That is exactly why I wanted to write this post, and that is exactly why I created a Tumblr blog specifically to discuss how I live as an autistic person.
I am autistic, and I can speak for myself.
With autism comes a wide variety of symptoms, some of which include sensory overload (when a surrounding environment suddenly becomes painfully overwhelming–the lights become searing and sounds become booming and you can suddenly feel the rotation of the Earth beneath your feet), going nonverbal (not being able to verbally communicate for certain amounts of time–it feels like there is suddenly a language barrier between your mind and your tongue), stimming (a method used by some autistic people as a means to either express emotions or cope with a negative stimuli, like sensory overload), and other symptoms as well.
These differences don’t make us broken, nor do the terms “high-functioning” or “low-functioning” represent us. Many autistic individuals find those terms offensive. We aren't mechanical products to be labelled for their worth; we are just as human as the rest of the world.
Many autistic people, like myself, actually exhibit symptoms that can be found all over the spectrum. For example, I go to school, attend regular classes (Advanced Placement classes actually make up half of my schedule), participate in band, have a job, and am in a very fulfilling relationship that has lasted for nearly a year so far. However, I also struggle with verbally expressing my emotions: sometimes I lash out in random spouts of anger that last no more than two minutes long; have hours (and even days) where I can’t move, drink water, eat, or bathe because my brain is overwhelmed; and often have numerous sensory overload episodes a week where I shut down, cry, and become highly irritable.
As an autistic individual, it is easy to see that society was not built for people like me. Many people believe that the only solution is to “cure” my autism, but I don’t believe that is the case. I don’t need to be cured. I just need to be accepted. When I tell this to people, their eyes usually fill with pity and their words become soaked with something unintentionally condescending:
“I’m so sorry that you’re autistic.”
“It must be so hard.”
“You are so brave.”
“But you don’t look autistic! You’re doing a really great job!”
It’s clear to me that they think that my autism is holding me back–that it’s a part of me that can be “fixed.” But things that aren’t broken don’t need to be fixed.
Would you tell a woman facing issues with discrimination that you hope that they find a “cure” for her womanhood? Would you try to “fix” her and change her so people stop harassing her or treating her unfairly?
The only thing that needs to be fixed is society.
My autism isn’t something that holds me back or shelters the “real me.” My autism is me and I am autistic. Sure, I might function differently than some other individuals in society, but difference does not equate to damage, nor does it mean that I am dangerous.
That is something that the organization Autism Speaks does not understand. Autism Speaks does not speak for autistic people, and it certainly does not speak for me.
Although Autism Speaks is a well-known group that is openly supported by various celebrities and organizations, that does not mean that it is a good organization. Not only does it have zero autistic members on its board, but it has even financially and emotionally supported parents that murdered their autistic children because they viewed them as a burden.
This organization demonizes autistic individuals, and it provides absolutely no support for us. Almost all of their funding goes towards advertisements advocating for a cure, and it is clear that they don’t support autistic individuals as well.
This Autism Acceptance Month, all I ask is that my voice is not only heard, but understood. We don’t need awareness, we need acceptance. We are autistic, and we can speak for ourselves. All we need are people who are willing to listen.
Autistic Self Advocacy Network run by autistic people for autistic people
Autism Women’s Network run to help support autistic women and break stereotypes surrounding autistic individuals
Al is seventeen years old, and is currently in her eleventh grade year at a high school in California. She is an enthusiastic oboist, tubist, trombonist, and drum major in her high school band, and she absolutely loves to make puns. Her dreams and aspirations for the future include seeing the Northern Lights and getting a career as a music therapist. Follow her on Instagram at @gentle.positivity or on Tumblr at asdpositivity or dochasonafriday.
illustration credit: colleenillu