“My name is Anna and I’m 9. My best friend is my sister, Natalie, even though we fight almost every single day. My other best friend is Sammy, my iguana. Sammy and me never fight, but mom says a sister is a forever friend, so I guess that means Natalie is more my best friend than Sammy. Natalie is almost a teenager. She always yells at me for leaving my bug collection in her room because she hates bugs. Natalie thinks it’s dumb that I want to be an entomologist, which is a scientist who studies bugs, which is what I want to be when I grow up. Mom says don’t feel bad because teenagers think everything is dumb. Mom also said don’t feel bad when we picked out Sammy at the pet shop. A tall guy there with a beard was yelling when I let some of the lizards out of their cages. I really just wanted to see what kind of bugs they were eating but I didn’t get a chance to tell him that because he already kicked me and mom out of the store. Natalie just rolled her eyes when we told her what happened. I think Natalie is secretly jealous of me and mom sometimes, but mom says teenagers always get jealous. I think Natalie is lucky to have me as a sister because even though she gets jealous and hates my bugs, I still let her be my best friend because we are sisters and sisters are forever friends.”
This assignment was honestly pretty challenging. The only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to make a female character, just because they’re so underrepresented in the autism community. I tried to follow Bard’s suggestion of not making it so obvious right away that my character is autistic, or different from any “normal” 9-year-old. I also wanted to encompass what I think might happen in a family who has a sibling with autism, and how that autistic sibling might view the situation as opposed to thinking that he or she is the “problem”. A mother or father overcompensating to make their autistic child feel better, such as not yelling at them for letting lizards out of a cage at a pet shop, is something that I think parents of autistic children might often struggle with. I also liked the idea of having a pet as a loyal companion, similar to Christopher’s “Toby,” which is why I created Sammy for Anna. If I had more time or space to develop the character of Anna, I might elaborate more on her social situations outside of home – at school, on the playground, etc. Overall, I wanted to create a character who is fairly happy regardless of the situation (like Christopher), because even though autism certainly presents challenges at times, I don’t think that it prevents happiness entirely if one can learn to live with it.