Has anyone ever come up to you and asked you point blank ‘what is autism?’

As someone who has made a career in public speaking, I’m asked by hundreds of people each year who are just being introduced to autism for the first time what autism is. While autism is defined as a social and communication disorder, when you get to meet individuals in our community autism rarely presents as a one-size-fits-all disorder.

My challenges introduced me to an understanding early on in my development about how autism truly is a spectrum disorder. If you’ve met one individual with autism, you’ve met one individual with autism. When I met my first peer who was also on the spectrum I realized how different we were from each other, especially when it came to our challenges.

That’s why today when we educate our community on what autism is I started off with these three simple words…

Autism is unique.

It’s very much like a rainbow. Full of different colors that stand out. Together they can make a beautiful spectrum of light.

Temple Grandin says autism is “different and not less” and much like that saying I see these three words as something have similar meeting. Websites like Autism Speaks have a What Is Autism? page that provide a deeper understanding to what autism is.

For me though, now looking back and to the future as a 28-year-old adult with autism, whenever I start a conversation with someone new now these will always be the three words I start with. Regardless of how you start the conversation the next time someone asks you this question I hope you will educate and further promote autism awareness and acceptance.