One of the hardest things to deal with as an individual with autism for me is how some people can’t believe you’re on the spectrum.
Before I continue….
I’ll admit it; I today have an invisible disability. It wasn’t always like that growing up but today it is. When I speak to others I often get, “Oh, you have autism? I would have never known.” That is something many of us have to face on the spectrum.
My dear friend Stephen Shore who’s now on the board for Autism Speaks once said that, “If you’ve met one individual with autism, you’ve met just that, one individual with autism.” Autism is a spectrum disorder that affects everyone differently. When I recently was giving a keynote talk and took a selfie with a 5-year-old nonverbal boy with autism and a young gentleman on the spectrum came up to me afterwards and asked me point blank…
“How could you have autism? You don’t act like that boy or me at all.”
It hurts me so much to hear comments like this. Being the kid who was nonverbal till 2.5, even though I started speaking in complete sentences at 5, I grew up in elementary school struggling compared to my peers when it came to communication and social interaction. Back then; this individual might have never questioned whether or not I was on the spectrum. I grew up being the only kid I knew who had autism that made my characteristics the norm for me. It wouldn’t be till I was a young adult I’d truly understand that wide spectrum.
Today, I know I will always have autism and I’m ok with that. As a self-advocate, it’s one of my missions to make sure those severely affected will be provided with supports across the lifespan but that’s the same for kids with invisible disabilities who need them as well. Not only that, but that our society understands that children with autism will grow up to be adults with autism and we need to be ready for them.
Regardless, what I do know though is that our spectrum is unique and special. My hope is that this uniqueness will be seen for what it is so the next time someone shares about their autism diagnosis they will be accepted for exactly who they are.