I know you may have not believed me the day I told you I was on the autism spectrum. You said it was the first time you ever met someone who had the disorder. We were both in middle school. It was during a time when I was first telling a few of my peers that I was on the spectrum. A year and a half earlier, my parents told me about my diagnosis. I honestly had no idea what that meant other than that when people said that I had “special needs” that this was the reason.
It didn’t really faze me when you said, “You can’t have autism! You can talk!” I started discussing with you autism and the facts and statistics that I had heard to help you understand why what you said was inaccurate. As time went on I forgot that this talk ever even happened.
It started slowly coming back into my head when I was becoming an autism advocate in college. Even though many individuals in our community can’t talk, some can still communicate with amazing grace and ability. Some exceptional persons I’ve met on the spectrum have gone onto giving talks around the world such as Dr. Stephen Shore and Dr. Temple Grandin who’ve gone on to have had a movie made based on her life story.
So as an addendum to our conversation that day in 6th grade I just wanted to tell you this…
If you’ve met one person with autism you’ve met one person with autism. Don’t think of autism as a one-size fits all disorder because you will be VERY wrong. I was non-verbal till I was two and it took many years to be able to speak and have conversations with my peers. Being able to talk today is a blessing that I will never take for granted. I can now call myself an author, and a professional certified speaker. Now I give talks about combating bullying but, more than anything, trying to give our society an education on how different is beautiful. We all have our unique traits that make us who we are and that’s something to be celebrate.
I hope that, now that we are both in our mid 20’s that if you ever come across this letter, and if you have any individuals in your family or in your community that you can educate them on what autism is based on our conversation from that day. We all need to start thinking about how we can make an impact in a world that is getting more diverse by the day. It can start with us right now if we want it too…