Dear Sia, You Might Be Autistic

Undiagnosed autistic people almost always share the widespread outdated and stereotypical views of autism. It takes a diagnosis for most of us to discover what “spectrum” really means.

Kristen Hovet
5 min readNov 22, 2020


Sia at The Parish club, Austin, Texas, 2006.

We have a lot to learn from the Sia autism film controversy.

The wildly talented (and tormented) singer-songwriter, Sia, has faced a great deal of criticism for her upcoming movie, which cast an apparently non-autistic actor to play the role of an autistic character.

In addition to her long list of pop albums and collaborations (e.g., “Titanium” with David Guetta), Sia has written hit songs for Rihanna (“Diamonds”), Shakira (“Chasing Shadows”), Britney Spears (“Perfume”), Katy Perry (“Double Rainbow”), Beyoncé (“Pretty Hurts”), and many more.

Of note, most of the songs she’s written for others took her under 20 minutes to write. Words like “genius” and “prodigy” are frequently used to describe Sia, her work, and her tremendous creative output.

“I’ve never seen anyone write a melody and lyrics that fast,” said Greg Kurstin, producer for Adele and Paul McCartney, and Sia’s frequent collaborator. “She’ll sing it and write it and it happens in one motion, and then she’s revising. And then it’s one take. You’ve got to keep up with her, really.” (from “How Sia Saved Herself” by Hillel Aron for Rolling Stone)

Sia’s film, an upcoming musical drama called Music, was cowritten by herself and children’s author Dallas Clayton. The film stars Kate Hudson, Maddie Ziegler, and Leslie Odom Jr. After release of the film’s trailer on November 19, 2020, many autistic individuals felt that the portrayal was not realistic and that the role played by Ziegler should have gone to an autistic actor.

Some responses:

Not realistic

I’m on the spectrum and this [trailer] makes me cringe. … the majority of autistic people don’t act like [the character played by Maddie Ziegler] or the way we are ever portrayed in films. Waiting for a film that portrays autism a bit more realistic, although since we mask so much, might be too boring for people to…



Kristen Hovet