Media can be a weird place to work when you’re on the autism spectrum. You get to see your largely non-autistic colleagues do the bulk of the reporting and commentary on your neurodevelopmental disorder, taking a complex and wide-ranging disability that many (and not just the ostensibly “high functioning” quirky verbal ones) see as an identity and treating it in the way they might discuss a disease or epidemic. Then you see them frame their narratives around this misguided concept, painting the people who are on the spectrum as tragic—or inspiring if they’re cute or compliant enough—and painting the family members as the real victims of autism.
This can get particularly uncomfortable in sports media, where the language surrounding victory and defeat and the struggle between the two is such a fundamental tool of the trade. In this world, autism easily becomes the opposing team, or the long-term nemesis. It is something to be fought and vanquished. The people who have it in these stories are, at best, the damsels in distress. They are never the heroes. They’re barely people at all.
So when friends and colleagues started sending me the link to “Bellator MMA: In Focus With Kimbo Slice,” a six minute profile that the promotion released in the days leading up to the street fighting legend’s bout against Ken Shamrock last June, I was hesitant to click at first. But I’m glad that I did.
I’ll admit that I flinched a little when the topic of autism was first introduced in the video, with an overbearingly emotional shift in the background music and a pair of somber title screens informing the viewer that Kimbo’s youngest son, Kevlar, has autism, and that he trains with Kimbo every day.
And I was afraid that the segment was quickly dragging everyone involved into well-worn territory ….View full article