Simply not typical

Netflix show raises awareness for kids with special needs

Story by Jospeh Asher, staff writer

His head sways back and forth violently as he falls to the ground trembling with nerves. He shoves his head down as he begins to shrivel up into a corner in his mind. He sways as he repeats the words louder and louder to ease his discomfort. Continuing to chant these words until his mom comes to help him recover from his breakdown, being on the autism spectrum is a part of his life that he can’t avoid.

Atypical is just another Netflix show some would say, but what sets this show apart from the rest is its close relations to reality. The storyline is about a teen who is on the autism spectrum trying to navigate his way through high school.

Sam, played by Keir Gilchrist, is a struggling teen who lacks the key social requirements to fit into a normal high school atmosphere. He is a quirky and unusual character and it’s the main reason he doesn’t have many friends. Sam has a problem with not knowing when people don’t want to talk to him which is why he is usually seen alone.  

The transitions from comedy to heft take a little getting used to. Throughout the show, we hear voiceovers by Sam which let us see things through his perspective, allowing us to experience who Sam is as a person and why he behaves the way he does.

Sam has a huge desire to be a normal kid by doing what teenagers do such as: getting a girlfriend or going to school dances. The peers around him make this desire unreachable as the show depicts the teens as rude and dismiss him, not giving Sam a chance to fit in.

As a part of being on the autism spectrum, Sam doesn’t handle things that a typical person would not even notice. This can be seen whenever he rides the bus, he sits on the seat without letting his back touch because the feel of the seat causes excessive discomfort for him. We also witness Sam’s inability to cope when he wears a leather jacket to school, because it the zippers and chained cause too much distraction. Eventually he rips the jacket off in class and throws it in the trash.

The array of characters on the show are kind of pointless, as we don’t get a clear view of who they are as people. Sam has the overprotective mom, clueless dad who wants nothing but to connect with his son and younger sister who protects Sam, but at the same time bullies him like all sisters do.

Today there are many students who endure mental disorders or special needs. They face the everyday struggles of high school just like anybody else, and this show lets us see what life is like for them, and more importantly, what school is like for them.

A show like Atypical opens up that void between the known and unknown thoughts of those kids. It helps us understand and relate to who they are, what they go through and more importantly how we can help them fit in.

Overall, this show was really fascinating and intriguing by exploring the aspect of autism and dealing with high school. Unlike other shows on Netflix, Atypical is different as it lets us experience life in a new perspective. Getting to see what life is like for one that has special needs is something interesting that we really don’t get to witness very often. Atypical is a show that isn’t like the rest, it’s simply not typical.