Heartstopper’s Bradley Riches hits back at trolls claiming he’s not autistic

Heartstopper actor and Celebrity Big Brother housemate Bradley Riches has hit back at trolls claiming he is pretending to be autistic.

In March, the 22-year-old actor, who plays James McEwan in Netflix’s queer teen drama Heartstopper, stepped into the Big Brother house for the first season of ITV’s Celebrity Big Brother revival.

He explained that one of the reasons he wanted to go on the show was to bring better autistic representation to TV, and spoke openly about the challenges of being neurodivergent while in the Big Brother house.

In one moving conversation, he spoke to West End actress Marisha Wallace about writing his children’s book “A” Different Kind Of Superpower, which is based on his experience of being diagnosed with autism as a child.

He told Wallace that being in the house was “a lot” and that he often ends up overthinking things and feeling he’s “not doing everything right”.

Despite being candid about how autism impacts his day-to-day life, Riches has now shared that he’s been targeted by trolls claiming “he’s not autistic”.

On Instagram, Riches shared a photo of himself entering the Celebrity Big Brother house, overlaid with social media comments questioning his autism diagnosis – including claims that he is “faking” having the neurological and developmental disorder.

“Ignorance is bliss,” he captioned the post.

“We have always been presented by stereotypes in the media telling us how autistic people are meant to look, behave and present. Just because I don’t fit into what you have seen before and fit into what you think ‘being autistic’ is, doesn’t mean I am not autistic.”

He went on to describe the autism spectrum as a colour wheel, where “every little part of a colour wheel is a different part of being autistic”.

“We are all different, but we are still autistic,” he added, shooting down those who expect him to fit into their idea of what it means to be neurodivergent. 

“Not meeting your false expectations doesn’t mean a false representation of autism. Start listening to REAL autistic voices and learn.”

Bradley Riches is engaged and we absolutely love to see it (Instagram/@brad_riches)

In a second image, he shared the same photo of him entering the Big Brother house, alongside several social media comments celebrating the fact that he brought an authentic representation of autism to mainstream TV.

Fans and fellow TV stars have since flooded his comment section to affirm his message and show their support.

“No two autistic people are the same, just as no two neurotypical people are the same,” wrote one fan.

Another added: “Those who know you know the struggles you have faced and do face daily. You are a fantastic role model to the autistic community and we as a family are proud of all you have achieved.”

Celebrity Big Brother winner David Potts simply shared how “proud” he is of the Heartstopper actor.

Earlier this month, Riches announced that he had got engaged to his long-term partner, theatre director Scott Johnston.

The actor will also star in Jack Godfrey and Martha Geelan’s hit musical Babies in London next month.

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