When People Say I’ve ‘Outgrown’ My Autism

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College taught me many things: How to self-advocate, how to spread awareness and maybe, most importantly, that if you have a passion for something, you need to go for it no matter the costs.

At the same time, college also unfortunately taught me there are still a great deal of ignorant people out there who simply think of the black and white and avoid the grey completely.

One problem I see as a huge indicator of this is the whole concept of “outgrowing” your autism. When I was first diagnosed, my psychiatrist told my parents that autism was a lifelong diagnosis, while at the same time, other doctors told them there was a possibility that certain individuals would outgrow the symptoms that led to the diagnosis.

I think the whole belief of this puts negative annotations towards our community. Saying someone has “outgrown their autism” means someone can be inclined to say someone was “cured” of something naturally and diminishes the need for legislation reform and funding.

In either case, I think we need to avoid those debates as they just cause clutter overall. I feel more and more that I fall in the ever-growing “grey” section of people. Sure, I graduated from college and am in graduate school, but I’ve had two decades of multiple therapies and learned over time to take care and progress within myself. I’m also clearly not the typical “normal” that some people look for. I have eccentric tendencies that make me unique.

There is a spectrum. If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met just that — one person with autism. Some people will be able to become stronger in areas, but I’ve never believed in the concept that someone can ever outgrow an autism diagnosis.

Today, people see me and say, “You have autism? I would have ever known.” Growing up, my disability was evident due to my lack of speech. I’m one of the many unique stories of people on the autism spectrum as an adult today because even though I didn’t have speech, I now give talks around the country as a motivational speaker.

Each story of someone with autism is going to be unique, and you can honestly say that for anyone out there — disability or not.

This post first appeared on KerryMagro.com.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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What a High School Rite of Passage Taught Me About My Son With Autism

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My son TJ is 16. He has autism.

He is starting his junior year and so excited to be halfway done with high school – a thought that, as his mother, makes me a little panicky. But I digress.

On Monday we got his schedule for the new school year in the mail.  He was so excited to open it!  And the first class on his first day was Driver’s Ed.

Driver’s Ed. Did I mention I get a little panicky?

No matter, because I studied theater in college, so whenever I have that parent panic, I go instantly into actress mode, and do my best “I am so easy breezy it’s not even funny” type of mother acting.

It usually works quite well.

It worked well this time, too, which is good, because when big things come up for TJ that we need to work through, I don’t want him to be influenced by me in any way.

So when I saw “Driver’s Ed” on his schedule, I smiled and said “TJ, you got Driver’s Ed!  That’s great!  So many kids want that class and don’t get it!”

It’s a hot commodity, this class. You can register for it after you’re 15 years old and you can’t get your license without it, unless you wait until you’re over 18. And if memory serves, not many kids want to wait until they are 18 to start driving.

TJ’s first reaction was to smile and say, “Great!” And then I said to him, “TJ, in order to take this class, you have to have your learner’s permit. We can sign you up to take the test in about a week or two, but you’ll have to study for it. How does that make you feel?”

TJ scrunched his nose a little and said, “I don’t know.”

I know that “I don’t know.” It’s usually a sign of nerves. So I told him to just look through the rest of his schedule, and we can talk about it later.

The next day, I asked TJ how he was feeling about the whole Driver’s Ed thing.  Again, I got an “I don’t know.” So I suggested we go to the DMV web page and check out their informational videos about driving.

He sat through about half of the video when he said, “Can I stop now?”

Inside, I’m thinking that our planning time is running out. If he is going to take the class in 3 weeks, he needs to take his permit exam in 2 weeks, which means he has to start studying.

But not today. I gave him one more day to think things through.

Finally, the next day, I sat down with TJ. Time to get serious.

“TJ, I know you’re feeling a little nervous about driving. Are you feeling rushed to get your permit?”

“Yes.”

“Would you like to drop the class this semester, and take your time getting your permit? We can try to get the class another time. Even next year, if you’re not ready yet. It’s OK. And it’s up to you.”

With that, he seemed instantly lighter. He thought for a second, then said to me, “I think I’d like to wait.”

And as soon as I said OK, he breathed out deeply and said, “Boy do I feel better!” And then, that smile.

My TJ is on his own schedule. He always has been. He learned to ride his bike long after his little brother did. He didn’t feel comfortable walking home from school alone until late in his freshman year. And the first time he saw the dentist without me was yesterday.

So even though he is already 16, and many of his peers have their driver’s license, my TJ will wait. He will take his sweet time until it feels right for him.

And that’s a-OK by me.

And now, he can’t wait for school to start.

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We Don’t Need an Autism 'Cure,' but Compassion and Tolerance Would Be Great

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This week I got a text message from someone I know alerting me to watch the news because apparently, they’ve found a cure for autism.

This made me angry. And here’s why:

Firstly, it’s insulting to tell someone who is living with autistic family members they love and adore and who are made who they are in their essence by being autistic, that they need curing. Secondly, there is no proven cure for autism; it is a permanent neurological condition.

I’m not saying autism doesn’t have its challenges. It can be hard on everyone. And it is, regularly. Every single day. But being autistic also gives each individual a unique ability to see the world in a way no one else does.

And that makes it incredibly beautiful.

If my husband wasn’t autistic, he wouldn’t be the man I fell in love with. If my 4-year-old wasn’t autistic, she might not ask me, full of awe and wonder, to “look at the magical way the leaves float off the tree” on windy days. If my eldest daughter wasn’t autistic she wouldn’t be the incredibly intuitive person I know and love her to be and she wouldn’t be twice exceptional.

So no, my family doesn’t need “curing.” Thanks. 

Perhaps it’s others who need a cure, but is there even a cure for ignorance? I’m not sure there is.

Autistic people don’t need to be “managed.” Autistic people need the society they live in to be compassionate, understanding and willing to work at things from a different angle. Society needs to be more embracing of neurodiversity and learn to see autistic people as strengths, not flaws.

They aren’t broken. But your perception totally is.

Image via Thinkstock.

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The Internet Banded Together to Send a Young Girl With Autism Her Favorite Shirt

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Deborah Grimshaw Skouson has spent years scouring the internet with the hopes of finding more of her daughter Cami’s favorite shirt. Cami, who’s on the autism spectrum, is attached to her favorite pink floral shirt, which Grimshaw Skouson bought from Target five years ago.

People with autism often find it difficult to find clothes that work with their sensory sensitivities. They can also become fixated with certain items – like Cami is with her pink floral shirt – making it hard to move on when the item goes missing or is ruined.

Time, like Cami’s favorite shirt, was running thin so Grimshaw Skouson did what any social media savvy parent would do: she took to Facebook to see if anyone else had Cami’s favorite shirt.

Okay friends and family, I need your help! As most of you know, my daughter Cami has autism. For the past 4-5 years, she has been fixated on THIS shirt. She got her first one in kindergarten 5 years ago, and we have found 4 more since then, mostly on eBay. Her current one is almost unwearable, and eBay has gone dry. This shirt is a CIRCO brand from TARGET. They were sold in 2011-2012. This is where you come in. We need another “pink flower shirt”, so will you please share this post or even just the photo? We will pay for the shirt and the shipping if someone would be kind enough to sell it to us. It has to be this exact shirt! We’ve tried similar shirts, and they don’t cut it with Cami! Thank you so much!! (any size is great!)

Within a week, Grimshaw Skouson’s post had been shared more than 26,000 times – over 3,000 times on her post and another 23,000 on news anchor Frank Somerville’s page. Since then, Cami has received five shirts, and at least 73 more are on their way. Some commenters have offered to turn Cami’s old shirts into stuffed animals, pillows and quilts so she can treasure them even after she outgrows them. Other parents have commented relating to Grimshaw Skouson, saying they buy their children’s favorite clothing in bulk too.

H/T POPSUGAR

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JC Penney Hosts Back-to-School Shopping Event for Shoppers With Autism

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Bright lights, loud music, and dozens of families combing through the aisles to try and find the best deals can make back-to-school shopping a miserable experience for families whose children have special needs. Knowing how stressful back-to-school shopping can be for these families, a JC Penney store in Dallas created a special shopping event for children with sensory sensitivities.

On Sunday, the Timber Creek Crossing store opened three hours early to hold a judgment-free shopping experience. The two-hour shopping event was designed to accomodate the needs of those with autism spectrum disorder.

“We’re in about 50 percent lighting,” general manager Jay Tollett told CW33. “Typically the store would be bright, you’d have a lot of music going on. That’s the other thing, we have the music turned off this morning so it’s nice and quiet and calm and a little cooler than we normally have it in here.”

To better understand the needs of those on the spectrum, the store worked with the Dallas Independent School District, according to the Dallas Morning News. Store employees working that morning also received “autism-friendly” customer service training.

While the shopping event is currently a one-time experience, Tollett told the Dallas Morning News he hopes to create more events like this, as well as have it expand to other JC Penney stores.

Update: A spokesperson for JC Penney confirmed the company is looking into expanding the event to more stores. 

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What My Local Library Means to Me as a Person on the Autism Spectrum

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It had only been two years since I was diagnosed on the autism spectrum, and I had just graduated high school. I tried college, but it didn’t really work out for me right away. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t know what I could do with my life. So I started volunteering at my local library.

I had been a member of this library since I was about 2 years old when my mom first brought me for story time. So everyone at the library knew me pretty well, even though I didn’t really know them. I had never taken the time to get to know them. But when I started volunteering, things changed for me.

A whole world opened up for me. I had to learn how to take public transportation in order to get myself there. Then, when I finally got a car, I learned how to drive myself there. I was great at finding the books to pull from the shelves that people would place holds on. And then it went a bit further.

The people who worked there became my friends.

I learned how to be humble on my good days that I found all of the books that were requested and how to be OK with myself on the days that I couldn’t get them all. I also found books that I was interested in. Eventually, I even made them a picture communication book for nonverbal patrons! Above all, I learned I could do something with my life.

I could help others.

And although I now have a job and don’t have time to volunteer nearly as often as I used to, I still try to find the time to go in and visit my friends. And they are still more than happy to help. This is why I want to thank them.

Thank you to my friends at the West Chester Public Library. Thank you for providing me with a safe place to learn new skills. Thank you for understanding my challenges and encouraging me to overcome them. Thank you for supporting my goals and for helping me to achieve them.

Most importantly, thank you for going above and beyond your librarian duties.

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