This may come as a shock (see what I did there?) to anyone who knows me, but I absolutely love Pokemon. I have multiple games for multiple consoles. I go to GameStop (or I did, before their partnership with autism speaks. I’m hoping they listen to me and sever ties. Anyway) for promotions and events. I have the original and Johto pokeraps memorized. I have over a dozen pokemon t-shirts. You see, I love Pokemon and ESPECIALLY Pikachu. So yes, Pokemon is a big and important part of my life.
Pikachu also helped me accept and define being autistic. You see, in the first episode of the first season of the anime, Ash is given a Pokemon by Professor Oak. It isn’t the Pokemon he wanted and was, well, less than desirable. In many ways, this is how parents feel when they have a disabled child. That their child is broken. That their child is less than desirable. That they didn’t get what they signed up for.
But do you know what happened when Ash found the Pokemon that was given to him? He accepted him. He took him as he was. He decided that “This is the Pokemon I was given, and now we’re going to be partners and take on the world.”
Pokemon are supposed to go in their Pokeballs. It’s just how it works. Don’t ask me why, I didn’t write the storyline. But Pikachu is stubborn and Pikachu refused. So Ash finally accepted Pikachu as he was, and he let Pikachu walk by his side. They became friends. And twenty years later, they still are. Despite the fact that Ash still hasn’t caught all the pokemon and STILL isn’t a Pokemon master… but that’s another story, I guess.
A ten year old boy was able to accept his Pikachu that didn’t fit the conventional mold. A ten year old boy realized that Pikachu had very real access needs – he didn’t like being confined to a ball, he was stubborn at times, and he wasn’t always the best behaved Pokemon. But Pikachu did what Pikachu wants.
I am autistic. I also have an alphabet soup of brain cooties. I don’t perceive the world like a neurotypical person does. In a world that was created for people that are, well, quite frankly, not me, I struggle. I struggle to fit in and I struggle to find my groove. I live in a world where I function differently just because of how my brain is wired. It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with me. Some of my brain cooties are because sucky things that shouldn’t have happened happened, and my brain did what it could to protect itself at the time. Some are because of genetics. And some are just because my brain does what it wants, and not what I necessarily want it to do.
But like Pikachu, I wasn’t anyone’s first choice. Like Pikachu, I was unconventional. I had my own way of doing things and no matter how hard you tried to force me, I couldn’t do it any other way. But Pikachu taught me that that’s okay. That I can still make a large group of friends. That I can still find someone who will stand at my side. That I can still have people who will be my companions.
And that is why Pokemon isn’t merely a kid’s show. Pikachu helped me accept myself.