In her new Netflix comedy special, “Growing,” which premiered Tuesday, Schumer reveals that her husband has what used to be called Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism, and she goes on to lovingly describe his quirky behavior, inconvenient honesty and direct communication style.
“Once he was diagnosed, it dawned on me how funny it was, because all of the characteristics that make it clear that he’s on the spectrum are all the reasons I fell madly in love with him,” she says in the special, in which she clarifies that, despite her husband Chris Fischer’s bluntness about her clothing choices, he can make her feel more beautiful than anyone ever has before.
“He says whatever is on his mind. He keeps it so real. He doesn’t care about social norms or what you expect him to say or do,” she says.
Schumer’s disclosure about her husband, a chef, was embraced in the Chicago area by people with autism and their supporters, who said it could raise awareness of the difficulties and rewards of dating with high-functioning autism.
“To have someone like Amy Schumer come out and talk about this is really amazing,” said Dr. Louis Kraus, the chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center and the founding director of Rush’s Autism Assessment, Research, Treatment & Services Program.
“I think it will be wonderful for people (with autism) and perhaps generate interest in the dating population about autism.”
Chicagoan Jennifer Karum said that, as a person on the autism spectrum, she found Schumer’s story relatable.
“When she talks about her husband’s brain ‘being a little different than mine’ — my husband said that the first day he met me,” said Karum, 36.
“He said, ‘You know, when we first sat down and had lunch, you were an open book. You told me everything.’ And I was like, ‘Oh God, I’m sorry.’ And he’s like, ‘No, I appreciated it.’”
She said her husband, who does not have autism, embraces her quirks and has told her that he loves that she’s tenacious, relentless in pursuing her goals, and always trying to learn and do her best. She works in sales and also acts; she’s currently working on the pilot episode of a TV crime drama, “Conrad,” which she created and stars in. The next step, she said, is to get a network to order episodes and provide additional funding.
“Everyone thinks autism means you can’t function, and I think it’s really important that we bring awareness to the spectrum aspect, that you can in fact be extremely high-functioning, and be someone who is enjoyable and seems quote-unquote normal, and still struggle internally with how to perceive or understand, and how to communicate,” she said.
Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability that affects communication, social interaction and behavior. The disorder, which affects an estimated 1 in 40 U.S. children according to a recent study in the journal Pediatrics, takes a wide range of forms. Some people with autism are high-functioning, while others have severe intellectual disabilities or struggle to regulate themselves emotionally.
Julie Tracy, co-founder of Urban Autism Solutions, a Chicago nonprofit, said Schumer’s story might not be relatable for those severely affected by autism, and it could make their parents feel even more alone in their struggles. But for high-functioning people with autism, she said, Schumer’s disclosure is a definite win.
“It’s a great thing,” she said. “I think it can only increase awareness. I think it might increase empathy and just the ability to recognize that others might be struggling with things that (you’re) not struggling with.”
Response on Twitter was mostly positive, with support coming from as far away as Israel. A father from Mississippi tweeted, “Not a huge Amy Schumer comedy fan. But, to those of us that are parents of children on the spectrum hearing about adults on the spectrum finding love is a wonderful thing to hear. Can’t even explain how comforting it is to hear these things. This is what we worry about every day.”
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