So, this has the potential to be a long-ish post as some background information is required. I apologize in advance.
I've had this online friend (let's call her Jess) for several years now. We met playing a small, social game that centers around a topic she enjoys. I've known that Jess is autistic for quite some time, as does most of the community. She's pretty open about it, and word also just tends to get around since there aren't many players. Jess is 24, but she acts much younger and is easily upset with things such as fighting, inappropriate language/topics, politics, and anything similar. Most of us are pretty accommodating and do our best to make her feel comfortable.
A little over a year ago, the game shut down for a short period of time. This upset Jess a lot, as we are much of her social interaction. During this period of time, Jess began to talk as a cartoon character from her favorite show. She'd send me texts that began, "[Chacter name:] Jess wants to know what she should do today." I went along with it, as I wasn't really sure what the best thing to do would be. I also figured this was something she'd either move on from, or if it was inappropriate for her to do that her parents would notice and help her out.
However, this started May of 2018 and it is now nearly October of 2019. She still speaks as this cartoon character, and it seems that she speaks almost exclusively as him. It seems like she uses him to express her emotions. If she is worried or upset or stressed about something then she will say the cartoon character is worried or upset or stressed. Sometimes, she'll talk as other characters from this show as well. Every now and then, her primary cartoon character will even have a conflict with another cartoon character from the same show and she will express worry and concern about it.
I've tried to ask if she speaks this way around her parents, just to get an idea about whether or not this is something about which they know, but she didn't really give me a straight answer.
I guess I'm just kind of worried, because I don't know if this is a typical or healthy thing for her to be doing, and I don't want myself or anyone else in the community encouraging it if it's not. I'm not even entirely sure if this is something that is typical in those with autism, or if this is something completely separate altogether.
It seems like she understands that this character isn't real. But at the same time, I'm not entirely sure. Sometimes she'll send me and my friends texts like, "What if you woke up and [Character Name] was in your room?" When people who don't know what she's doing ask, "Who is [Character Name]?" she'll respond with, "My rabbit" or the character's full name from the show. However, I think she has also referred to him as her imaginary friend, so I really don't know.
Mainly what I'm asking if this is anything anyone has experienced before? Is this autism-related or something else? Is this behavior I should discourage? Should I encourage her to speak as herself? For a while now, whenever she speaks, I'll just address Jess directly.
Also, let me clarify that all of this is via text or online chat, none of it is actual speaking, so I don't know if this is something she does when she speaks out-loud (I do know that she is verbal).
This video might give you some ideas and help you understand. It is the story of how an autistic child was able to communicate through his love for Disney characters. It is a rather heart warming tale.
You should be congratulated for your concerned, non-judgemental approach.
Thank you for posting this video! After watching the first few minutes, I realized I've seen it and had forgotten all about it. While not exactly the same (but really, nobody experiences things in the same way), it is definitely encouraging to be reminded of how much of a positive thing this could be.