Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My Pop Culture Autistic Journey

I'm a self-described pop culture junkie. Ever since I was a child, I have been addicted to movies, television, theater, and music. I'd watch "The Wizard of Oz" and "Fantasia" ad nauseum, blast out the local pop music radio station in my room, glued myself to Nickelodeon's SNICK every Saturday night, and keep up with the latest musical theater - all encouraged by my parents and friends. I also read a lot of books, often over and over again, ever since I was three. (I learned how to read at that age as it was the primary method of teaching me to talk.)

It should be noted that this obsession with pop culture is not unusual for girls on the autistic spectrum. In fact, it's often labeled as a "special interest" for autistic girls. I have my doubts that's true across the board but it's definitely true for me.

With that in mind, I've been thinking about autism representation in the media. We don't really think of autism being very visible in media unless it's some parents talking about "the struggle" of raising an autistic kid, an autistic person "beating the odds" to excel at something, or some tragedy involving an autistic person. (I'll probably blog my feelings on all those things later.) But I recently came across a Flavorwire article about autistic and Aspergers representation on television and while most of the characters certainly displayed traits of ASD, very few were expressly indentified as autistic or Aspergers. And all of the shows the characters came from were within the last ten years or so. Waaaaaaaaay after my childhood years.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

To Parents of Autistic People - Care for Yo'Self

One of the most repeated things I’ve heard in grad school is the phrase “self-care”. It is basically what you think it is – taking care of oneself. It feels like a no-brainer to take care of yourself to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but to practice self-care you have to be able to take a break from whatever is bringing you down and remind yourself you are worth the care. And I can attest that can be difficult when it comes to autism.

I completely understand how parents are stressed taking care of their autistic children. As an autistic child, I was acutely aware how my parents were constantly in my affairs from school to therapy and beyond. It’s a misconception that autistic people are not aware of the world around them - I could tell that my parents put a lot more work in me than they needed to for my siblings. I constantly felt they were constantly frustrated and tired with all the challenges I presented. It created a sense of feeling like a burden that I’m still fighting to this day.

 It’s this feeling that made what a recent discovery so uplifting. I was talking with my mother a few weeks ago about her experience raising me and I asked her if she ever got people telling her they felt sorry for her. She said she didn’t experience that, following with some words I’ll never forget:

"I never felt sorry for myself."

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

For Autism Acceptance Month, I'm Learning to Self-Accept My Autism

Each year, the month of April is "reserved" for autism. It's often used to raise awareness (autism exists - congratulations, awareness has now been achieved!) but I see a growing movement for people to accept autism as it is, appropriately named Autism Acceptance Month. There's more information on it here, but I like the idea of autism acceptance. It's a positive way to show people what autism is from the autistic perspective, thus perpetuating love, respect, and a real understanding for autism as a whole. In a world full of misinformation about mental health and disabilities, I welcome Autism Acceptance Month with open arms. We need to hear and value autistic people's own stories as a legitimate source of what autism is like beyond brain neurology and blue lightbulbs.

So it's with that in mind that I talk about my personal process of autism acceptance. Or as I call it, how I'm accepting being autistic.