Sunday 26 January 2020

MP's plea to 'think differently' on autism, citing Star Wars character

MP Jess Phillips called for a better understanding of autism, saying the Star Wars character Kylo Ren could be autistic
MP Jess Phillips called for a better understanding of autism, saying the Star Wars character Kylo Ren could be autistic

Star Wars villain Kylo Ren could be autistic, a prominent Labour MP said as she called for the world to "think differently" about the condition.

Jess Phillips told a Commons debate on World Autism Awareness Week that the character's "teenage tantrum" in Star Wars: The Force Awakens could have been because the Death Star was "too noisy" and made him feel "stressed out".

The Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley told the House that she spoke as a mother currently on the waiting list for a diagnosis as she called for employers to make it easier for autistic adults to access employment.

She said: "Last Friday I was watching the newly released DVD of Star Wars: The Force Awakens with my sons and their lovely autistic friend.

"Between us we decided that what appeared as a teenage tantrum of the new dark lord Kylo Ren was perhaps him just needing a bit of a timeout.

"We concluded that perhaps he was autistic and just couldn't fit into the world he found himself in.

"Perhaps the new Death Star was just too noisy and made him feel stressed out.

"We thought he might wear the mask because he didn't like eye contact.

"I'm not sure it was the filmmaker's intentions but it softened us to him.

"The group of people I was with get autism and ASD (autism spectrum disorder) - they live with it everyday - so they can see how a person's behaviour might alter if things start to kick off.

"To all of us it is not the person with autism who has the problem it is the rest of the world.

"We have to think differently about people who think differently."

Ms Phillips said there needs to be increased awareness of the condition while better support needs to be offered to people with autism from Job Centre staff.

She also suggested employers should offer autism-friendly interviews and more work experience opportunities as she said it is "wrong and illegal" that people with autism are unable to access work.

"Only 15% of working age people with autism are currently in work, according to the National Autistic Society," she said.

"For any parent with a child with autism this presents a heartbreaking and bleak future but it doesn't need to be."

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