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Overload is a feature of autism, to the point were I would talk about how my autism interacts with my circumstance, but there is so much going on that I find myself unable to extract any particular thing to discuss: the forest is so big, I can't describe any trees.

So instead of talking about that, let me talk about television.

There are autists on TV, even if their attributes are usually inconsistent and subject to plausible deniability by the show's writers. That is: it doesn't matter how obvious that the traits are, the writers will deny that the character is anything of the sort. Presumably so that they can explain away any mistakes they make.

Still, there is Sheldon Cooper, and Temperance Brennan, and Data, and (I'm told) Abed Nadir.

Characters in historical features, however, are more difficult to nail down. Not least because the assumption seems to be that, in accordance with Age of Autism dogma, there weren't any autists before the 20th century.

Which is, of course, ridiculous.

Historical autists who could feign normality, or were in circumstances where they could function, were just folks who were odd. Autists who could not function were "idiots", and typically ignored in the records. If they lived that long.

There's a good argument that Fitzwilliam Darcy was on the spectrum, given how he was described as acting stiffly and formally, and abnormally so even by the standards of the time, but hiding behind his demeanour a rare kindness and sensitivity.

Sherlock Holmes, for different reasons, as well.

But as far as it goes, that would seem to be that, unless you include the archetypal absent-minded professor. And even that is typically a trope in its own right, and with only tangential connection to autistic traits as is typically presented.

And then there is Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, series 2, episode 8: "The Blood of Juana the Mad".

Spoilers and potential triggers ahead

Beatrice Mason is a student of medicine in the 1920s. When we first see her, she is not the only female in the class — indeed, the teacher of the dissection class is a woman — but the three women present are outnumbered by the men. When the sheet is pulled from the cadaver, supposed to be a woman in her thirties, and it is revealed to be an older man with a slit throat, Beatrice is the one who names him as Professor Katz. Her expression is one of surprise, rather than shock or despair.

Later we see the investigation enter Professor Katz' office, and it turns out that Beatrice was his research assistant. She gets distressed that strange people are invading the office. She gets even more distressed when a valuable mediaeval manuscript is missing from the safe.

Her reaction is to rush out to the empty corridor, and rest her forehead against a pillar. When Phryne (the heroine of the series) goes out, Beatrice says that she finds groups of people difficult to be around.

Later, when Beatrice is questioned, she reveals that she effectively lives in her office after she was kicked out of her rooming house after she was blamed for a fire. As a woman, she wasn't allowed to live in any of the residential colleges. She is very matter of fact about this.

Later we learn other things about Beatrice. She may not show it, but she says that she is sad that Professor Katz is gone. She only eats jam sandwiches. She hates it when people touch her books without gloves. When she says in response to an offer of a place to stay, that she "will consider it", she means exactly that, it's not a euphemism for "no". She looks distracted, but while looking around she picks up important details as quickly as does Phryne herself.

And she provides the vital clues to solving the mystery when not only has she transcribed the missing manuscript, not only had she found the hidden code, but when her transcription was stolen, it turns out that she had made separate transcriptions of the code alone.

Her difficulties are not played down: she is drugged because someone gives her a jar of spiked jam. She is lured to a boy's room by simply being invited. "It was polite to go. It's important to be polite." She is constantly being insulted, teased and excluded, and appears unaware, although she does describe knowing full well what's going on. Mostly.

Never once is the word "autism" uttered. It would be an anachronism if it were: Kanner's paper was still twenty years in the future. And yet, for those who know what they're looking at, there can be no question that that's what she is. It's not a tragedy, it's not played for laughs, it's not a source of superhuman powers, and it's not a quirk without consequence.

It's possible for the depiction of autism on television to be done right.
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