As someone raising two boys on the autism spectrum, I was skeptical of Atypical at first. But I’m pleasantly surprised with Netflix’s new series.
Atypical tells the story of Sam, a teenager on the autism spectrum, his family, and how they deal with all of the challenges thrown their way. Right up front, I’ll make it clear that this series in no way represents what life is like for all families raising kids on the spectrum.
But with all of the variation of challenges these kids face, and functioning levels, that’s impossible anyways. An infamous quote about autism is, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism” and viewers should keep that in mind when watching Atypical
On the whole, however, the show does a good job of representing the struggles of a person with autism. Sam would be considered very high functioning on the spectrum. He’s able to hold down a job, goes to a mainstream school without an aid, and takes the bus by himself to get around town.
Though he still has his trouble areas. They discuss on the show how he’s been banned from different places because of meltdowns, he avoids new situations, and in one instance they show him pulling hard on a girls ponytail because she was accidentally hitting him with it. Sam also has a hyper-fixation on the Antarctic and penguins which makes it hard for him to make friends with other people, because that’s all he wants to talk about.
Sam isn’t the only one on the show though. Although he’s a big part of the drama that goes down, Sam’s mother Elsa, father Doug, and sister Casey are all dealing with their own problems. Because of Sam’s disability, his life has a big effect on his family. That means that many of the decisions that they make end up relating to him in one way or the other.
For example, Elsa is struggling with the fact that she’s basically given up her own personal life to help Sam learn how to function on a daily basis. Doug is dealing with the guilt that he doesn’t always know how to help Sam and isn’t as comfortable with autism as Elsa. Despite being the younger sibling, Casey spends a lot of time looking out for Sam and often puts him first.
For families raising kids on the autism spectrum, many of the topics that come up on Atypical will hit close to home. In fact, some things were so accurate I wondered how they had known about it. Some of the topics might even be hard for parents raising kids with autism to watch because of this.
The show isn’t without its flaws, and some people might not like it. There are only mentions of lower functioning kids and therefore many more of the struggles that come along with autism aren’t shown. Other than sessions with a therapist named Julia, Sam doesn’t require many of the other types of services that those with autism do. But those with high functioning autism will be able to relate with some of Sam’s struggles.
For people that aren’t as familiar with autism, the show will be a big eyeopener that entertains along the way. Like other Netflix series, it’s one that’s great to binge watch and I hope to see it renewed for another season.