I’m a writer and mentor on the Autism Spectrum. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved telling stories, and my dream is to be a published author. Writing is my primary strength and passion. I am also fluent in Dad jokes and can name all 29 Godzilla movies.
My Autism feels to me like a magnified perception of the world. Everything is raw, unfiltered, straight into my veins. This can make certain sensory stimuli difficult to cope with, but it also gives me an intense focus and attention to detail. Like anything, it has its pros and its cons, and honestly, if I could switch it off I wouldn’t, because the way I am works for me.
I didn’t find out I was on the Spectrum until I was 19, so I grew up with the label of being ‘gifted’ rather than ‘restricted’, which gave me a very positive sense of identity. However, after finding out I had Autism, I received the ‘I Can’t’ talk from the most dangerous source of all – myself. I told myself that I couldn’t go to university, or graduate, or find a job. Yet I was able to prove myself wrong in all of these aspects, with the support of my personal ‘I CAN Network’, that comprised my friends, colleagues, and my family. Meeting and joining the I CAN Network has also helped me immensely in seeing myself in a positive light. It’s given me a much more positive outlook on my Autism and my life than I had before. If I could tell one thing to my younger self it would be to keep doing what you’re doing, and never let anybody tell you that you’re not worthwhile, because it hasn’t always been easy to maintain a positive outlook in a non-inclusive society.
Speaking about Autism negatively can severely impact people on the Spectrum, making them feel like they are broken, defective, or inferior, and this damages their self-esteem. In our society, we give lip service to equality, but whenever changes are proposed to make things more fair, they are met with resistance from the status quo. I feel this resistance demonstrates that we’re not as inclusive a society as we’d like to believe we are.
I believe the I CAN Network can teach people to value and enable people on the Spectrum instead of dismissing them as incapable. To me, a world that embraces Autism looks like one where people don’t tell you ‘Oh, I’m so sorry’, when you tell them you are on the Spectrum, and you don’t have to hide your Autism like a shameful secret when applying for a job. That’s where you can help. Support our work and give people who seem a little bit different a chance. Your quiet or awkward colleague, cousin, or acquaintance probably has a lot more to offer than you might think.