My Accidentally Autistic Character

I wrote Swallow Me, NOW! about nine years ago, it’s been published for eight years. When I wrote it, I knew very little about autism, especially autism in girls.

Recently, I realised I had written a book featuring an autistic girl, because much of this story is based on me as a girl!

If you don’t know about this story, it features Sam, a girl in grade 5 who returns to Australia after being in Nepal where her parents were missionaries. She starts a new school and tries to settle in, only to be bullied. The bullying starts as exclusion, and goes from there.

There are a few things in this story that helped me realise that Sam is autistic:

  • She is put with a girl on her first day to be shown the ropes. Sam assumes this person is now her friend as she has to stay with that girl as if that’s the rule. Her social awkwardness was something that I felt as a child and is something I’ve read is common with autistic girls.
  • Sam plays with her braids, either chewing her hair or fiddling with it. This is something that I did as a kid as fidget toys weren’t a thing when I was at school!
  • In a scene about a free dress day, Sam doesn’t understand why regular blue jeans aren’t considered ‘coloured’ jeans. I know there is a difference in a fashion sense, but I still think that blue jeans are coloured!
  • Curling up with her teddy bear to help her feel better. I know this is common among kids, however the softness of a bear or stuffed toy is something that is often used to help calm emotions.

These are just a few examples of things I had written in to the text long before I knew what I know now about autism in girls! When I was looking at it, I wonder how many other autistic authors drew on their own experiences and have accidentally written autistic characters as they were based on their own experiences long before they got a diagnosis. I’m sure I’m not alone.

Since this realisation, I’ve discovered other neurodiverse characters in my stories. Some I’m rewriting and editing to make it more obvious, however there are some that I will leave the neurodiversity not explicitly stated, but put an authors note in the end as there are so many who aren’t diagnosed as children and it’s important that readers are made aware of this.

If you would like to get a copy of Swallow Me, NOW! you can either order from Amazon or from this website.

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About Melissa

Melissa Gijsbers started writing when she was in High School during the 1990s, even winning some awards for a short story and a script. For many years, life got in the way of creative writing, however she did start blogging around 2006.

She currently lives in Melbourne, Australia with her two sons and a pet blue tongue lizard.

Melissa Gijsbers, Author, Speaker & Booklover
Melissa Gijsbers - Author, Speaker & Booklover
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