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Created by Dan Harmon, the NBC comedy “Community” follows an off-beat, oddly paired group of friends struggling through community college. There’s a single Christian mother, a former quarterback, a lawyer without a law degree, an activist, a millionaire, a valedictorian and Abed (Danny Pudi). Abed is a bit different from the rest of the group. While he is never mentioned to be on the autism spectrum, since the show’s start he has certainly been a hot topic and even hero amongst the autism community. In the show Abed exhibits some classic Asperger’s Syndrome signs. He is unaware of many social cues, doesn’t exhibit many emotions or recognize them in others, and tends to relate more directly to movies and fiction than other people. While certainly he has had several emotional setbacks and moments where his unique personality has caused him extra struggle, Abed leads a respectable life. He has a best friend, Troy (Donald Glover) who treats him and his differences with care and respect.
Most interesting might be the creation of the character of Abed. Dan Harmon modeled the show after his experience in community college in Los Angeles. In an interview for “Wired” Dan Harmon explains that he thought he most identified with the character Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) but as the show progressed and as he began to “naively research” autism spectrum disorder when people began speaking about Abed he realized that not only did Abed show signs of autism, but so did he. After research and a doctor’s visit Harmon came to understand the spectrum better and see that it was larger and more complex than he may have realized. He and Abed both can “inappropriate emotional reactions and deep empathy” and still have a place on the autism spectrum. Abed represents a unique individual on the autism spectrum rather than a stereotypical bundle of symptoms because he reflects the unique character that is Dan Harmon’s writing and Danny Pudi’s acting. He is well rounded, unique, and a role model the autism community seems to connect with.