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How Coby Bird's Role on 'Locke and Key' Helps Dispel Autism Stereotypes

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Has anyone watched Locke and Key? The show was recently renewed for a second season. After being featured on shows such as ABC’s “The Good Doctor” and “Speechless,” Coby Bird, a talented young man who is on the autism spectrum was cast as Rufus Whedon, the adopted son of Ellie Whedon and caretaker of Keyhouse Manor’s estate. Netflix’s description of “Locke and Key” is: “After their dad’s murder, three siblings move with their mom to his ancestral estate, where they discover magical keys that unlock powers — and secrets.”

While the show never says directly that Rufus is on the autism spectrum, several people within the autism community have told me how they could relate to the character. I reached out to Coby to ask him and he said, “They never say that Rufus has any disability. It is assumed but never brought up.” There’s a great interview where Coby discusses his role on Autism Live with my dear friend Shannon Penrod, which you can watch below to learn more about his background.

Coby does a fine job in the role and I’m proud to see more and more people within our autism community pursuing acting. Growing up with autism, theater therapy was pivotal to my development when I had communication challenges and difficulties with understanding other people’s perspectives. I performed in over 20 plays, and now today as an adult, I have become an entertainment consultant, working behind the scenes to bring a realistic portrayal of autism and other disabilities to our entertainment industry. I do this job on the side while I continue my full-time job as a professional speaker, traveling the globe educating our communities on neurodiversity.

Success from individuals like Coby makes me also want to encourage our educational system to look into including the arts in conversations around STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). By adding the arts and called it STEAM, we help others realize that autism truly is a wide spectrum where if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.

Overall, I’d recommend this show without reservations, and hope we can continue to encourage our loved ones towards pursuing careers in the arts if that becomes one of their interests.

A version of this blog appeared on

Image via Netflix.

Originally published: April 5, 2023
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