Sam (Keir Gilchrist) is a senior in high school, who takes regular classes and has an after-school job at an electronics store, where he is friends with his nerdy coworker Zahid (Nik Dodani).
Sam is obsessed with penguins and Antarctica—we know this immediately from his voice-over at the beginning of the first episode.
There is plenty of criticism in the #Actually Atypical tag on Twitter, where autistic viewers voice their thoughts about the show, criticizing Elsa and autism moms in general for making their kid’s autism all about themselves.
Those weren’t inappropriate crushes like Sam’s on Julia, but I did come on way too strong.
The thing about autism is that many of us can “pass” for a long time, long enough that when we slip up like that, it creeps people out—as it eventually does with Julia.
The first example I ever encountered was a 2009 movie called , which tries to show the inner life of a guy with Asperger syndrome, but ultimately just uses him to further the self-awareness of his love interest, the annoying protagonist Beth, who breaks up with him and uses their relationship to write a book about Asperger’s.
We’ve come a long way since then: Though a show like , it does show Sheldon Cooper, who has many of the traits associated with Asperger’s, with a job, friends, and a nice, steady girlfriend who’s almost as awkward as he is.
(Sam’s protectiveness of his environment is the single most relatable part of this show so far to me.) He breaks up with her because he isn’t 100 percent certain that he loves her—also something I think a real person with autism would do—but soon after that he asks his parents how he knows if he’s in love.