Many memorable characters in Western culture could be viewed as having features of autism or Asperger syndrome. In spite of the familiarity of autistic stereotypes such as Star Trek‘s Mr Spock, more completely described characters with autism are still unusual. In recent years there has been a growing interest in autism, mirrored by an increase in depictions of autism in popular works of fiction and autobiography. In this article I will outline the issues that have preoccupied writers and the techniques they have used to demonstrate autistic difference. Some writers have illuminated aspects of the autistic triad of social impairment, abnormalities of language and need for sameness. Other writers have opened our eyes to the autistic world view in its strangeness and richness. Still more have started to examine prejudice, disability rights and the implications of an international autism community. As in other areas of mental health, literature can help inform, entertain and question our attitudes and values.
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