Thursday, April 13, 2017

Interview with C. L. Bridge- Autism Acceptance Day 2017



Today’s interview is with C. L. Bridge. It is interesting to interview someone who saw Autism Speaks commercials as a teenager. This really shows the need for, and the impact of, Autism Acceptance Day and Month, and the idea of complete acceptance of Autistics in general.

What is your life like as an Autistic person?

I am an art student at a small university. For the past few years, my life has involved making art, caring for aquatic creatures, and founding and leading a student chapter of an autism group. What next year will be like is a little uncertain, because I’m graduating soon.

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

For me, one of the most joyful things about being autistic (at least, I think it has something to do with being autistic) is my love of soft, squishy things. I have a big stuffed manatee that I love to hug. I once laughed uncontrollably in a store for about 10 minutes because a bin of giant stuffed animals made me so happy!

What is the most difficult thing about being Autistic?

One of the most difficult things about being autistic is being hurt or belittled by people who believe what they are saying or doing is for your own good. For example, from kindergarten to second grade, I sometimes sat in detention for two full school days as a punishment for having meltdowns or losing my temper. No one acknowledged that I was overwhelmed; they thought I was just bad. When I was in my late teens, a therapist tried to discourage stimming and interests she deemed “age-inappropriate”, and threatened to walk out on me because I interrupted her. All of these memories still hurt today.

What does Autism Acceptance Day/Month mean to you?

Autism Acceptance Day means so many things that it’s difficult to choose just one. But one thing it means is doing away with words that stigmatize autistic people. For example, I really dislike it when autism checklists call our traits “red flags” or “warning signs”. Does a person who sees my differences as “red flags” truly accept me? I don’t think so.

What does “moving beyond awareness” mean to you?

As a teenager, I knew about my diagnosis, but I could not explain why so many messages about autism, like the Autism Speaks commercials with sad toddlers and creepy narration, bothered me. Even worse, I could not explain why I felt exhausted and broken almost every time I saw the therapist mentioned above.

Since then, I have learned words like ableism and neurodiversity. These words help me to understand that my brain is not wrong, and that some of the things done to autistic people “for our own good” are actually bad for us. Gradually, I am learning to insist on being who I am, and on being treated fairly. For me, this is one way of moving beyond awareness and into acceptance.

What are some of your favorite autism advocacy projects?

Some of my favorite efforts to spread acceptance are autism acceptance lending libraries, such as Unbound Books in Modesto, CA, or Good Sunflower in Hammond, LA. I love the idea of a library where autistic people and their families can read about acceptance and be introduced to the autistic community. I hope that one day there will be an autism acceptance library in every state, and eventually in every town.

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