In my own words: What Disability Pride Month means to me
Meet Michael G., 40
Hello. I'm Michael. I was diagnosed in 1994 at age 14 with Asperger's, ADHD and OCD. All my life, I've struggled with bullies and as a result, suffered from extreme depression, suicidal thoughts and anxiety. However, I have managed to overcome that with a strong support system around me. During Disability Pride Month, this is something I am proud to celebrate.
I eventually married a woman who loves me for who I am. I’ve learned to cook, sing and even paint, which are things I never thought I could do. I got my driver’s license at the age of 19 and learned to drive stick in my early 20s. It shows that if a person with autism puts his or her mind to something, they can do it. I’ve been overcoming adversity my entire life and use each challenge as motivation to keep moving forward.
Learn more about Michael in this Q&A:
What does being autistic mean to you?
It means overcoming challenges and proving to people that I can do anything if I set my mind to it.
What advice do you have for other autistic people who might be looking for some words of encouragement?
I would encourage them to be proud of who they are. If you can dream it, you can do it.
Why is being an advocate and sharing your story so important to you?
With the stigma attached to autism, people need to understand that everyone in this world is different and that is okay. Each person with autism is their own person. We may be different, but we are the same as everyone else is in a lot of ways.
What are some personal accomplishments you are most proud of?
Learning to drive and learning to drive a stick shift, singing, getting married, learning to paint.
How can people create a more accepting world for those on the spectrum?
People need to have patience and understanding, and better educate themselves to help see the world through the eyes of a person with autism.
Meet Lauryn, 7, through the words of her mom, Veronica
My daughter, Lauryn, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder last year. As a result of Lauryn’s autism, she has difficulties with speech and comprehension. Even with those struggles, she is still able to socialize to some degree and make new friends because of her outgoing nature. Being able to persevere through adversity at such a young age is a testament to Lauryn’s strong will.
Before Lauryn was diagnosed, I honestly knew nothing about autism. I didn’t understand it or know how it would impact my daughter’s life, so I knew I needed help. This is when I found Autism Speaks. Not only did they provide me with so much information and the resources to put my daughter on the right path in life, but they also provided access to a community of people who were dealing with similar things. That kind of support is priceless.
I am so proud of how much Lauryn has grown since her diagnosis. Sharing her story during Disability Pride Month is important to me because I know what it is like to have a child with autism. Life on the spectrum takes a lot of time and patience, not only for the person with autism but for the family as well. Sometimes it can be discouraging when you feel like you aren’t doing enough, but just know you’re doing your best. I want to make sure other autism families out there know that they have a community of support behind them.
Learn more about Lauryn and her journey in this Q&A with her mom, Veronica:
How does Lauryn’s autism make her unique?
Lauryn’s autism makes her unique because she is very skilled in so many unexpected ways like front flipping and climbing. She is also very funny, very artistic and so detailed with everything she does! She also is self-aware. She realizes that she sometimes has trouble doing some of the things other kids can do, so it just makes her want to push harder.
What advice do you have for other parents of autistic children who might be looking for some words of encouragement or advice?
Simple: never lose hope. Never feel like you are alone. Your child can learn and progress, it just takes some extra steps.
What does Disability Pride Month mean to you?
Disability Pride Month means acceptance to me. Children with autism should feel accepted, loved and supported as much as any other child.
How can people help to create a more accepting world for those on the spectrum?
I think it’s simple, honestly. By taking the time to learn and understand autism, you can be more accepting and understanding of the disability.
Meet Amanda R., 24
My name is Amanda. I was diagnosed with autism 21 years ago at the age of 3. When I first got diagnosed, the person who evaluated me told my mom that I would never be able to learn and would always need support. My mom did not accept that diagnosis, and instead she kept me in mainstream classrooms throughout most of my education.
I am so blessed to report that I am almost independent. I work at McAlister’s Deli two days a week and I have been working there for five years now. I graduated high school with a 3.7 GPA, and I completed a really helpful life skill program at a vocational school after high school.
My mom has also been a driving force in my life. I know for a fact that I would not be the person I am today if it was not for her having high expectations regardless of my disability. I am so blessed that God gave me an excellent mom and I want to celebrate her during Disability Pride Month.
Learn more about Amanda in her own words in this Q&A:
What does being autistic mean to you?
Being autistic means that I have the ability to see the world differently than other people. I also have so many strengths that make me unique, like a photographic memory. I’m also very dependable and a hard worker.
How does your autism make you unique?
We are all unique in our way. The world is like a puzzle, and everyone is a puzzle piece. My favorite wrestler always calls himself the unique enigma, meaning that we are all unique creatures in our own special way.
What advice do you want to share with the world?
My advice is to never stop advocating for yourself or your child. My mom has always been my biggest advocate and I am my own biggest advocate as well. I would not be where I am today if it was not for my mom advocating for me and helping me become a strong person in my own right. There are so many people who get diagnosed every day and If I can inspire just a few of them, I’d be thrilled.
Why do you celebrate Disability Pride Month?
Disability Pride Month means everyone with a disability having the same opportunities as everyone else in the world. A lot of times, you see people with autism get turned down for jobs because of their disability or not get treated fairly in other parts of society, which is wrong. I believe that people with autism bring a lot to the table.
How can society be more understanding and accepting of autistic people and the disabled community?
Neurotypical people can help create inclusion first and foremost. For example, if there is someone with autism who is alone or seems to be looking for friends, you can very easily include them in a conversation. If someone with autism wants to join a club or sports team, let them participate in that sport. It’s all about having an open mind and a good heart.