Members of the autism community explain how they overcame bullying to reach their full potential
October 22, 2020
We love hearing from the autism community! The more stories we can share on our various platforms, the more we can help to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism and empower every member of the community to thrive. We’re committed to building a kinder, more inclusive world, especially now during National Bullying Prevention Month.
Below you’ll hear from Noelle, Francisco, Nikolas, Ainslee and Anabeth – five autistic people who overcame bullying, isolation, loneliness, confusion and other obstacles to reach their full potential.
I was diagnosed with autism when I was five years old. When I got to middle school and other kids found out that I was on the spectrum, that’s when the bullying started. It was a horrible time in my life.
I was bullied every day to the point where I was scared to go to school. As a result, I suffered from depression, severe anxiety and felt worthless like I shouldn’t be here because I didn’t deserve to be. But with the help of my faith and the love of my supportive family and friends, I now go to an amazing school, make amazing grades, have an amazing and supportive group of friends! I’m also on the varsity cheerleading team and sing in my school’s choir!
Because of the experiences I’ve had in my life, I think it’s important that I educate people in my community about autism. I want the world to know that there is a lot more to people with autism than what meets the eye! Every day is a fight, but I know I can do anything with my faith and the most amazing people by my side! I took back my life when I decided to stand up to bullying and believe in myself. I love my life and I found my voice!!
San Diego, CA
I was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome when I was about 13 years old. Life has been hard as there are many obstacles and challenges to face. Growing up, I had to deal with a lot of bullying and losing many friends. Sadly, many of my former friends left me because I am different – it’s always a scar when it happens. It’s always been a challenge for me to make friends in person. I would often get depressed and lonely having nobody to talk to or even hang out with. But I have met a few new friends on social media, and even though they are not here personally, they are always by my side, ready to help and cheer me up. I am very grateful for that.
My biggest accomplishment to date is becoming a swim instructor, a swim coach and a lifeguard. I first learned how to swim in January 2019 and got certified as a lifeguard just five months later. I then became a swim coach two months after that and then finally a certified swim instructor. Now I get to teach many kids how to swim, even a few who have autism or other disabilities. This is super gratifying to me.
I would say that the biggest inspiration for me and one that helps me to express myself with friends, is Elsa from the movie “Frozen.” Elsa had powers that she hid from the world, but she learned to control them. Eventually people accepted her for her differences. Even though I’m different, I can do more than just what others might see. Just by being true to myself I can show off what I’m capable of. Autism is our power and we are special in our own way - it makes us unique in a very special way. Embrace one another for our difference because love is stronger than hate.
British Columbia, Canada
I was diagnosed with autism (Asperger’s) when I was four years old. I’m a young woman who openly tells my story of trauma, changing the world to see that autism is a gift and expressing/teaching self-love through the art of yoga.
It all started when I was diagnosed at a young age. Through therapy training I was diagnosed as “low intelligence”: a.k.a. someone who would not graduate and flourish… and so the beginning of my school life resulted in what I called a “battlefield.” I started grade school at a time when “retarded” was a sane term to call someone with disabilities. And in my school district it was essential for a teacher to let others know that someone with disabilities was within the classroom. This system made me experience some of the most negative ways in which people placed me at the bottom of the social scale.
I experienced a life where autism meant no voice, no challenge and no future. I was bullied physically and verbally. I was usually placed in the lowest forms of studies just because of my label. Basically, to support someone with autism in my school at the time meant not surpassing comfort zones, no challenges to reach high forms of careers and no option to complete higher level of studies.
Personally, I wanted to go past my comfort zones. I wanted to flourish, and I wanted to study my butt off to surpass grades! Through hours of studying, hours of completing assignments and doing activities not deemed “safe” for someone on the spectrum, I eventually graduated with top grades and scholarships (I grabbed my own diploma with such enthusiasm!).
I succeeded. In going against society's rules and proving through results that someone, even with a label, can be a part of society. And through all this, experiencing and going beyond is what made me discover yoga.
Yoga in itself was an activity/lifestyle not suitable and uncomfortable for someone with autism. It felt like the total opposite to societal norms, in regard to people with disabilities. For anyone not familiar with yoga: it basically goes beyond the simple classes/poses. You always live out of your comfort zone, you meditate and forgive your traumas, and especially you allow yourself to show your true self in the forms of clothing, actions and living. This itself was unbearably hard, especially in the beginning. I had to face my fears, anxieties and problems head on, as well as experience true vulnerability through my poses.
Although this brought me further into panic attacks, I followed through and experienced true enlightenment for my first time. In this personal experience of enlightenment, I heard and felt the calling of my purpose: helping others reach this bliss as well, especially those on the spectrum.