I’m going to choose just one thing that is “ausome” (awesome) about being an autistic person in the twenty-first century.
And that thing has to be Autistic Community and Culture.
For me, being autistic means never, ever being lonely. I know that sounds strange, I know that people think of autistics as “loners”, I know we struggle with the day to day social interaction demanded of us by others, I know many of us found teenagehood and young adulthood hell. I’ve been lonely and I’ve felt condemned to it myself – but not any more. How can I feel lonely when I know that more than 1% of people – maybe even 2% of people – have brains that work like mine? When I’m melting down in the supermarket, there’s probably three or four or five other people there struggling not to melt down themselves or at least knowing exactly how I feel. When I flap my hands in delight at the beach, there must be a dozen people there who do the same or wish they could express themselves in the same way. As I walk around my University campus, I do so in the knowledge that hundreds of other autistics are doing and have done and will do the same.
I feel like I’m a part of something. A community, a tribe.
We have our own language – of flapping arms, rocking bodies, hums and buzzes and shrieks, words repeated over and over and over, phrases and facts plucked out of the air for just the right occasion. We understand each other, even if others haven’t learnt to yet.
It’s through the internet that this culture and sense of community is growing. We connect with each other here, talk about our experiences and name them – stimming, meltdown, echolalia, aut-dar. We have words for things we didn’t know we needed words for – neurodiversity, NT, “Nothing About Us Without Us“, self-advocacy. We have people *like us* we admire, role models of autistic adult hood to follow so we know we don’t have to stop being ourselves when we grow up. We have people like us who we know – found all across the world – people who will listen and understand and help when we are struggling and celebrate with us when things go well.
Autistic community was a life-saver for me. I found open arms ready to welcome me (without assuming I liked to be touched) and people who could say “It’s okay, you’re okay and you don’t have to change any way you don’t want to change to grow up. You’re an amazing human being just as you are”. People who would make suggestions on how to get a good teething ring as an adult, who’d say “It’s okay to leave the supermarket with only half your shopping if you’re going to have a meltdown”, who’d affirm “Yes, that’s a good idea” when I suggested making myself step-by-step picture instructions of my morning routine because I kept missing steps.
I needed this alternative way to be an adult. I know there are hundreds and thousands of teens and young adults who need the same advice and help and welcome.
I’m @AutistLiam on twitter and I am there for any autistic person who needs some support and advice. Because we’re a community and that’s what we do.
Check out the other blogs people are writing today here: http://autismpositivity.wordpress.com/ The list of participants is your guide to the many people out there who love you and want to help.