Saturday, April 15, 2017

Interview with Victoria- Autism Acceptance Day 2017

Interview with Victoria (Silverarabian on tumblr), who is 22.
Anything about yourself that you would like to say as an introduction to you:

I work in a vet clinic, own a dog and three rats, and play many mobile games and a Star Wars-themed online RPG.

What is your life like as an Autistic person? 

I tend to blend in with allistic people fairly easily. I wasn’t diagnosed until college when I nearly had burnout due to the increased social and executive functioning requirements, so I didn’t know why I was different until I experienced my difference for two decades. Now that I know, my life is much easier – I can forgive myself for Autism Things™ and I’ve been able to figure out my limits for social interaction and sensory input.

I like to reblog autism-related posts on my tumblr account and Facebook. I sometimes write my own posts on Facebook, though I’m more likely to respond to comments on autism-themed pages with my personal experiences. I’m also part of multiple autistic-only groups and they comprise most of my social life.

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

I am sensitive to sound, but if I find a sound I enjoy (usually a song), it’s sensory heaven. I can listen to the same favorite music for literally days on end and not get tired of it. The euphoria I feel when a certain progression of notes happens, or a person’s voice hits just the right edge, or the various sounds making up the song harmonize in just the right way, is unexplainable but one of the best experiences I’ve had. I have other sensory experiences which I enjoy in similar ways, but none compare to the euphoria that good sounds bring me.

Similarly, I hyperfocus easily on topics that interest me. I can learn things extremely fast and retain more information than most people, which means I can quickly scan through information and provide an accurate summary to other people. That comes in handy at work when I need to go through medical records to find the most relevant information for a vet to read.

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

There are a few difficulties I have with being autistic. I become emotionally overloaded and frustrated easily and when it happens I have trouble regulating myself without being alone for an extended time. I also experience sensory overload easily and tend to lose speech because of it. I have auditory processing issues, so sometimes I lose the ability to understand speech – it sounds like human noises, but I can’t hear individual words from it. I tend to lose speech easily when overloaded in any way – I maintain scripts and can get through basic conversations, but I lose tone and cadence in my voice and sound like a robot, and sometimes I can’t use words verbally at all (but can type or write adequately to get assistance from others).

How has the Autism Acceptance Day/Month effort over the past seven years affected you personally? If you were not aware of it until recently, what meaning does Autism Acceptance Day/Month have to you now?
I wasn’t really aware of autism acceptance or awareness until I was diagnosed in college. Then I read various blogs by autistic people and found the outrage toward Autism Speaks, absorbed it, and began advocating heavily against the organization. Since I was diagnosed, It has become acceptance day over awareness day, and I use the entire month to advocate for autistic people beyond what I would normally do. This year I have an acceptance month prompt set that I’m going to use on Facebook and possibly also Tumblr to blog each day. On the 2nd I will be advocating heavily for acceptance over awareness and providing links against Autism Speaks and for ASAN and AWN.

What does “moving beyond awareness” mean to you?

Awareness is for a disease. Awareness is for things to watch out for, to be wary of, to be fearful of, to eradicate. Awareness is for things like mosquito-borne diseases, cancer, and gang activity. Acceptance is for people, for better lives, for relationships and friendships. Acceptance means people meet us where we are instead of trying to shape us into what we aren’t. Acceptance means kids are allowed to stim and not bullied for it. Acceptance means adults having meltdowns aren’t reported to the police but are instead escorted to a safe and quiet place and allowed to work through the overload. It means there will someday be a generation of autistic children who are not suicidal by age 8 because of fundamental differences, because others will give them a chance and treat them as human instead of some vaguely human-shaped creature that’s not enough like them to deserve consideration.

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

Accepting an autistic person’s stims and communication style would make a huge difference in our employment opportunities. I was lucky enough to find employment at a quite accommodating place, but I have friends who struggle to find employment because they didn’t learn to camouflage as well as I did. If people accepted our stims and communication, they would be able to treat us like humans worthy of respect. They would know not to use abstract terms, double meanings, and hints with us. They would know that we are stimming to regulate, not to fidget or show we are lying or to suppress violent behavior toward them. They would learn to communicate with us and understand who we are as people, learn to see past our behavior, see that we are employable and capable of having friendships and relationships. We just need a little bit of kindness, consideration, and acceptance.

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