Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Autism Acceptance Day Celebrates 1000 Ausome Things! #AutismPositivity2013

Check out the many many links on The Autism Positivity Project's links page for the 2013 event, which  ...Celebrates 1000 Ausome Things! #AutismPositivity2013

The most AUSOME thing I learned this April (today being the last "official" day for Autism "awareness" month, but not even the mid-point of International Autism Acceptance Decade 2010-2020, International Autism Acceptance Decade 2010-2020 is that there are now people who were diagnosed as adults, who have actually always known about Autism Acceptance events the entire time they were going through the process of diagnosis.

Some day, children and parents of children who are being evaluated for autism will have access to materials about Autism Acceptance, created by Autistics and our allies. Although there may be non-accepting things tagged as "acceptance," we will have made enough impact that it will be much easier for families to find positive and accepting messages about autism. Those families will be able to learn about what our lives are like through initiatives such as the Autism Positivity Project and through writings like the Autism Acceptance Day blog interviews

I would like to write much more about Ausome things, but I am working on getting many more interviews ready to be posted. Those interviews are each so Ausome, that, while I don't have 1000 of them yet, they add important voices to discussions about autism and should be a "required reading" for people wanting to learn more about what life is like for some of us.

Interview With Amy Alward- Autism Acceptance

My name is Amy, sometimes I write about my autism experience as wakingcanary at my blog, http://hereirawr.wordpress.com"

I was diagnosed about two and half years ago after a severe case of autistic burnout caught up with me at 43.  My life to that point had been a constant dance of blame, denial and covering up my differences--hiding the bits of my autistic self so I could appear more normal.  Getting a diagnosis as an adult woman began a tremendous journey toward my own acceptance of self, but it was a difficult journey.  Professionals often didn't want to believe that I could be an adult on the spectrum, evading diagnosis for so long.  Others seemed to doubt that women could be on the spectrum at all.  Even my then-husband refused to believe the diagnosis that brought so much peace and understanding of myself.  In the course of accepting myself, I learned that others may not be willing to do so, and that health demands you let them go.  This is certainly painful, but better for all concerned in the long run.

What is your life like as an Autistic person?

Since I have lived as a neurotypical and as an autistic, I can say that my life has changed some.  I have learned to accept my own limitations, and learned to listen to my own body.  After years of trying to do everything everyone else seems to do so easily, I was burning reserves of energy that I didn't have, and had learned to ignore the sensations of pain, exhaustion and other warning signs of ill health.  Out of necessity, my autistic life is quieter, with a pace geared toward my capacity, rather than pushing through a list of scheduled appointments and too many things to do.  My to do list fluctuates daily with my physical well being, and there are times when I have to manage my obligations carefully.

What is the most difficult about being Autistic, for you?

The most difficult part of being autistic, for me, is balancing life.  There are times when my physical needs for down time are in conflict with my need for contact with others.  These are hard choices.  For so long I thought I was anti-social, but really my need to be away from people is more of a factor of exhaustion, sensory overload and confusion over processing demands.  All humans have social needs, and I think too many of us take up a perspective of shoving social interaction away when really we need and crave it, just under controlled sensory condition.  It also helps to have people around who can give you the processing time you need, and can be accommodating when you just don't have the capacity to fully join events or outings.  This is a constant struggle for me.  I often end up in meltdown or ill from over exertion, and at other times have to endure deep loneliness because I don't have the capacity to interact with others.

What is the most joyful, fun, exciting thing about being Autistic?

My near-photographic memory makes learning a great deal of fun.  Add to this that I tend to cope with information in small bits, that I then string together and assimilate into a whole, and I've got some talents that amaze others.  I think it's a talent a lot of us have, because the processing issues require us to take in small chunks at a time, then make sense of it later.  I can spot one puzzle piece in a 2,000 piece puzzle and know it was exactly the one I had been looking for--others find that exceptional, but to me it's just how I work.  As a musician, I tend to feel music by phrase and arc or shape--something I'm learning not many ever learn to do, as they learn note by note.  As a researcher, I was exceedingly good at synthesis--taking facts from multiple sources or disciplines and threading them together into a more cohesive explanation.  Now, as a massage therapist, I can easily visualize the anatomy of my clients, analyze the motions and actions of any problem areas and easily zero in on ways to relieve the pain.  Taking things apart and putting them back together, figuratively, is a tremendous joy for me.

How has the Autism Acceptance Day/Month effort over the past three years affected you personally? 

The Autism Acceptance events have been an essential part of my own acceptance, after all, it's only been over the last three years that I have been diagnosed and come  to terms with what that means.  Having a public forum of others on the spectrum, all speaking from their experience has made a world of difference.  I am far more functional now that I accept my differences and allow myself to be my own unique person for the first time in my life--no longer a puppet to public opinion, social dictates and forever trying (failing?) to be normal.  The voices I have met have inspired me to no longer view my diagnosis as something to be cautious or shamed about, but to embrace it wholly and honestly.  No, it's not all unicorns and rainbows--but it also isn't all darkness and gloom.  Truth is somewhere in the midst of those--something I never would have realized without the help of the Acceptance community.

What is one thing about acceptance that would make a difference in the world?

It's time that we own our neurodiversity in a positive way.  It's time we lead the way for researchers, instead of them telling us how we are.  Acceptance is the first step to realizing that our voices have merit.  We have much to say, and the hope of a better quality of life for all autistics starts here.

Thank you so much, Amy. I think we have come a long way, and will continue to move forward, in getting the message of acceptance out, so that Autistics both young and old will not have to live in a world where they don't know that acceptance is a possibility and a right.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

1000 Ausome Things #AutismPositivity2013 Flashblog Announcement (Repost)


1000 Ausome Things #AutismPositivity2013 Flashblog Announcement

A break from my regular posts to bring you the announcement for this year’s Autism Positivity Flash Blog happening this Tuesday April 30. If you’ve been around a while, you’ll know that I’m a major player in this particular bit of activism, and it’s really a neat experience. I hope you all participate. The prompt, as you will see below from the official announcement is: Tell us (the world) something “ausome” about autism. It can be more than one thing, but we’re going for 1000 entries this year (a lofty goal), and we are looking for things that are awesome about being autistic, loving someone who is autistic, having an autistic friend or partner, etc. We know that autism is not all “rainbows and unicorns”, and we’re not asking for that. But we’re looking for the good things in life. I can’t wait to see your entries. If you want to participate, please submit to the google doc below. And now, the official announcement:

We know you have been waiting… and we have been working and organizing behind the scenes. Now we are ready and we are excited to announce the theme for the second annual Autism Positivity Flashblog Event on April 30th, 2013: 


“1000 Ausome Things #AutismPositivity2013″

Last year hundreds of bloggers came together in a show of support and solidarity in response to an anonymous person’s Google search “I wish I didn’t have Aspergers”. The posts that came flooding in from all over the world were a beautiful example of the power of strength in numbers. With so much negativity still surrounding Autism and the misinformation and misconceptions that continue to abound, we invite each of you to share one, or two, or more “Ausome” things!

We invite all of you, anyone who is Autistic, anyone who has an Autistic person in their life and all who blog about autism to share a message of support, wisdom, hope, and pride to this year’s flashblog by posting to https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dDdPQjAxV244VjdCcXdYX0pPQ0RBblE6MQ
Please join with us on the last day of Autism Acceptance Month – April 30th, 2013 – in a Flash Blog of Autism Positivity.
To participate:

1. Publish your post on April 30th in the following title format: “ [Your Blog] celebrates 1000 Ausome Things #AutismPositivity2013″
2. Share your post on Twitter, Facebook, and any other social media site using that hashtag (#AutismPositivity2013)
3. Add your link to the Autism Positivity website (submit here or above) and grab the badge from the page tab above.
4. Share/reblog this message to your blog, page, etc.


Thank you,

The Autism Positivity Project Flashblog Team, 2013

If you have any questions, please contact us at autismpositivity@gmail.com
We can also be found on
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ThinkingAboutPerspectivesAutismPositivity
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/positivityautie/autism-positivity-2012/
Tumblr: http://autismpositivity.tumblr.com/
Twitter: @PositivityAutie

Interview with Sara Gardner-Autism Acceptance

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: