Into One World and Out of the Other: How Watching Anime May Help Those on the Autism Spectrum
Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist nor claim to be an expert on autism. I merely have a obsessive interest in the disorder and this piece is strictly for educational purposes only.
People on the autism spectrum perceive the world differently than neurotypicals; those who do not have a form of autism. While they live in the real world, this difference in perspective can sometimes create obstacles for them.
First,these obstacles can take the form of sensory overloads such as the textures of clothes, food, bright lights and loud noises.
Secondly, these obstacles can also be seen as difficulties with social interaction. Individuals on the spectrum may have lack of eye contact when speaking to someone or not being able to tell the difference in facial expressions when someone is angry versus when they are sad.
When these obstacles become too much for them, they experience a meltdown. A meltdown is caused by a sensory overload.
To limit the possibility of a meltdown, I believe that a individual on the spectrum needs an escape in times of crisis. How important is having an escape to someone with autism? Private withdrawal to a secret inner world may give those on the spectrum strength to brave public life. Every autistic person deserves to have an escape. I believe they can have that through anime.
For instance, the long-running anime Pokemon is far past its original count of 151 Pokemon. There are now over 700 Pokemon accounted for in the Pokemon universe. Someone on the spectrum can find joy and ease at memorizing all the different types and evolution of Pokemon which could be a distraction from their meltdown.
Not only is this the case with Pokemon, but all anime. With multiple genres and sub-genres of anime, such as sci-fi anime, romance, horror, sports and many more. Detailed plot and character back stories can also be taken into account. Therefore, those on the spectrum can spend countless hours memorizing trivia about their favorite anime along with every and any other anime they come into contact with.
Another reason anime can be beneficial in the autism community is that anime characters are relate-able and easy to read, emotionally.
First, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is an anime that revolves around the main character, Haruhi, as she recruits classmates to her after school club. The club is responsible for solving mysteries throughout Japan. One of the supporting characters, Kyon, notices that she has a different number of ribbons in her hair for the different days of the week. This could be considered a routine she does and many of those on the autism spectrum thrive under routines and can relate to Haruhi in this sense.
In addition, another trait in autism is obsessiveness and fixations on a particular topic. Haruhi also possesses this trait in the anime. She shows limited interests and makes them known as: UFO's, time-travelers, aliens and anything not of the real world. Her interests are also the driving force of the club she has put together.
A few other animes with relate-able characters may include:
L from Death Note (psychological anime, crime-solving)
Marou Eiichiro from Baby Steps (sports anime, tennis)
Anime characters are easier to read emotionally because unlike real people, the anime characters won't get mad at you if you study their face for a long time trying to decipher what emotion they're portraying. Anime emotions show the viewer clear signs of when they are upset, mad or happy. If an anime character is mad, their heads will usually blow up while yelling. If they're upset, tears can be seen more clearly on their face than on a human's.
I'd like to think that by watching an anime characters' emotions for a period of time, it would help those on the spectrum ready themselves when conversing with people. This would hopefully make social interactions less stressful.
In conclusion, anime can be helpful to people on the spectrum thanks to an overwhelming amount of information to memorize, relate-able characters, and tips to help them in social situations. In addition, if an individual on the spectrum is close to a meltdown in public, anime can be streamed on a tablet or phone to help during public meltdowns and on the television during private meltdowns. Thanks to technologym anime can be an outlet twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for the autism community. This way, they always feel connected to someone through a screen, as well as validated and that's a great start.
© 2018 Kori Morgan