5 Ways Family Guy Helped My Autistic Brother

Growing up, Family Guy was a television shows that my older brother and I were not allowed to watch.  Our parents felt the show’s humor was “too crazy”.  Yet, when John, our younger autistic brother, became a fan of Family Guy, in high school, our opinions changed.  Over time, we saw that Family Guy influenced John, in five distinct and positive ways.

  1. Learned about classic and retro pop culture:

Before Family Guy, we tried to expose John to classic and retro pop culture.  But, beyond Abbott and Costello, and Disney, John had no interest in classic or retro pop culture.  We almost felt compiled to stop trying, until John saw the Family Guy episode, “Road to Rupert”.

In “Road to Rupert”, Stewie, the baby genius, and Brian, the family dog, go on an adventure to rescue Stewie’s beloved teddy bear, Rupert.  Along the way, Stewie gets a chance to dance with classic film star Gene Kelly.  When John saw this, he asked us, “What movie did this dance come from?  It looks old.”  Since this dance is from the classic Hollywood film Anchors Aweigh (1945), we asked John if he wanted to see the movie.  Surprisingly, he agreed.  After watching Anchors Aweigh, John not only became an instant fan of Gene Kelly but, he also gained a desire to learn about every classic and retro pop culture references on Family Guy.  This helped to expand his interest, far beyond our wildest dreams.

  1. Became a fan of age appropriate material:

When John started high school, like most autistic teenagers, he struggled socially.  He was very shy and had very little to talk about, with his classmates.  Even at a school lunch group for autistic students, John struggled to talk to his fellow autistic students.  He felt isolated and awkward.

Family Guy was the first age appropriate content John enjoyed.  It helped him understand and enjoy other age-appropriate content, like PG-13 and R comedy films (Back to the Future and Let’s Be Cops), musicals (Spamalot), stand up comedy (Jeff Ross), and other animated television shows (South Park).  His new interest in age-appropriate content made John feel like he’s “one of the guys”.

  1. A passion for social issues:

Through Family Guy, John became exposed to current social issues.  We started to have conversations with John about the social issues discussed on Family Guy.  These conversations covered a variety of social issues from the rights of disabled people to the environment.  Though this sparked interest in social issues, he found political satire.  Today, John admires and adores John Oliver and Jon Stewart.

If we are not educated enough on a particular social or political issue, John wants to talk about; we research the topic with him.  This helps John to learn about the issue, as well as which internet sites are factual sources.  Today, when we have conversations about social or political issues, John has informed opinions.  He is able to challenge views, with informed opinions, and, at times, changes our opinions.

  1. Better communication skills:

John has a witty sense of humor.  But he struggled to find subjects to joke about, outside of the family.  Thanks to Family Guy broadening his interest, John has more subjects to joke about.  Recently, John, and his Special Olympic swim team, where participating at a Special Olympics torch run, with the local police department.  To assist in the torch run, police captains brought cadets from the local police academy.  When John heard about the police academy participation, he immediately thought about the classic comedy film, Police Academy.  He smiled, “Police Academy!?  I love that movie!”  The police captains nearby heard John.  They couldn’t help but break out in laughter.

John’s interest in age-appropriate comedy helped him make conversation with other people his age, which has made socializing with them age a little easier for John.  Today, he attends a weekly public game of Dungeons and Dragons, builds models at his favorite model shop, and has a close-knit group of friends.  John and his friends do everything together, from playing video games to introducing each other to new interests, to watching their favorite television shows and movies.

  1. Helped us to become closer as a family:

Looking back, it’s funny, to think that Family Guy, a cartoon our parents didn’t like, would help John this much.  Normally, it doesn’t feel great to be proven wrong, but in this case, we couldn’t be happier.  Before Family Guy, we were close to John.  But now, we have connected with John at a deeper level.  We are able to share more interest with John and have more to talk about.

For our family, Family Guy has been a blessing in disguise.  Though Family Guy does contain jokes and story lines that can be seen as controversial, we are never the less grateful for its help.  Thank you, Family Guy, for giving John a way to have a stronger connection to the world.

How to Help Someone with Autism Shave

One of the biggest self-care challenges for John, my autistic brother, is shaving his face.  Though shaving can be a tedious daily task for a typical man, it immensely frustrates John.  Shaving became such a nuisance for John that he tried to grow a beard.  But, the maintenance of the beard became more of a nuisance, than shaving.

To help John with shaving, we learned a few tricks to make the shaving process a little easier:


  1. Find a razor he is comfortable with using, safely:

When John first learned how to shave, he was given a regular one blade razor and shaving cream.  John liked the feel of the shaving cream, but he struggled with the razor.  Since John has a habit of fidgeting during shaving, he wound up with more cuts than hairs shaved.   An electric razor not only cuts his hair but, it’s also safer for him to use on his own.


  1. Have a game plan:

While John is able to shave some of his face independently, he still needs help with close shaving of his sideburns, chin, and neck.  These parts of shaving tend to take the most time.  Since John can become antsy just after a few minutes, I try to set up a plan for shaving him.  Using a combination of the long hair and close shave electric razors, I will work small sections of his face at a time, moving from one side to another.  And if John needs a break, I let him have a small break.  Depending on the length of hair and John’s cooperation, it can take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes for a complete shave.


  1. Talk him through the process:

Since John gets nervous with shaving, I tell him what part of his face I’m going to shave.  For example, I tell John, “I’m going to work on your upper lip.  When I’m done, I’m going to work on your upper left cheek.”  I’ll also tell John each time I finish a section shaving.  This lets him know that I’m that much closer to finishing his shave.  By talking John through the process he feels a little more comfortable with being shaved.


  1. Ease his tension when shaving:

When John is more impatient, or anxious, I try to ease his tension by telling him a story.  Other ways you can ease tension are:

  • Have a set time every day, or every other day for shaving
  • Sitting him down
  • Shave with the door open
  • Reward his patience with a compliment, or treat
  • Play calming music
  • Letting him watch videos on a smartphone/tablet or TV
  • Cuddling with a stuffed toy
  • Let him stand on a fuzzy rug, with no shoes, just socks
  • If he has an assistance animal, have the animal sit with him
  • Shaving in another room, like his bedroom


  1. Learning to shave will take time:

John is still learning to shave.  Over the years John has improved his self-care skills.  But still needs help, from time to time.  We encourage him to try to shave on his own.  But if he needs help, he knows he can come to us.


  1. Keep yourself calm and in control:

Though helping John shave has tested my patience, too, I’ve had to stay calm and in control.  The one time I lost my cool, I struggled, even more, to help John shave.  And for the rest of that week, shaving him was close to impossible.  Neither of you should go into shaving irritated, or frustrated.  You can skip a day, or so if it’s just regular maintenance shaving.  But, if he has to get ready for a special occasion, then, try shaving when everyone has cooled off, or at a later time.  Don’t feel bad if you wind up helping to shave your loved one shave five minutes before having to leave.  We’ve been there more than once.


Daily self-care maintenance can be challenging for those with developmental challenges.  But, the right help and patience can go a long way.