Late yesterday afternoon, I reluctantly bought my Power Rangers movie ticket, knowing that action and adventure movies typically put me to sleep. All the flashing scenes, designed to enthrall and invigorate the viewer’s senses, leave me depleted. Also when a movie hijacks character development for battle scenes (like in The Hobbit), sellout!

Nonetheless, I bought my PR ticket because I was meeting some EnCircle Technologies’ students for a social outing, and they chose this movie. We met in the lobby, and I took some pictures. One student threw his arm tightly around me, posing, smiling and happy. He busted anyone’s stereotype of autism with that act, although his language challenges prevent him from pontificating about the ugliness of stereotypes.

Power Rangers surprisingly also presented an alternative view on autism.

One of the Rangers admitted that he is “on the spectrum.” He’s a kid named Billy — one of the outcasts found in detention hall that ends up being a superhero. (Yes, Hollywood has a way of making things grand.)

In Billy, we see some characteristic features: hand stimming, obsessiveness, focus, social awkwardness, a history of being bullied. And, we also see his strengths that lend itself to good hero material: no pretenses, sensitivity, bravery, dependence upon a peer to help him understand some things, skill in figuring out hard problems.

Not all individuals with autism have the traits mentioned above. But, Billy does. And, when he becomes the central figure to unify the group, as they both take care of him and trust his abilities and character, he becomes one of the most important Rangers of the film.

I did not see that coming.

As we were leaving the theater, I said to one of my students, “That was cool that one of the Rangers had autism.”

“Yeah, that was pretty cool.”

Moving forward into the parking lot more heroic than before, we went absorbing the power of representation. The power of replacement of weakness for strength. The power of film that helps us visualize possibility.

We were and are appreciative. As the Rangers say, “It’s morphin’ time!” for a new perspective and way of being, for potential to be recognized, and for good to be accomplished by accepting and integrating autistic individuals’ character and skills, despite some differences.

Also, I’m tired of the shortcuts — of seeing the big words DISORDER or DISABILITY used mostly to describe our friends with autism. We can do better, project better, and think more accurately.

And, if we all can squash a huge gold beast-man (the antagonist’s killing machine) in epic battles too, why not? It’s morphin’ time!


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Thank you!

Teri Walden

Executive Director/Co-Founder