So you were just diagnosed as autistic—or you just figured out you may be on the spectrum.
Or perhaps, you’re just now accepting and embracing your diagnosis. Maybe you’ve been diagnosed in childhood. Maybe you’ve always known. Maybe you never even thought, until this very second, that you could be autistic. That’s okay.
There are so many different variables to autism—but they are all okay.
It is okay to be on the autism spectrum. There is nothing wrong with it.
We are not broken. We do not need to be fixed. We are more than a puzzle piece. We are not a burden on our families.
The world would absolutely not be better off without us, whatever media may try to tell us.
Each of our voices deserves to be heard. Your voice deserves to be heard. It doesn’t matter if you are verbal or non verbal. You have a voice—it’s just a matter of people choosing to listen to it. It doesn’t matter if you talk with your hands, with your vocal cords, or with Advanced Audio Coding (AAC). No matter how you talk, your voice is beautiful and has value.
Don’t let the world silence you, because you don’t meet their cookie cutter mold of how you should be.
It’s okay if you need to stim. It’s okay to flap your hands. It’s fine to take your stuffed animals places with you. It’s okay to comfort yourself in public. Whatever you do, it’s a part of what makes you you, and it is beautiful.
It’s okay to meltdown, be it at home or be it in public. We can’t control it. We aren’t less of a person or have less worth because we are simply overwhelmed. The world is scary—sometimes they are too many sounds and smells and things touching us and it can be completely overwhelming.
It’s okay to take care of yourself. To pull away from the world, and just take care of yourself. Don’t let it get too extreme, to a point where you may damage your mental health, but taking care of yourself is okay. Letting people know you have autism is okay, as long as it doesn’t put you in acute danger.
There is nothing wrong with having texture aversions to food. There is nothing wrong with eating the same thing. We know, our routine is valuable. It’s okay if you want to continue your routine. It’s also okay if you don’t want a routine because it makes you feel more on edge. It’s okay to have a loose routine—and it’s fine if you are involved in something, and your routine gets thrown off if it gets changed.
It’s okay to have your own personal, comforting routines—like listening to the same song over and over, watching the same movies over and over, playing the same video game over and over or reading the same book over and over. These things are always the same, no matter what we try to do to change them—and in a world that always changes, it’s okay to have something consistent.
It’s okay to have scripts, to have quotes, and to have things that make you calm and help you communicate. It’s okay to have specialized interests—the things we fully throw ourselves into, whatever they may be. It’s okay to know little known or obscure facts about them. (I know obscure facts about Sesame Street, and that’s okay!)
It’s okay to like things that are deemed “childish” or “too young” for you. I refuse to be ashamed of my love for things that are supposed to be “too young” for me. I fully believe that while there may be a minimum age for some movies, shows, books and games—there is no maximum age, and as long as you enjoy it, who is anyone to judge you?
It’s okay to have your own sensory needs. Be comfortable. Don’t force yourself to dress a certain way because it’s what the world expects you to be like. If you’re the most comfortable in yoga pants and a t-shirt, rock it! Most comfortable in tunics and leggings? Just be you!
We may be socially awkward. We may not know how to start or stop talking with someone. We may just wander off awkwardly—online or in real life. We may not know how to make friends.
Believe me when I say, that someday—you will find those friends. It may take some time and it may be a difficult road, but it will happen, I promise. And I’m willing to be that first friend if you need.
It’s fine if you don’t like to make eye contact. People will understand. And if they don’t understand and force you to make eye contact, they aren’t people you need in your life to begin with.
It’s okay if you need a “safe” person—be it a friend, a family member or a care person to go out with you places. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to do whatever you need to do.
I don’t need to be cured. I don’t need you to be “aware” of me.
I don’t need someone to tell me that “the world would be better off” without me because I am on the spectrum—because guess what? Anyone who says that is wrong.
I don’t lack empathy and anyone who says we lack empathy has truly never known one of us. In fact, I’ve found my autistic friends to be far more empathetic than the ones who say we lack it. In my case, I feel it so deeply that I often need to just shut myself off. It’s not that I don’t feel it. It’s that I feel it too much.
Autism is beautiful. Autism is unique. Autism is a part of what makes you you.
There is nothing in this world wrong with being on the autism spectrum.
Choose to use “person first” language, if that is what you wish to embrace. Choose to be proud of your diagnosis (self or professional). Be open and honest with your friends. Let them know how to be your friend. And above all—be your own friend, and relish in the beauty of your autism.
Author: Nora Wade
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina