Posted in Autistic Identity, Books

Neurodivergent Meg

Here’s an archives piece that will be even more relevant soon with a new version of A Wrinkle in Time hitting the big screen in the spring of 2018.  The new movie will feature a Black Meg and given how infrequently Neurodiverse types are female, let alone girls of color, I am already thrilled by this casting.

[This is an early cover of A Wrinkle in time. It has a large planet or somesuch in the right-hand corner, partially obscured by the darkness, and three “witches” in different kinds of dress as well as Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin watching the Happy Medium, who appears to be a person of color, and is dressed in red and holding a sphere aloft]

Anyone who knows Madeleine L’Engle’s classic story, A Wrinkle in Time, the Newberry Award winner that was considered “too hard” for children and subsequently rejected over two dozen times, knows the story is special.  It’s the story of a family whose professor father is missing and the journey his “misfit” children, Charles Wallace, the baby, and Meg Wallace, his eldest daughter, undertake to rescue him.  Both mother and father have multiple doctorates and mom even works in a lab at home.  This is normal to the Murry family (if not the town). To the Neurodivergent crowd, A Wrinkle in Time can be seen as one of those special stories that means a whole bunch.

 

Calvin O’Keefe, the “normal” one, a high school boy who gets swept up in the events and will journey with Meg and Charles Wallace to rescue their father, is meant to help us see how different, and yet positively okay the Murry family is.  Calvin is bright and brave and good at sports.  People love him, but he doesn’t think he deserves it since they only like him for things that aren’t important.  Calvin adores the Murry family because to them, intellect is important (well, except for Sandy and Dennys, the “normal” twins).

And the family is amazing and features an “obvious” Autistic character, though the word “Autistic” is never used.  After all, Charles Wallace, the youngest child,  didn’t speak until late, and when he did speak, closer to the age of five, sounded more like a college professor than a kindergartener.  He is brilliant and unmistakably “new” to this world; he is a prodigy and a blessing.  Today, we’d call him Autistic.

But Charles isn’t the only Neurodivergent one.  Overshadowed by her brilliant brother, is the Amazing Meg Murry.  Meg, too, is Neurodivergent.  Here are 15 reasons why:

 

1.  Meg huddles under her cloth quilt when she’s frightened at the top of the story.  It is an old quilt, and she is wrapped up in it.  How many of us have relished the feeling of a quilt instead of a “scratchy” polyester blanket?

2. Meg’s parents think she’s brilliant (they’ve even tested her IQ), but the school can’t measure her brilliance.  She’s even been dropped into the lowest-achieving class at school.  Her brothers claim it’s because she’s too busy looking out windows and not paying attention.  We later learn she’s fantastic at math, but not the way the school teaches math; there, she gets low grades.  When she helps high-schooler Calvin, with his math, she nimbly shows him the shortcuts she knows and we see her brilliance at work.  She’s not of low intelligence; the school isn’t capable of getting her. Her dad even says her development isn’t of the “usual pace.”

3. When she’s mad, she’ll try “roughhousing,” but the girls tell her she’s too old for that; she struggles with the social conventions of “age-appropriate” behavior.  When she’s scared, she wishes her much younger brother would come upstairs and visit her in her room to distract and calm her down.  She’s been known to still play with her doll’s house.

4. Meg can’t hide her feelings like everyone else, particularly her twin brothers who are socially adept.  She questions whether they really DO fit in, or they just know how to fake it.

5. Meg has an active imagination; she’s always considering the worst-case scenario including: the roof of the house blowing off, the storm is no mere storm, but a hurricane, etc.

6. Meg is intuitive; she knows exactly what everyone in town is thinking about her and her family, but she can’t DO anything about it.  She knows (and is proven correct) that people in town blame her for a lot of things that shouldn’t be her fault. Just knowing what people are thinking doesn’t make her magically more socially adept.

7. Meg, Charles Wallace, and their mother are told they have no sense, according to the twins.  They seem to just trust anyone, as they let the mystical Mrs. Whatsit in without a cause for concern (well, Meg has concerns; she’s into worst-case scenarios, remember)

8.When Meg forgets her school lesson and is ridiculed by the teacher and “answers back” under her breath and is overheard, the teacher hypothetically asks her to leave if she can’t control herself.  Meg takes this seriously and heads out of the room.

9. Meg’s principal blames her attitude for all of her problems, and wants her to be more “tractable” (obedient), but clearly Meg can’t be; she’s too honest.

10.  Meg claims to face facts because people are harder to face.

11.   Meg doesn’t mind yelling to make her point; after all, she has nothing to hide.  To heck with that social convention of moderate speech.

12.  Meg is hard to categorize.  Charles Wallace says she’s not “one of us.”  Amusingly, this is often how women Autistics feel; our Autism looks differently than the stereotyped version, so we don’t think we belong.  Charles Wallace is being limited by his preconceived categories, which is not uncommon of Autistics; we’ll exclude people like us without meaning to do so.

13.  Meg is comforted by closeness: Calvin’s hand on her shoulder, kneeling near her mother, Fortinbras (the dog) or the kitten being near her.  She sees touch as having meaning; if people are near you, they are trying to keep you safe.  She gratefully hugs her father when she rescues him, and even when he can’t see her, he knows it’s his child. Compare this to the distance she feels in school, where she avoids her teacher and her principal.  Meg is not afraid of touch, but sees touch as having significant power, so when she uses it, or it’s used on her, it means something.

14.  Meg’s handwriting is barely legible; this is not uncommon for Autistics whose fine motor skills come later (if at all!).

15.  Meg feels too much.  It’s both her strength and weakness.  She’s overcome by emotion throughout the book, but it is the one thing that IT, the disembodied brain who will snatch her little brother with all of his intellect and try to keep him for its own, does not have.  Meg feels love too hard.

I’m sure there are other things I’m leaving out…any other “signs” you saw when you read it?

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