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Autism

Archie Comics Now Has a Character with Autism

It doesn't matter if a person is autistic, neuro diverse or something else. Kindness works! #worldautismawarenessday #WorldAutismAwarenessWeek— Nancy Silberkleit (@NancyEduSpeaker) April 1, 2018

There’s character in Riverdale and her name is Scarlet. Even if you’re not a particularly huge fan of comics, this is awesome. Archie Comics is making the move to becoming more inclusive and diverse, as Scarlet will join the Riverdale world as a character with autism.

The announcement came right in time for World Autism Awareness Day. Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit said how the new character gives readers examples on “inclusion and friendship,” tweeting out the news. Ultimately, however, it’s a way for kids to connect with a character like themselves, Silberkleit told us:

The goal is to create a character that not only children who are autistic [and] neurodiverse can connect with, but bring the awareness to people in general.

You couldn’t imagine the amount of emails I’ve received from parents of [kids with autism] thanking me for Scarlet, and how in some instances, she is their daughter.

But it’s not just that. It’s also to let other children see how neurodiverse children are part of their group, classroom, community. If [a child has] had no previous exposure to what autism is, [or] if they meet an autistic/neurodiverse child, they may come away thinking that child is different.

Scarlet is important in increasing awareness. Scarlet is also highlighting a movement going on now. The autism rights movement (ARM) is a social movement within the neurodiversity movement that encourages autistic people, their caregivers and society to adopt a position of neurodiversity, accepting autism as a variation in functioning rather than a mental disorder to be cured.

So, when’s Scarlet going to make an appearance? Late last year, actually, she was included in her own story called Kindness Works, a separate comic outside of the main Archie comics. Scarlet’s Kindness Works story focuses on including different people in a friend group. The exciting part? It’s now available to order as a digital copy by emailing Silberkleit $1.99 through Pay Pal.

Silberkleit herself is “taking a hands on approach” with the project, because she wants to make sure it’s inclusive, telling us that “inclusion is a global issue.” She went on to explain:

When I use the word “ inclusion,” it means there are folks in global societies that have to deal with exclusion, the act of isolation or being tagged with a negative label. This is the worst injustice that can happen to a person. I like to spark hope within people and see if I can get folks to be on a path to understand people’s differences.

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Silberkleit also added that Scarlet is a “a gentle soul who does not want to hurt anyone, but she is often not understood… she could possibly be a target of bullying and be made to suffer.” Hopefully, Scarlet’s inclusion will help lift stereotypes for people with autism.

For kids this is especially important, as Silberkleit stressed, telling us that the company wants to educate kids:

We are all on this planet for a short time and we need to do as much as we can in this time. Our talented team at Archie Comics is doing just that with this wonderful story. Archie is one of those brands that belongs to the people, regardless of their age, gender or language.

In addition, the Kindness Works project is also dedicated to ending bullying, which in the age of social media, has only gotten more complicated. Since Silberkleit is a former teacher, this is a topic closer to her heart; she became the co-CEO of Archie in 2009 after the death of her husband Michael, son of an Archie co-founder.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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