This post is by Amy Gravino, an adult on the spectrum who is a college coach and also on our Communications Committee here at Autism Speaks. This blog is part of our new blog series highlighting Autism Speaks 10 Years of Progress: A Lifetime of Hope. How has Autism Speaks touched your life? Email us at AS10Years@gmail.com!
When I first walked into Autism Speaks’ NYC headquarters in 2008, one of the many feelings that I experienced was awe.
I’d never before seen such a large organization completely devoted to autism, to putting the word “autism” on the world’s lips. It was a feat that seemed impossible, because for the majority of my life up until then, no one really understood what autism was.
Three years later, that feeling of awe returned when I walked into the United Nations to sit and speak on a panel of autism experts. The panel had been put together by Autism Speaks, and their recognition of my work as a self-advocate paved the way for me to present myself to a global audience.
It’s no secret that when you live as a person on the autism spectrum, you have to work twice as hard to make your voice heard. I began this process through writing poetry when I was a child, then speaking publicly at autism conferences on Long Island. Gaining the confidence to put myself out there—believing that my voice was truly worth hearing—took many more years.
So when Autism Speaks asked me to join their Communications Committee in 2011, I saw an incredible opportunity to effect change from within and by extension, help others like me who struggle with that same process.
Over the course of participating in the Committee’s quarterly meetings, I have learned how important it is for me to say things that need to be said. The warm and welcoming attitude I have received from fellow committee members has encouraged me, and I am grateful to be able to represent individuals on the autism spectrum—something that is both a privilege and a tremendous responsibility.
Recently, I have started writing posts for Autism Speaks’ “In Our Own Words” blog, which features the writing of adults on the autism spectrum. This has proven to be another means of highlighting the issues that I and many others have faced in our lives: Friendships coming to an end, the ups and downs of dating, intimacy, bullying, and more. Thanks to Autism Speaks’ blog, the writing that I began as a means of finding my voice as a child has reached a greater and wider audience than I could’ve ever imagined.
Throughout the last seven years, I have evolved and grown as a self-advocate, public speaker, and writer, and in that time, I’ve also seen Autism Speaks evolve and grow as an organization. The task of helping millions of individuals and families affected by autism is no small or easy one, and while things have certainly come a long way, we still have so much more to do.
I’ve often felt overwhelmed by the gravity of trying to make a difference. Speaking at the United Nations, and then joining Autism Speaks’ Communications Committee has taught me that reaching one person can have a lasting impact, and through my work, my college coaching, and my public speaking, I hope to continue effecting change.
One heart, one mind at a time.
Have a story you want to share about how Autism Speaks touched your life? Email us at AS10Years@gmail.com.