardless, he often takes Emma’s side. Partly because she’s morally correct, and partly because he has feeling for her. It’s her determination that keeps him going most of the time.

In summary, Emma, Ray and Norman are very close, very intellectual characters. You could argue they seem too smart for 11-year-olds. But it’s established early on why that is. Plus, their loyalty and friendship are what makes them so believable. Together, they’re a formidable threat to their enemy. And who is their enemy? The one they thought cared about them for years – the mother of Grace Field: Isabella.

What makes Isabella so intimidating is she appears so trustworthy. On the surface, she’s a soft-spoken, affectionate young lady, who loves all the Grace Field kids as if they were her own. But behind her warm smile lies something sinister: a cunning, manipulative woman who cares only about profit. Everything she does is to ensure her kids grow up healthy and happy, with rich and developed brains. That way they’ll be tastier for her masters. She may claim to love her children. But when it comes time for shipping, they’re nothing but products.

This kind of emotional detachment brings something to mind. Think about how we run our farms today. We do our best to make sure all animals are treated humanely; giving them free-range, plenty of food and a life without suffering. Yet we still cage and slaughter them. And all because we’re the dominant species and like the taste of their meat. Is this honestly much different from Isabella? Could there be a social commentary here about animal cruelty? I digress.

It doesn’t take Isabella long to realise somebody knows the secret. So she implants new measures to keep things under control. These include hiring an assistant (Sister Krone) and revealing to the kids (indirectly) they have trackers. Her actions cause Emma and the others to rethink their plans and ask questions. What’s the best time to escape? How do they deal with the extra security? Should they tell the other kids what’s happening? Would they believe them? What if one of them is a spy? How do they work out who it is? It becomes like a mental game of chess, with both sides vying to outwit their opponent. On top of that are some of the characters’ more drastic actions. I won’t reveal anything here, but it’s honestly shocking to see just how far they’re willing to go to succeed – even if it’s inhuman.

Now, at this point, you may be wondering about the other Grace Field kids. Unfortunately, they don’t feature very much. Not that we don’t see them all the time. It’s just they don’t have any influence on the main plot. They’re mostly just there to remind us how grand the scale of escape is. There are, however, two notable exceptions.

Partway through the series, Emma and her friends recruit Don and Gilda (two ten-year-olds) into their plans. Don is a headstrong boy, who’s somewhat impulsive. And Gilda is a sensitive girl, who helps with the little ones. What’s significant about their involvement is how it changes the others’ mentality. You see, initially, Emma, Ray and Norman don’t reveal the whole truth to them. Instead, they claim their siblings were sold through human trafficking. They know Don and Gilda have emotional weaknesses. So they stay quiet about the demons. However, the two find out they’ve been lied to – which leads to friction within the group. It’s groundbreaking because it shows how Emma and the others had little faith in their siblings. They need to start seeing them as allies rather than burdens.

Another game-changing character is Sister Krone. Before anything else, I have to address the elephant in the room. There are going to be people who find this character offensive. Why? Because of her design. She’s a dark-skinned, big-lipped woman, who’s always wearing an apron. Plus, she cares for mostly white-skinned children. Does that sound familiar? If not, I’ll tell you: she’s reminiscent of the now-racist mammy stereotype. What makes it worse is how she’s portrayed. Aside from being borderline crazy, she pulls countless disturbing faces, is shown to be monstrously violent – though never towards anyone – and occasionally invites children into her room. She is not the sort of person you’d want working in an orphanage.

Controversy aside, though, Krone brings an essential dynamic to the series: her ego. It’s quickly established she has a tense relationship with Isabella. She hates her belittling and wants to replace her as the mother of Grace Field. Krone will do anything for the position, even if it means allying herself with the kids. Emma and the others don’t trust her, of course. But they know she’s a valuable source of information. At the same time, Krone believes they could provide the evidence she needs to bring Isabella down. All three parties have powerful yet understanding motives. And it’s a testament to this series how well it manages them.

However, The Promised Neverland isn’t just written well. It’s also visually stunning. I don’t usually mention the animation in my reviews. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t give CloverWorks credit. They take every opportunity they can to showcase their abilities. Not everything comes out perfect; there are some lacklustre character designs and meme-worthy faces. However, for the most part, they know how to present things both creatively and symbolically. Let me give you some examples.

First of all, there’s the layout. Usually, everything is presented in the traditional format: 2D characters in a 2D environment. However, once in a while, the background switches to 3D, giving us more depth and scale to the scene. They’re also not afraid to experiment with the camera. Sometimes it swings back and forth, like a pendulum. Other times it rotates 360 degrees. And sometimes it gives us POV shots or follows along with the characters. Each time it’s meant to draw attention to someone’s feelings and build tension.

The camera also works in symbolic ways. Remember what I said about foreshadowing? The earliest example of this is in episode 1. The opening shot shows a young Emma looking through some bars, saying she’s “never been outside” – it’s the first indication she’s actually inside a cage. Another example is episode 6: several shots are made to look like somebody is spying on the kids – which it’s later revealed there is. It’s even debatable if the series has religious symbolism. All the kids wear pure white clothing, except for when they’re adopted – the black outfit they dawn could symbolise death. And when it comes to the actual escape plan, the parallels with the Book of Exodus are uncanny. There’s so much to take from these episodes if you know where to look.

In conclusion, The Promised Neverland is a suspenseful, well-crafted series, that keeps its audience on edge. With its three-dimensional characters, creative animation, and a plot that knows when to give or hold back information, it’s easy to see why it rose to prominence. I don’t say this a lot, but I would honestly recommend this series to anyone who’s old enough to watch it. Even if you’re not a big fan of anime, chances are you’ll be drawn in by the story and characters. How do I know? Because I did a test before writing this review. I showed the first episode to my dad and step-mom – two people who were notorious for disliking anime. And what happened? They were so captivated by what they saw, they insisted on watching the rest of the series with me. If that doesn’t prove how grand The Promised Neverland is, I don’t know what will.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this review. Be sure to check out the series for yourself. And I hope you’ll look forward to the second season. Stay tuned.

(Image courtesy of: Hello! Never met a Somali who watches anything other than mainstream anime, are any of you avid Anime fans? : XSomalian (reddit.com))

Are They Autistic?, Autism

Are They Autistic? – The Bookworm (Batman)

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger). Welcome to another instalment of Are They Autistic? – the series where I look at characters from various forms of media and analyse whether I think they’re on the spectrum or not. It doesn’t matter if they’ve never been confirmed to have Autism; as long as they show similar traits, I’ll be talking about them. Please remember these are only my personal opinions. If you think somebody you know has the condition, it’s always best to consult a professional. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this piece.

***

Today we’ll be analysing a character you’ve probably never heard of before. Even if you’re a die-hard Batman fan, chances are you don’t remember this villain. He only made one notable TV appearance and a handful of cameos across other Batman media. That appearance was in the 1960s Batman series (starring Adam West), and his name was the Bookworm.

Played by Roddy McDowall, what stood out to me about Bookworm was the way his mind functioned. There have been more entertaining villains than him on the show – like my personal favourite: Frank Gorshin’s the Riddler. However, this character struck me as someone abnormally obsessed with his interests. He doesn’t just love books; they’re practically his whole life. They inspire everything he says and does. He can even quote lines from a particular piece and tell you exactly which chapter and passage they’re from – he has that strong of a memory.

In a way, it’s similar to me. When I see or hear something I enjoy, I make a mental note of it. I can then playback the memory of it with almost pinpoint accuracy. My earliest recollection of doing this was during primary school. There was a story I heard so often I could retell it, word for word, without even needing the book. I can’t do it now, but other memories have stuck with me for years – if you’ve read Into My Autistic Mind you know what I mean.

For the longest time, I assumed Bookworm’s obsessive memory was evidence that he was Autistic. However, now I’m not so sure. There are similarities between myself and Bookworm – evilness not being one of them – but does that mean he has Autism? That’s what we’re here to find out. So let’s review his two-parter: “The Bookworm Turns” / “While Gotham City Burns” (1966).

***

The story begins with the opening of a new bridge in Gotham City. Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson (Batman and Robin) are watching the event on TV, when Dick suddenly notices someone in the crowd: a man wearing large, goggle-like spectacles; a brown leather coat, and a hat with a lamp attached – the Bookworm. Soon after, the villain orders his minions to “begin Chapter One“, and Police Commissioner Gordon is seemingly shot dead off the bridge. Horrified, Bruce and Dick immediately jump into action as Batman and Robin. 

Driving to the police station, however, everyone is relieved to discover that Commissioner Gordon is alive. He wasn’t even at the ceremony. Hilariously, one of his officers had fined him for over-parking, and he was late. Or so it seemed. It turns out, not only was there a fake commissioner at the bridge, the parking officer was an imposter too. It was all so Bookworm could lure Batman to the police station and plant a bomb in the Batmobile. Additionally, the commissioner’s parking ticket reads “A.S. Scarlett, Badge #1887” – a reference to “A Study In Scarlett” (the first Sherlock Holmes novel) published in 1887.

In these first few scenes, Bookworm’s obsessions are on full display. Like most Batman villains, his crimes and antics are based around his gimmick; in this case, books. He describes part of his plan as “Plot A“, the bomb he uses is disguised as a book, and even his henchmen have literary-based names: Pressman, Printer’s Devil, Typesetter and Lydia Limpet. However, there’s more to him than his theming – as we soon learn.

Batman is alerted to the bomb in the Batmobile and ejects it before detonation. He and Robin investigate the crime scene, only finding the charred remains of the book and its title: For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Earnest Hemmingway. At this point, Batman reveals another side of their foe’s mentality. 

You see (much like the Riddler) Bookworm leaves clues for Batman and Robin, to see if they can work out his next move. While this might seem foolish, it actually ties into a philosophy several Batman villains have. It’s not enough to defeat the caped crusader. They want to out-wit him too. Batman is one of the most renowned detectives on the planet. So if they come up with a scheme not even he can deduce, it’ll prove once and for all they’re his intellectual superior. Besides that, if he does work it out, it’s still a chance to lure him into a trap. I’ll admit, sometimes I like to show off in this way too. I love giving people conundrums to see if they can work out the answers to things I’ve cleverly learned. It’s a little shameless, but I accept it.

After concluding Bookworm’s plan might be to blow up a bridge – since that’s the plot of For Whom the Bell Tolls – Batman and Robin race off to their next location. We then transition to what might be the most memorable scene of the story for me. It’s here we learn the extent of Bookworm’s knowledge and the price he has to pay for it. 

In the villain’s hideout, Bookworm marvels at his collection of books. He loves the ideas they contain, the wisdom they provide; how each one is perfectly structured to relay a mountain of knowledge from the great minds who wrote them. He’s spent a lifetime memorising their plots and using them as his greatest weapon. Unfortunately, it’s also his greatest curse. When Lydia asks Bookworm why he doesn’t write a best-seller of his own, he suddenly becomes furious. The sad truth is, he can’t come up with anything original. He’s so engrossed in the works of others that he’d just be copying their ideas. That’s why his schemes are plot-based. He couldn’t make a plan of his own if he wanted to. 

Hearing this for the first time, I couldn’t help drawing comparisons with myself. Being an inspiring writer, I know the challenge of coming up with original ideas. Inevitably, you start looking at other people’s work for inspiration. But sometimes you take so much you end up plagiarising. It happened so often when I was asked to write an original story, only to copy characters and plots from elsewhere. It certainly shakes your confidence somewhat, knowing you might only be good at retelling stories.

To quickly summarise the next several scenes. Bookworm manages to calm himself by reading an entire book (The Secret of Success: Self Control) in a matter of seconds. Batman and Robin arrive at their next location, but discover Bookworm has already “blown up” a bridge; he’s projected the enlarged image of one on the side of a building. The Dynamic Duo climb higher to get a better view of their surroundings – meeting Jerry Lewis along the way – before encountering Bookworm’s henchmen. After defeating them in a fight, they receive information from Lydia Limpet. However, Batman is curious about something. Robin is left to guard her, but she tricks him into opening a book filled with knockout gas: The History of the English Language – a book that would put anyone to sleep. Bookworm’s henchmen tie Robin to the clapper of a bell just as it’s about to strike midnight. Fortunately, Batman realises he’s been misled. Along with Police Chief O’Hara, they reach the clock tower (Big Benjamin) and use some elaborate science to save Robin. Our heroes then regroup in the Batcave.

I should point out at this stage that Batman’s original series was more family-friendly than its later interpretations. The lighthearted tone could even be described as “campy” at times. For example, Batman employs a pick-up service for the sole purpose of collecting discarded parachutes – which he uses in Bat-U-turns. When he and Robin climb the side of the building, he reminds his sidekick to keep “both hands on the bat-rope“. And, just before they fight Bookworm’s henchmen, he insists the minions remove their glasses first – he would never hit a man with glasses. 

Speaking of which, I always loved the fight scenes on this show. Not only did they capture the spirit of the comics with their onomatopoeia (words on screen), but something about them felt strangely realistic to me. You could tell they were all choreographed. However, the action felt so spontaneous it was like the actors were improvising as they went. The directors must’ve been very skilled to make everything look seamless.

Anyway, back onto Bookworm, I was surprised to find little else to analyse about him. At least, in regards to him potentially being Autistic. He didn’t have any social or communication problems, and none of his quirks seemed ritualistic, i.e. when your mind is conditioned to make you do something a certain elaborate way. The only exception I could find was in the latter half of the story. Let me explain.

First, Bookworm enters Wayne Manor pretending to be a book salesman. He uses another knockout book (The Congressional Record March 1919) on Alfred Pennyworth and Harriet Cooper – the butler and Dick’s aunt respectively – allowing him to steal a rare text from Bruce’s collection. However, that’s not enough. He then places a giant cookbook (The Delight of Cooking) in the middle of a street, luring in Batman and Robin. It’s here Batman reveals another of Bookworm’s mindsets: his over-plotting. Either the robbery or the enlarged book would’ve gotten their attention. However, Bookworm insists on creating as big a scene as possible – much like he did with the faked assassination and “blown up” bridge.

The reason I bring all this up is that, once again, I feel Bookworm’s actions relate to me in some way. When I write, I often go overboard with what I’m describing. Sometimes I mention things that perhaps don’t need mentioning or I explain them in extensive detail. It’s hard to remember that quantity doesn’t always equal quality. But I’m so used to seeing it from other people that I’m conditioned to think that it is. Bookworm is the same. He believes the stages of his plan should be big and bold because it’s how he’s seen them in his books. It doesn’t matter if there’s a better solution or if they don’t tie into his main plot.

To finish off the story: Bookworm traps Batman and Robin inside the large cookbook, where another deathtrap awaits. He also steals the Batmobile, hoping to use its gadgets for a grand heist. Fortunately, Batman and Robin escape (thanks to some more elaborate science) and apprehend Bookworm and his henchmen. Later on, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson are in Commissioner Gordan’s office, with Bruce donating money to the prison library. Bookworm is brought in just before he’s incarcerated and quotes: “They who lose today may win tomorrow.” He believes he’s quoting a poet. However, Bruce points out it’s actually from a book. He even tells Bookworm the part and the chapter. The episode ends with Bookworm wondering if Bruce Wayne is as obnoxious as Batman.

And that’s Bookworm’s two-part story. A typical set of episodes, encompassing everything the series was known for; lighthearted action, campy moral lessons, and a guest villain putting in their best performance. Roddy McDowall did a fine job.

However, I’m sure many of you are still wondering. Do I think Bookworm is Autistic? Well, as much as I’d like to think so, the argument for it isn’t very strong. Keep in mind, these episodes were written in the 60s. It was a different time back then, and Autism was nowhere near as well-known as it is now. It’d be nice to think the writer (Rik Vollaerts) had some knowledge of the condition. However, if he did, it’s not well-presented. There’s no social awkwardness in Bookworm, no learning difficulties or specific quirks. And although there are similarities between myself and him, there could be other explanations for it. For example, Bookworm’s extensive knowledge could be because he has a photographic memory. You also don’t need Autism to be abnormally obsessed with something. I had high hopes for this character when I first saw him. However, given the lack of decisive evidence, I’ve had to conclude that Bookworm isn’t Autistic. Maybe it’s still possible he is, but I can’t say for sure.

That’s all I have for this instalment. I hope you enjoyed it and I hope to bring you more in the future. Before I finish up, though, I have a special request. I’ve been writing this blog for more than five years now, and its viewership has grown immensely throughout 2020. To show my appreciation for this, I want to try something I’ve never done before: take audience requests. At the moment, I have a couple more characters lined up for this series. However, I’d like to hear your ideas too. If there’s a particular character you’ve seen or read about, and you’d like me to review whether they’re on the spectrum or not, leave me a comment about them down below. I’ll do my research and try to bring you an instalment on them in the future. Again, I’m not looking for any characters who’s Autism has already been confirmed. But instead, those you think may have it because of certain traits. I look forward to hearing your recommendations. Until then, stay tuned.

If you like my content be sure to check out my second blog site Autistic Blogger Creates (https://autisticbloggercreates.wordpress.com/blog-2/) and it’s latest posts.

Experimenting with Scriptwriting – https://autisticbloggercreates.wordpress.com/2020/09/03/experimenting-with-scriptwriting-the-nutcracker/

The Nutcracker Panto Script Extract – https://autisticbloggercreates.wordpress.com/2020/09/03/the-nutcracker-panto-script-extract/

(Image courtesy of: https://comicvine.gamespot.com/batman-326-minerva-mayhem-and-millionaires/4070-13966/)

General, Updates

Autistic Blogger Creates now available!

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger). It’s taken longer than I expected, but my second blog (Autistic Blogger Creates) now has content and is available to view. Links to all the posts I’ve made so far are below. I hope you enjoy them.

Home Page – https://autisticbloggercreates.wordpress.com/blog/

Welcome Page – https://autisticbloggercreates.wordpress.com/2020/07/05/welcome-to-autistic-blogger-creates/

My First Attempt at Something Professional – https://autisticbloggercreates.wordpress.com/2020/07/05/my-first-attempt-at-something-professional-inspector-alan-merriweather/

My First True Passion Project – https://autisticbloggercreates.wordpress.com/2020/07/27/my-first-true-passion-project-the-little-peasant-girl/

The Little Peasant Girl Extract 1 – https://autisticbloggercreates.wordpress.com/2020/07/29/the-little-peasant-girl-extract-1-3/

The Little Peasant Girl Extract 2 – https://autisticbloggercreates.wordpress.com/2020/07/29/the-little-peasant-girl-extract-2-3/

The Little Peasant Girl Extract 3 – https://autisticbloggercreates.wordpress.com/2020/07/29/the-little-peasant-girl-extract-3-3/

Autism, Experiences, Preview, Schools

Autism Book (Preview)

As part of my blog’s 5th Anniversary, I’m going to look back on some of my oldest creative writing pieces. However, to start with, I’d like to share something I’m currently working on. Below is a preview of my Autism Book.
Several years ago, I got in contact with a media group through Ambitious about Autism. They were interested in hearing Autistic people’s life stories, told in unique and creative ways. I thought this would be an excellent opportunity for me. So, after exchanging several emails with them, I wrote a story loosely based on my life. It was about a boy named Jason, who goes from primary school to adulthood while discovering he has Autism. The aim was to show how it affected different stages of his life and how he ultimately embraces his condition. The ending would’ve revealed that I, the author, was Jason.
I wanted this story to be easy to read for any age group, particularly younger children. I remember how hard it was to read longer books unaided when I was a boy. If this was something my younger self could enjoy and learn from, then anyone could. With that I mind, I decided to write each page with only 1-3 sentences – an illustration would help emphasise what I was saying. I also wanted to avoid using complex words. But I still included a few of them to challenge the reader. The reading level would go up as Jason got older in the story. I enjoyed writing this way because my pieces tend to be long and detailed. It was challenging to break away from this and write with a particular audience in mind. However, I didn’t want my writing to seem too simplistic. So I also included descriptive text, explaining what I wanted the illustrations to show and represent.
When I finished the piece, I was delighted with the results. For once, I’d completed something of my own in a reasonable amount of time. The story was easy to follow. The messages were well-presented. And the additional notes helped express my vision.
As it turned out, though, my vision was a little too ambitious. The piece ended up being over 70 pages long with the structure I had. Plus, I was sure some parts were still too complicated for younger readers. Furthermore, since the group I contacted wasn’t a publishing company, they didn’t have the resources to turn my story into a fully-illustrated book – as I’d hoped. They said they were still interested, but I’d have to scale it back to fit their criterion. Since I didn’t want to lose any my additional efforts, I decided it was best to turn them down and find another outlet.
So now I have this fully-written story, with accompanying notes, that needs fine-tuning. I can’t show you the whole thing here since I have plans for it. But I hope you’ll enjoy the preview. Also, be on the lookout for more unseen pieces like this one over the coming weeks/months. Until then, stay tuned.

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The Autism Book: Jason’s Story

This is Jason.

[Jason (a boy of primary school age) stands on his own, wearing causal clothes, smiling.]1

This is Jason’s mum, dad, his twin sister and his dog.

[Jason and his family (mum, dad, sister and dog) standing together, wearing casual clothes, smiling. Jason is wearing different clothes than in the first picture so as to not stand out.]2

And this is Jason’s classroom at school.

[A female teacher (Mrs Swane) sits in a classroom, reading an “Ugly Duckling” storybook. There are at least 20 students sitting on the floor listening, all dressed in the same school uniform. Among them is Jason, though he’s not easy to spot. In another part of the room stands the teaching assistant (Sue) who’s supervising.]3

Jason is just like all the other boys and girls his age. He works hard in lessons, he plays in the playground, and he has friends who invite him to birthday parties.

[Three separate images. [Left] Jason sitting at his desk with other students, doing maths problems. The look on his face shows he’s trying hard to concentrate. Sue is nearby looking at his work. [Centre] Jason playing football with two/three other boys in the playground. [Right] Jason being handed a birthday invitation by one of the female students.]4

But there is something different about Jason. Can you see what it is? Of course you can’t. It’s not something your eyes can spy.

[The exact same ‘classroom’ picture that was shown before. This time, however, there is an arrow pointing to Jason – this is the first time we’re properly focusing on him as an individual.]5

You see, Jason can see and hear things. Things that other children can’t.

[Jason sits at one of several desks in the school library. There’s an open space in the centre of the room. Behind the desks are shelves of books. Some of the shelves have labels that read things like ‘History’, ‘Science’ and ‘Fiction’. A few other students sit at the desks with open books or pencils and paper. Jason has a book in front of him too, but he’s looking towards the open space in the room. His hand cupped behind his ear.]6

Sometimes Jason hears rock music playing in the library.

[The exact same picture, only now there’s a rock band in the open space, singing and playing instruments. There’s a faint-blue aura surrounding them, which seems to be coming from Jason’s line of sight – this is to emphasise the band is something projected from Jason’s mind.]7

Sometimes Jason sees robots fighting zombies.

[In the school playground, Jason watches in awe as robots and zombies are charging towards each other. Again, there is a faint-blue aura surrounding them which comes from Jason. Other students are skipping, playing football, or running around playing chase.]8

Sometimes Jason sees his favourite TV characters playing dodgeball during assembly.

[In a large school hall, a male teacher points to words on a whiteboard (“DIVERSITY, EQUALITY, ACCEPTANCE“, etc.) in front of rows and rows of focused students. Jason (in the back row) has his head turned behind him, watching familiar-looking TV characters throw red balls at each other. The blue aura is present again.]9

Nobody else can see or hear these things because they’re not Jason. They don’t have his eyes, ears or brain. This is Jason’s special secret. His own special super power.

[Jason sits smiling at his desk, between two other students. One has an alien sitting next to them, while the other has a ghost hovering above their head (both are surrounded by Jason’s aura). The students are busy focusing on their papers and neither creature is taken notice of.]10

Jason loves seeing and hearing these things. They make him feel like a spy or a superhero.

[Jason sitting at his desk, looking up at two thought bubbles. In the left one he’s dressed as a secret agent, wearing goggles that let him see invisible monsters. In the right one, he’s dressed as Superman flying through the clouds (only there’s a ‘J’ symbol on his chest rather than an ‘S’).]11

Sometimes, however, Jason’s powers cause him…problems.

[This is almost a panned-out shot of the last picture; Jason sits in the same position, looking up. However, the thought bubbles are gone. He’s at his desk on one side of the classroom while everyone else is on the other. The students are sitting on the floor with their heads turned to him. Mrs Swane holds a book titled “Shakespeare” and Sue is standing nearby. They’re all looking at Jason either confused or concerned. Jason is so lost in thought he’s not realised everyone has moved. The picture and text are shown across a double-page for extra impact.]12/13

General

5th Anniversary Announcement

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger) and today is the 5-year-anniversary of my blog. Before I get started, I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who continues supporting me. This website has been viewed over 8000 times, by 6000+ people in 96 different countries. It’s inspiring to know I’ve reached so many of you. If you’re a regular reader (like one of my followers) or you stumble across my work by chance, I hope you take something positive from it. You’re honestly the reason I keep doing this.
Anyway, what do I have in store this momentous occasion? Well, it’s not what I was planning. But I think you’ll find it satisfactory. Let me explain. If you remember last year (Publishing History), I set a goal for myself that I’d complete a personal writing project. I wanted to give a preview here on my blog, so you could see the progress I’d made. Well, I knew what I wanted to show. And I was making good progress towards it. Unfortunately, something happened. The pandemic started.
Like a lot of people, I was badly shaken by this world-wide crisis. I took its dangers very seriously and made sure to follow guidelines to keep myself and others safe. Consequently, my focus was divided, and I couldn’t concentrate so much on my writing – especially as I was a key worker. Even when I did have spare time, I’d often use it to relax my mind and not worry so much about deadly diseases. My writing just wasn’t a top priority.
However, I didn’t want my 5-year-milestone to go uncharted. I also didn’t want people to think I was being lazy or making excuses. Because, the truth is, I have made progress with my writing. The children’s book series I’ve been planning for years is slowly taking shape. Plus, I have an unrelated book that’s fully-written – but in its first draft. I intended to rewrite the whole thing for this anniversary. However, I’ve only managed to do the first section. And there are three in all. Thinking about it now, though, I probably would’ve only previewed the first section anyway. I am hoping to publish this book one day, after all.
Then I got to thinking. There are dozens of creative pieces I’ve written over the years, not just the small publications I listed last anniversary. They may be rough and unfinished, but each one represents a different stage in my writing career. If I want to give myself better motivation for the future, I think it’s important to remember how far I’ve come. So that’s what I’m going to do.
For this anniversary, I’ve decided to look back on some of my unreleased pieces. I’ll give a sample of each one, explain my thought process behind writing it, and how it ultimately turned out. I may also talk about any plans for it if I think it still has potential. Since there are quite a few of these, I’m going to release one every fortnight or so. That way, I’ll have time to go over them and give a proper analysis. I’m also planning to make a separate blog for them, so I don’t overcram my main blog with too much non-Autism related content. I’ll post the links here.
With that said, I hope you enjoy this trip to the past with me. Stay tuned.
Are They Autistic?, Autism

Are They Autistic? – Beth (Rose Rivers)

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger), and today I’ve decided to start a new segment on my blog called Are They Autistic? – inspired by the Channel 4 documentary, Are You Autistic? (2018). In this series, I’ll be looking at characters from various forms of media and analysing whether I think they’re on the spectrum or not. These can include characters from books, TV shows or movies, and it doesn’t matter if their Autism isn’t confirmed. If they display similar traits, I’ll be talking about them.

Now, there are a couple of reasons why I decided to start this series. The first was variety: I’ve been writing this blog for five years now, and I wanted to give my regular viewers something new to read. More often than not, I write long reviews or segments of ‘Into My Autistic Mind‘. While these are engaging, I feel like I’m not challenging myself enough with them. Also, given that I currently work for Lidl – and everything that’s been happening lately – I probably won’t have the spare time to write longer posts. The second reason is for other people’s benefit. I don’t claim to be an expert on Autism. But I have noticed it’s easy for me to recognise Autistic symptoms; most notably in characters like Twilight Sparkle and Maud Pie from Friendship is Magic. If more people are aware of these traits and know how to handle them, it’ll be better for everyone in the long-run. With that said, I hope you enjoy this new series and find it enlightening.

***

The first character I’m going to look at comes from Jacqueline Wilson’s Rose Rivers (2018). For those of you who don’t know; the story follows a 12-year-old, Victorian-era girl, who lives in Kensington with her high-class family. The book aims to show us not only what life was like for these kinds of children, but why Rose is opposed to it. The story also acts as a sequel to Wilson’s 2016 novel, Clover Moon, which focuses on the lives of destitute children. 

Rose, herself, is an intriguing character. But it was her sister, Beth, who caught my attention. Early on, it’s made abundantly clear she’s challenging to deal with; although she’s ten-years-old, she “still cries a great deal…frequently has tantrums…flings herself on the floor and screams and kicks,” (p.21). On top of that, she has some oddly specific interests: “dolls, sparkly things, counting, rocking,” (p.22) and Rose admits she “[doesn’t] know what she’s like inside,” (p.22).

It’s interesting to analyse a character like Beth because Autism wasn’t well-known in the 19th Century. The term didn’t exist back then, and it was more common to refer to such children as being “backward[s]” (p.21) or “imbecile[s]” (p.91). Some doctors even thought “pour souls like her [were] incapable of improvement” (p.91) and should be “[placed] in an asylum” (p.92). Beth’s parents don’t resort to this, but it’s clear they’re fearful and distant of her; “Papa loves Beth and makes a fuss of her sometimes, but he’s certainly not prepared to look after her. Mama rarely goes near Beth, even when she’s quiet and docile” (p.201). 

Of course, having behavioural problems doesn’t mean someone is on the spectrum. And there can be many explanations for delayed emotional development. So, do I think Beth is Autistic? Yes, I do. And here’s why.

The most notable aspect about Beth is her limited speech. Throughout the story, she only ever speaks by repeating what someone says to her. For example: “‘It’s just me, Rose,’ I said. ‘Rose. Rose, Rose, Rose!’ [repeated Beth]” (p.22). Many people will recognise this as echolalia; a habit some Autistic children use to help them communicate and process information. 

“‘Do you remember – he’s at school now,’ I said. ‘At school now,’ Beth agreed. ‘I wish I could go to school,’ I said. ‘Go to school,’ Beth said, as if she wanted to go too” (p.24). 

Not all Autistic children do this, and their speech does tend to improve over time. However, for those on a higher spectrum, it helps them to understand things when they’re the ones saying them.

The story also addresses a common misconception. Children with Autism do have learning difficulties, but it doesn’t mean they’re stupid. In some cases, they’re even smarter than the average person. Rose discovers this firsthand. She used to think her sister only pretended to read, but one day she found her with Pilgrim’s Progress “muttering passages to herself while pointing along the lines” (p.23). Rose admits she finds this book “very heavy going [and] can never read more than a page or two at a time” (p.24). So Beth can read better than her older sibling. Unfortunately, most people only focus on her disruptive side. The problem, I think, is she’s not given a chance to show how bright she is. We find out she’s not allowed to touch books or ink bottles (p.110) because of previous incidents that saw her banned from the household classroom (p.109). As a result; nobody can see her skills in reading or writing – and she has no other creative outlets. As Rose puts it herself: “It must be so boring to be Beth. No wonder she is attached to her dolls.” (p.110)

There are other hints at Beth’s Autism too. These include; not liking to be touched (p.22), having strange habits like licking her fingers and then her dolls’ fingers (p.25), arranging things in size order (p.25), rocking back and forth (p.85/p.277), getting distracted easily (p.298), and “want[ing] to be in her own world,” (p.277). However, the one passage that convinced me, beyond a doubt, was during her Christmas dinner. 

She whimpered when she was served her vegetables because the carrots and parsnips were heaped on any old how. She likes each item of food to be entirely separate on her plate, and then she eats them in turn” (p.317). 

This behaviour convinced me because it’s what I do. I don’t like experimenting with new food or mixing flavours. If something tastes good one way, I prefer not to change it. I also prefer having one food in my mouth at a time, so I can fully enjoy it – hence why I finish all of one before starting the next. I don’t know if any non-Autistic people do this. But given how closely Beth’s eating habits resembled mine, there was no question my mind she had Autism. Furthermore, it wasn’t just Beth who convinced me. It was the people around her. 

One other character worth mentioning here is Nurse Budd; the “trained professional” Mrs Rivers hires to subdue Beth’s behaviour. A professional would, of course, have been less qualified in those days. And going by this Nurse, it’s clear they didn’t always know how best to handle Autistic children. Let me explain. 

First of all, Nurse Budd describes her methods as “training” (rather than teaching). Just the use of this word shows how poorly-viewed disadvantaged children were in those times – lesser beings who needed conditioning to behave. Additionally, Nurse Budd often keeps Beth in her room and limits interactions with her family. Seclusion and loneliness are already two of the biggest problems with Autism, so they shouldn’t be reinforced. Children should be encouraged to grow their social skills, however tricky. Otherwise, they’ll become reclusive.

Now, to be fair, Nurse Budd does show some understanding of Beth’s condition. She knows she can’t cope with sudden change or surprises (p.68), and that she needs a “regular routine” (p.278) to guide her. Sometimes even I was won over by her methods. However, nothing could excuse her more extreme measures. Honestly, it was shocking to see what people deemed appropriate back then. First, she straps Beth to a chair and force-feeds her when she refuses to eat properly (pp.133-4). Then later at Christmas, she insists on her wearing a bib like a baby. Nurse Budd also claims “never [to] smack any of [her] charges” (p.148) – yet she does so when Beth accidentally tears a dress (p.379). She even seems to take advantage of Beth’s echolalia: “Miss Beth, Nurse Budd never smacks, does she? [Nurse asked.] “Never smacks, does she? [Beth replied]” (p148). 

However, Nurse Budd’s worst crime involves her medicine: Godfrey’s Cordial. Although it’s “so safe it’s recommended for little babies” (p.87), she ignores the dosage instructions; giving it to Beth whenever she’s well-behaved or needs quietening down. Consequently, Beth becomes addicted to the substance and will do anything for more. Her improved behaviour is because her mind is in the wrong place – not because she’s learning. The overdose is so severe in fact that another doctor reveals it could’ve been fatal: “It’s a wonder this child is still standing.” (p.413)

Let me make this quite clear. Drugs and medication are NOT a cure for Autism. Autism is not a disease, and it’s not something that needs correcting. What Autistic children need are carers who are patient, know what they like and dislike, and can implement teaching methods which avoid stress or physicality. That’s why it’s fortunate for the Rivers they have Clover Moon. She takes over Beth’s care towards the end of the book; creating a drawing game which not only keeps her calm, but includes everything she likes, and allows Clover to praise her (pp.427-9). It gives us hope that Beth will eventually recover from her addiction and set herself on the right path.

So there you have it. Almost everything about Beth suggests she had Autism at a difficult time. The story paints a clear picture of how badly treated disadvantaged children were, and how far care and understanding of them have improved over the years. Rose Rivers is a delightful read for the main story, but I think it’s worth experiencing for history’s sake even more.

***

And that’s all I have to say. I hope you enjoyed this first instalment in what will hopefully be a long-running series. If you have any questions or recommendations, please leave me a comment – I’ll be more than happy to answer them. And, until next time, stay safe and stay tuned.

(Jacqueline Wilson, 2018, Rose Rivers, Double Day, Penguin Random House UK)

General

Next post delayed…

Hello everybody, this is George Harvey (aka The Autistic Blogger). I just wanted to let you know that my next post is going to be delayed. I try to make sure I have something new for you all every two months. However, my writing has become rather slow lately. I’m just trying to stay home, keep my mind relaxed and not worry about what’s going on in the world – which is tricky given I currently work for Lidl. Rest assured, I do have my next post lined up. It’s going to be something new and it’s very near completion. I’ll try to post it within the next week or so, but I can’t make any promises. Please be patient and I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait. Stay safe and stay tuned.