7 activists tell us the best thing about living with autism


Image: Vicky leta/ mashable

Forget what you’ve heard autism isn’t something to cure. In reality, it’s a condition we should espouse and celebrate.

About 1 in 68 people in the U.S. are autistic, signifying they transmit and experience “the worlds” in ways not typically expected. There isn’t a “missing piece” to their cognitive puzzle. And they definitely don’t need your pity.

Autistic people thrive because of their autism , not in spite of it. And the community will be the first to tell you all the glorious things being autistic brings to their lives.

For Autism Acceptance Month, we asked activists to share with us the best thing about being autistic. Their answers challenge the notion that autism causes any kind of “suffering, ” and instead celebrate autistic pride, community, and passion.

Cyr e Jarelle Johnson, poet, essayist, and verse editor at The Deaf Poets Society

Image: Courtesy of Cyre Jarelle Johnson/ Nicole Myles

“Autism scholarship characterizes folks on the spectrum as ‘black and white thinkers’ and that’s quite true for me. What I love, I love with verve and ardor. What I hate, I hate with verve and ardor. There’s very little in between.

“Best of all, I can’t fake it. While both extremes tend to overwhelm neurotypicals , not enough time is spent praising autistic people for our absence of affectation, our ability to be radically genuine. It takes too much energy in order to be allowed to put one over airs, so I don’t. This can show as tactlessness or as ‘an overshare, ‘ but I’m not afraid to say what I feel needs to be said.”

Lydia X. Z. Brown, writer, activist, and creator of Autistic Hoya

Image: Courtesy of Lydia X. z. Brown/ Shain Neumeier

“Being autistic has always given me a strong sense of justice and fairness, and a igniting drive to do the right thing and to fight for it, even when it seems like fighting against the weight of “the worlds”. This feels very related to my extreme empathy, “whos also” tied to my own experience of being autistic.

“If I were not autistic, I am certain I would not have the same drive as I do now.”

“From the time I was little, I wanted to put a stop to violence of different kinds, and I have carried that passion with me to all of my work now against state-sponsored cases of violence against multiply marginalized folks.

“Knowing that unfairnes or violence exist anywhere is deeply pain for me, whether it directly targets me or not, and I believe that I must do anything within my capacity to work for a world where none of us have to be afraid anymore. If I were not autistic, I am certain I would not have the same drive as I do now.”

Finn Gardiner, community educator, activist, and organizer

Image: Courtesy of Finn Gardiner

“The best things about being autistic for me are discovering profoundly about different subjects through hyperfocus, full submersion in sensory experiences like listening to music or watching a movie, and noticing things others may not.

“When I’m places great importance on something very strongly from disability history to video games I start amassing all manner of facts and assumptions and interpretations associated with the subject. It helps me get up to accelerate on a specific topic pretty quickly.

“Music and movies and Tv shows can be immersive experiences for me, where Im soaking up the sensory experiences of the vocals or beat or cinematography or the characters’ feelings. If I’m interested in a show, then I’m fully into it.”

Shain Neumeier, autistic lawyer and activist

Image: Courtesy of Shain Neumeier

“The best thing for me about being autistic is the level of passion I have about my areas of interest. It drives and enables me to learn and memorize large amounts of information about a specific subject, or to become very good at a particular ability …

“The best thing for me about being autistic is the level of passion I have about my areas of interest.”

“I got into disability and youth liberation advocacy work by reading about abuses at behavior modification facilities. Because of this interest, I started working in children with disabilities rights agency the first semester I was in law school, and began reading investigative reports and other documents going back decades on specific facilities, as well as more general volumes about the subject. I now have an encyclopedic knowledge of the history, and use this in writing and to talk about this subject.

“This drive and capacity for memorization that I have because I’m autistic is one of the best tools I have for actually being able to stop these sorts of abuses.”

Mornike Giwa Onaiwu, autism and race committee chair at Autism Women’s Network and activist

Image: Courtesy ofMornike Giwa Onaiwu

“For me, the best thing about being autistic is a affiliation between two things. One is liberation. Once I became aware that I wasn’t ‘broken’ or ‘deficient, ‘ it freed me of the sense that I had to operate and define myself by a standard of owing to the fact that has not, does not, and will not ever is being implemented in me.

“I need to be accepted and included , notcured, fixed, or changed.”

“The other is authenticity. Being autistic means being real rather than playing a role. It obligates me to transmit my supposes, move my body, and engage or not engage in a way that is fully genuine rather than a clumsy parody of the status quo.

“Being autistic is just as much a part of who I am as being black, as being a woman, as being me. I need to be accepted and included , not cured, fixed, or changed.”

Julia Bascom, executive director at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Image: Courtesy of Julia Bascom

“It’s important to acknowledge that autism is first and foremost a lived reality and internal experience for autistic people. We tend to talk about autism as a list of external deficits, but many autistic traits have strong, positive impacts for autistic people ourselves.

“The joy associated with ritual, intense concerns, and other ‘obsessive’ characteristics of autism is often an important and vibrant part of “peoples lives”. Recognizing that there is exhilaration in autism and that this exhilaration is a core and defining part of our disability helps us talk about autism and autistic people more authentically.”

N.I. Nicholson, writer , poet, editor , and neurodivergent activist

Image: Courtesy ofN.I. Nicholson

“It is hard to name only one ‘best’ thing about being autistic, as I feel I benefit in a variety of ways.

“In short, being autistic is an integral part of who I am and my daily life.”

“For one, discovering that I am autistic helped me unlock a deeper understanding of how I cogitate and process “the worlds” around me. While my sensitive neurology does make it difficult to filter out and discriminate among different pieces of sensory input, I also credit it for how rich my verse, fiction, and other writing becomes as a result.

“In both my own personal interactions and as an editor, I have come in contact with a diverse community of supportive, innovative, and truly remarkable people who fight for justice and equality with a very palpable passion. In short, being autistic is an integral part of who I am and my daily life.”

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