Today's Autism Acceptance interview is with Sara Gardner. Sara, what would you like to let us know as an introduction?
I'm Sara Gardner; I was diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition at the age of 41 - 11 years ago. Getting a diagnosis was a big relief because I was finally able to put a name to what was different about me. And, I was also able to start learning about autism, and reading about other autistics, which has been an incredible help in getting to know myself.
You have some other Autistic family members; would you like to share a bit about them?
Autism definitely runs in my family: my father has a diagnosis on the spectrum, as does my sister, son, and nephew. Looking back through our family tree, we can see family members who certainly seem to have fallen somewhere on the spectrum, although, of course, they can't be diagnosed posthumously. Finding out about his autism late in life has helped my father tremendously, and it helped my mother understand their relationship in a new light.
My life has become more and more "genuine" in the past several years. As I've grown to understand myself as an autistic person, I've been able to let go of the facade that I had built in order to "get along" in the world. My health is better, and I am happier, and especially, more content. I no longer judge myself by comparing myself to what other people are doing, instead, I consider whether or not I am happy with what I am doing. Which means that most of the time, I am happy to be at home, with my dog and sometimes my adult son, working at the computer. And sometimes playing computer games, especially first thing in the morning while I drink my coffee!
What is difficult about being Autistic?
The most difficult thing about being autistic is the true lack of understanding from most other people - the true lack of empathy for what it's like to be an autistic person. Even people who really try to understand, and are good, kind-hearted people, have such a hard time "getting" it. I'm often left with the feeling that I am not an actual person - although the longer I live with the diagnosis, and the more I surround myself with other autistics, the less I feel this way.
Sara, what is the best thing about being Autistic?
The best thing about being autistic is the feeling of being genuine; when I am among people with whom I can truly be myself, and let my true self shine, there is nothing better. I love to get "overly excited" about things I'm interested in - autism studies, my work, dachshunds - and also love to hear others get excited about things they are interested in.
Now I work in the "autism field" managing a program of support for autistic college students. I believe every such program should consult with someone on the spectrum. I'm so happy in my work. I developed the program based on a civil justice model rather than a medical model, so we aren't trying to "fix" the students.
I love that "overly excited" feeling too! So, what do you think about the Autism Acceptance Day/Month initiatives? What do you think would make a difference, when it comes to acceptance?
The concept of Autism Acceptance has definitely affected me, and helped me learn more about the different ways of looking at autism. It's helped me personally, to accept myself more, and it's helped me in my work, to understand the importance of how we say things. I think that if more people could truly get behind the concept that autistic people are people, who cannot be separated from their disability, who need to be accepted for who they are, and not constantly be corrected for "bad" behavior, then the world could be on a path to better civil rights for autistics, and perhaps more acceptance of all types of differences.
Sara, thank you for being a part of these Autism Acceptance interviews.
Sara's links are: