As a person with Asperger’s, this author discusses that while many Aspies can see themselves in Luna (especially as portrayed on film), such comparisons can be problematic: “The nature of Asperger’s syndrome itself makes the prospect of ‘diagnosing’ a fictional character even more nebulous. Asperger’s itself is just a label for a set of traits that are often observed together– actually, not unlike a story. It defines a rather blurry category, but the traits themselves do not describe any person exactly. Nor does every person with Asperger’s look, think, or behave the same.” It is easy for others to make blanket statements and assumptions about Luna or real-life Aspies, or to consider the behavior of others as “normal” by comparison. However, this does not take away from the relief the author feels seeing someone on screen to whom he closely identifies.
The author, a self-ascribed Aspie, penned this blog post to focus the unique strengths of individuals with autism or Asperger’s. He explores these positive aspects through the character of Luna. Trait #1 (“The fruit of time spent alone in thought”) explores the creative connections made when prioritizing quiet time amid the hubbub of Hogwarts: “In some ways, the magical world of Hogwarts seems like it could be a nightmare for someone who is prone to sensory overload. It has all of the noise and busyness of a school, with people headed every direction all the time. But I think the most annoying thing would be the pictures.” While fun in theory, being surrounded by constant movement and chatter even if you are the only witch or wizard around would be very difficult for Aspies. Luna enjoys time alone, feeding thestrals or reading The Quibbler. Removing herself from the noisy goings-on enables Luna to make connections and observations other witches and wizards miss. Trait #2 (“Noticing options that other people may miss”) is similar to the first trait, but includes potential outcomes and actions. For example, Luna solves the problem of how to get to London in The Order of the Phoenix. She is able to “think outside the box” and find solutions others miss. Trait #3 (“A lack of pretense”) flips around what is often taken as a negative (an Aspie’s inability to read social cues) and reveals its positive side: blunt observations. At Bill and Fleur’s wedding in the film version of Deathly Hallows, Part I, Harry is stopped by Luna’s father. Not wanting to get caught discussing Voldemort but also not wanting to appear rude, he remains stuck in an uncomfortable situation. Luna intervenes, telling her father that Harry didn’t want to talk just then. No one is offended: “If you understand that a person is speaking honestly, a straight answer– even if it contains criticism– can be a welcome thing.” Trait #4 (“Actions and words chosen deliberately and carefully”) reveals that Luna makes conscious choices to interact, even if they appear stilted or forced, and for an Aspie, these are thoughtful decisions instead of impulses. This takes courage: “When you know that you don’t always express things well, it actually takes a bit of courage to reach out and speak a word of comfort. It means you are putting others’ concerns ahead of your own worries about being misinterpreted. That’s a positive trait.” Trait #5 (“Enthusiastic loyalty”) details that Aspies and individuals with Autism focus for long periods of time on the minutiae of things that they are interested in or passionate about. This manifests in Luna in her devotion to her friends despite the danger they all face from Voldemort. Though in Ravenclaw, she meticulously crafts a roaring lion head hat to support Gryffindor. She gives of herself, helping in ways that aren’t always obvious, but that are always important.