We have a saying in the autism community…

“It’s easy to read about autism, but it’s a whole different story to live it.”

We are at a crossroads in our community today because there are countless people on the autism spectrum, along with their families and friends, sharing their stories in blogs, journal entries, books, documentaries and so much more.

When I was growing up with autism, that wasn’t always the case. Then John Elder Robison came out with his book “Look Me in the Eye” in 2007. He tells his story of being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and his incredible life growing up on the spectrum. It became a New York Times Bestseller and led to a movement of other people with autism wanting to share their own autobiographies with the world.

In 2010 HBO Films released “Temple Grandin,” starring Claire Danes, a biopic about Dr. Temple Grandin, a famed animal husbandry expert who was diagnosed with classic autism at a very early age. The film received critical acclaim and won several Emmy Awards including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie. This helped spur another movement towards the entertainment industry looking to tell more stories about people on the autism spectrum.

Because of that, I have a favor to ask of everyone reading this article today. The next time you are trying to learn more about autism, consider having people with autism speak about their experiences at your events. While reading about autism is important, listening to the experiences of those who have grown up with autism will give you a whole new outlook on our community. Hear their successes, their challenges, and you will learn about how wide of a spectrum we have out there.

You may be surprised to learn how many people with autism are going into the world of motivational speaking. I started speaking professionally about my life on the autism spectrum in 2011 and have never looked back. Other names in these ranks include Dr. Temple Grandin, John Elder Robison, and Dr. Stephen Shore along with countless others. In addition, we need to hear from families of those who are on the severe end of the spectrum, who may have challenges that require lifetime care and supports.

With all of these voices in our community, let’s make sure they are given the opportunity to be heard.