For the past two and half years, I’ve been attending the same high school: Faith Christian Academy. This school has been a fantastic experience after spending most of my life trudging through a public school system that doesn’t cater well to people like me who process the world differently, and I could go on about how this tiny private school handles disability much better than the public school district I attended, but that is for another post.
My younger sister goes to the same school as me at the moment, but I had a year in head start in which I was in high school and she was not. As such, I was able to become known at school before my sister came to the same school. My sister and I are essentially polar opposites in most regards, so apparently it was rather interesting for a lot of people to interact with both me and my sister given how completely different we are.
One of my favorite things my sister tells me about is the things people ask and say about me. In particular, the question “What does he have?” is one I like to hear about. There are many things I have of course, but obviously what’s being asked here is what identified disorder/s I have. I have multiple identified disabilities, but the answer my sister always gives is “Quincy is autistic.” According to my sister, the responses people give back to this sometimes include a little element of surprise. They’re not necessarily surprised to hear that I have something like autism, since they clearly picked up that I was different enough that they asked my sister about it. I do “show” autism. But because of their preconceived conceptions and stereotypes, I do not immediately scream autism to them.
This is unfortunately because autism is an incredibly broad thing that is often portrayed by a few narrow stereotypes. The official title for autism is “Autism Spectrum Disorder,” or ASD, with “spectrum” referring to the fact that autistic people are all incredibly different and present in different ways. Autism is not diagnosed by checking off symptoms from a list. However, whenever the media portrays an autistic person it is usually presented as a few set stereotypes. You’ve got the socially inept genius, the clueless savant, the emotionless robot, the non-verbal toddler who rocks and flaps in the corner, the continuous meltdown, the “mysterious” child who hits himself and everyone is clueless as to why (I know why he hits himself, because I do that too, but that’s for another day). All of these are terrible portrayals of autism, and are stereotypes that attempt to pigeonhole a very complex topic. However, this is what most people associate with autism because this is what they know. Or, they may only think they know a single autistic person and use them as their own stereotype. Whatever is the case, people are usually shocked when a person who doesn’t meet their preconceptions turns out to be autistic.
A big reason of me starting to write on this more open blog is change this. I want to give autism from an insiders perspective, and to offer resources where people can hear from other autistic people in their own words. I’m doing this because, unfortunately, autistic people are rarely included in conversations about autism. I’m doing this because I believe education is the best road to acceptance. I’m doing it to fight the mad media, the fear-mongering press, and the stereotypes. It’s why I’m openly autistic, and am glad people pick up on my differences. It gives me an opportunity to make the world better for me and people like me. I am glad my sister answers “Quincy is autistic” when people ask what I have.
Will you join me?