When the notion of precognition (seeing into the future) came up in Martian Time Slip, I immediately thought “super powers!” I know that the author wasn’t trying to make autism/precognition seem like a super power, but rather as an explanation for mental disorders/neurological disorders. However, it did make me think on various autistic characters in fiction and how many of them do have a super power of some kind. It seems to be a theme among autistic characters in fiction. Examples include:
Mel (The Farm by Emily McKay): *****spoilers!***** The Farm is a recent YA dystopian novel about two sisters, twins Mel and Lily. Lily is neurotypical and Mel has both autisism and a super power. Mel is what the book calls an “abductura,” which is someone who can control people’s emotions.
Black Manta (DC Universe): Aquaman’s archenemy. Like most comic book characters, his backstory has changed over the years (especially during the New 52). But one of his origin stories is that he was sent to Arkham Asylum for being autistic. There he was abused and experimented on. One of the experiments cured his autism, but made him evil. He has a few powers, like breathing underwater.
Darryl McAllister (Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series): The book series is about wizards with an assortment of magical powers. Darryl is one of those wizards. Interestingly, when the series was republished, it was altered (which isn’t common in books). Originally (when I read this series as a kid), Darryl is cured of his autism at the end. But in the newer version, he stays autistic and instead is better at coping with it.
Spencer Reid (Criminal Minds): The actor of the show has said that Spencer has Asperger’s. Spencer doesn’t have magical super powers, but he does have an unrealistic amount of amazing abilities that seem more like super powers than reality. Spencer graduated high school at age 12, he has an IQ of 187 (an average IQ is 100), two BAs and three PhDs, an eidetic memory, he can read 20,000 words per minute (the average adult reads 300 per minute), and he is fluent in multiple languages (including Russian, Dutch, and Korean). He has more super powers than some super heroes and his character is set in our regular world.
Gary Bell (Alphas): Gary is autistic and a transducer. A transducer is someone who can perceive and manipulate electromagnetic wavelengths. Using just his mind he can read texts, watch videos being transmitted, hack into cellphone signals, television broadcasts, WiFi frequencies, and so on.
And those are just the ones I remember off the top of my head. I am sure there are more super powered autistic characters in fiction. But why? Why do so many of the autistic characters in fiction have some kind of super power, be it a supernatural power or a seemingly natural one? As we talked about in class, only 10% of people on the spectrum have savant abilities, yet here we see in fiction that most have some kind of amazing ability. Why?