This guest Q&A is from Erin Clemens who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 15. Erin is now an author, public speaker, and autism advocate. Her hope is that people can learn from what she has been through, and apply it to what may help someone they know on the spectrum. The views expressed are her own.
Kerry: Hey Erin! Can you tell us more about when you first wanted to become an autism advocate?
Erin: Before I was diagnosed, I struggled a LOT. I felt like I was screaming for help, but no one believed I needed it or understood me when I tried to explain what I was going through. When I was finally diagnosed at the age of 15, I felt like it was the first time people were actually willing to listen to what I had to say. I started a blog to share my experiences, and my advocacy just took off.
We loved seeing your duct tape autism awareness bracelet idea! How did that idea come about?
When I was in 10th grade (the same year I was diagnosed), I lost my purse, and all of the money in it. I couldn’t buy a new one, so I decided to make one out of duct tape. After that, I started making other items with the tape. At one point, I made a bracelet, and I realized that it looked like the puzzle pieces in the autism ribbon. So I started using the autism awareness colors. People wanted to buy them, but it didn’t feel right to keep the money for myself. In the end, I was able to raise over $2000 to help different organizations in the autism community.
Who is one of your current role models in the autism community?
One of my current role models in the autism community would definitely be my amazing friend, Gretchen Gundel. She has been such a mentor to me, and keeps me going when I feel like I just want to quit. She is SO strong and I really admire her way of advocating! Sometimes, I feel like we share a brain because we think so much alike!
Boys are 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls in the U.S. What advice would you give to girls out there with autism about finding their voice?
I guess I would just say that other girls need to look within themselves to find their courage and voice. No one else can speak for them.
Any final thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?
Yes. I am hoping that my community service projects and my book, “I Have Aspergers“, can help spread the idea that we need to respect each other more, we need to realize that it’s okay to have different points of views, and that we don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to one another.