Why I LOVE Quinni from “Heartbreak High”

A year ago, someone posted on Reddit about how they felt so bad for Quinni due to how Sasha treated her.

After perusing the original poster’s (OP’s) profile, I concluded they’re not autistic.

This wasn’t the first time I saw an allistic person harping on Quinni because of how she was portrayed in the series, so I did respond.

I was reminded of this Reddit post, and my comment, recently when someone commented on it and I was notified. After rereading it, I felt turning it into a blog post was necessary — otherwise, it’ll mostly die on Reddit.

Quinni, red hair up in pigtail buns, sitting on her bed wearing mostly black (hoodie has some color) and reading a book

For the sake of context, here’s the original post:

the whole season she was treated like a baby that couldn’t make any decisions which is awfully realistic but still really sad. especially Sasha in the episode where her and missy were doing drugs (i don’t remember which one it is* and when quinni raise. the suggestion that she could try it Sasha immediately shut her down because she thought that quinni “wouldn’t like it” and tried to make decisions for quinni (a perfectly capable teenager that will be an adult very soon) and i think i don’t need to explain the episode where sasha find out that quinni is autistic

something else i feel bad about quinni for is also the fact that a lot of fans of her are only her fans because she’s the only one that has autism in the show that has been mentioned.while i do understand you could like her for the representation i am talking about how when people talk about quinni they are hyper focused on her autism and no other aspect about her. and i know a lot of people disagree with me on this but it’s just my opinion

1. Quinni is realistic.

Quinni is the epitome of why representation matters. She’s not “just autistic”. She’s played by an autistic actress.

Autism is such a big part of a person’s identity. It’s why we behave the way we do.

No, it’s not the only thing about us — but it is a pretty big part of us that non-autistic people fail to realize, therefore perceiving us talking about our autism or bringing it up as “pulling the autism card”.

Non-autistic people do not properly fathom just HOW MUCH autism influences autistic people.

And no — not everyone talks about their autism all the time. Not everyone refers to how a behavior is specifically autistic. Not everyone takes on autism as part of their identity.

2. Quinni is played by an autistic actress

I’ve followed for Chloé Hayden since 2022. Autism is a huge part of her life.

She is a disability rights activist. She seeks to inform the world about autism and help create a society that accepts autistic people.

From what I’ve seen of her interacting with her fans and other people on the internet, she loves when people talk about autism and focus on autism in a positive light — but also in a realistic way when it’s shared by actually autistic people.

I’ve seen her comment on so many videos and posts where people talk about her character specifically because her character is autistic. Most of these people are talking about Quinni’s autism specifically, because they no longer feel alone.

Because they’ve finally seen themselves on TV.

3. Quinni is female

There are so many male autistic characters featured on television.

Quinni is the first openly autistic character portrayed in a realistic light, exhibiting the epitome of an autistic experience wherein a child is properly supported by her parents and friends — and she’s FEMALE AND LGBTQ+.

I’ve watched many media portrayals of autism, but never something like this.

4. Her autism is front and center.

Instead of hiding Quinni’s autism the way many TV shows “hide the gays” or refrain from acknowledging autism while having autistic-coded characters, Heartbreak High doesn’t treat autism like it’s a bad word.

Quinni is autistic — she knows this, her friends know this, her parents support and accept her, and she tells people. She’s openly autistic and not hiding it.

5. Quinni experiences things I experience, too.

Non-autistic people infantilize autistic people, even when they don’t think they do.

sunfl0werfields on Reddit posted the reply that I posted my comment in response to:

Sasha trying to make decisions for Quinni is so real, people do the same thing to me all the time. They’ll leave me out of things and not invite me purely because they think I won’t like it instead of letting me take care of myself and make my own decisions, which is so infantilizing. Just because I’m autistic doesn’t mean I can’t speak for myself.

The way Sasha treated Quinni — making decisions for her, disrupting her schedule, criticizing her special interests — is what all autistic people have experienced at least once.

Sasha broke up with Quinni because [Sasha] didn’t like the inherently autistic traits.

Quinni and Darren sitting in a bathroom during her non-speaking phase
I aspire to have a friend like Darren is to Quinni. 🥹

Allistic people don’t realize that what they don’t like about us is usually something inherently autistic.

They don’t want to say it’s because of our autism — they don’t want to be associated with saying or thinking that — because they don’t want to be the bad person.

They don’t want to be seen as the person who couldn’t “handle” the autistic person, or whatever. They don’t want to be seen as lacking in kindness or having a surplus of ableism.

It really speaks about the superiority complex many allistic people have, seeing autistic people as less than — even if they don’t realize it.

That’s also what Chloé Hayden advocates about.

Non-speaking episodes

After Sasha dumps Quinni because of her autism, Quinni experiences a non-speaking episode.

These are so frustrating already, and non-autistic people tend to act like autistic people are “faking” the inability to speak.

Going non-speaking is like having a sore throat that you can make squeaks or whispers with, but it costs more energy than the result is worth.

Sasha broke up with Quinn because of her autism, then wondered why Quinn “refused to speak” because of her autism. 👀

There’s a serious disconnect for non-autistic people, in that so many fail to comprehend that

  • autistic people are autistic,
  • autism is a major part of them, and
  • autistic people are going to behave as if they’re autistic (because they are).

It’s like when people who aren’t chronically ill — who aren’t sick year-round — are confused by people with chronic illness(es) who are sick on a regular basis.

People who don’t understand or comprehend the fact that “chronic illness” means it’s “chronic” — and that chronic means it’s constant — presume chronically ill people “always have an excuse” or “are always sick”, etc. 🤔

6. Quinni is FOR autistic people — not allistics.

This might come as a surprise if you’re allistic, but Quinni doesn’t exist for you. She exists for autistic people.

I think allistic people are so accustomed to seeing the sugar-coated, feel-good autistic characters on TV who are palatable and don’t challenge their internalized ableism, so Quinni has them feeling uncomfortable.

Non-autistic people are used to autistic characters being for non-autistic people to watch, enjoy and even feel inspired by.

Quinni is none of those things.

She is, 100%, autistic and representative of the autistic experience — even while having two dads who support and accept her! And they’re barely in the show, too!

Previous autism representation painted through the lens of allistic people, who like to view the autistic experience through rose-colored lenses ignored what life was truly like for autistic people.

Quinn looking content, resting her head on her hands, resting her hands on a row of books at the library

Non-autistic people have no clue what life as an autistic person is like. They’re ignorant of the nuances in our experiences, of those things they hate about our autism they don’t want to admit because they think we’ll “misunderstand” and presume they’re saying it about us…because they are.

Quinni was written in such a way that autistic people would see themselves, how parents of autistics could do better, and allistic people would realize the harm of their actions/consequences of their behavior.

7. She’s a slap in the face to allistics.

Non-autistic people aren’t supposed to feel comfortable watching Quinni on their screens.

They’re supposed to feel icky, disappointed and even a little sad for Quinni when Sasha behaves the way she does.

Sasha is at that feminist stage where she’s absorbing everything a little too eagerly, wanting to do feminism “right”, and sacrificing compassion/grace for imperfection. She’s still learning.

The same cannot be said of adults who treat autistic people the way Sasha treated Quinni, who fail to realize the parallels between their own behavior and Sasha.

Quinni’s experiences are realistic. Autistic people love Quinni because they see themselves in her.

Autistic people are also ALLOWED to love Quinni because she’s autistic, even if that’s the only reason.

Because Quinni is realistically autistic.

Quinni is actually autistic.

Quinni is a real autistic character — not a fictional autistic character created to help non-autistic people feel better about themselves.

Like many autistics who have the choice to do so, I don’t spend time with people who get upset with me because I talk about my autism a lot.

I find the people who get upset with me being autistic, or mentioning my autism “too much”, get more upset whenever I do something that is inherently autistic — because they think I’m doing it by choice, when it’s my natural persona.

Cutting them out of my life is better for my mental health, and this is the same for many autistic people.

Quinni is autistic. That’s as pertinent to her identity as being a lesbian, having red hair, etc. It’s who she is.

In a world that forces autistic people to mask and encourages parents to put us through autistic conversion therapy, this representation was flawless.

Seeing Quinni on TV — an autistic actress playing an autistic character, who embraced her autism and had supportive friends — gave me the confidence I needed to use accommodations I need, like noise-cancelling headphones.

(my original Reddit comment)

Screenshots ©Heartbreak High

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