My Response to 'You Have Asperger's, You're Not Autistic.'

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Not too long after I was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, I had a phone conversation with a friend. I chose to tell her I had Asperger’s, even though that wasn’t technically the diagnosis. It would be if I’d been diagnosed a few years earlier. I made some type of joke (can’t remember exactly what it was about) and said, “now that I’m autistic…”

She said, “You have Asperger’s; you’re not autistic.”

But Asperger’s is on the spectrum. The DSM doesn’t use it as a diagnosis anymore, but I still find myself using the term every once in awhile.

What she probably meant is what a lot of parents of autistic children would mean if they said something like, “You’re not like my child. You can speak and have a job as a writer.” Or, “You have an apartment and live on your own.” The stereotypes seem endless.

I was autistic on the phone with my friend, I have been all of my life, and I will remain autistic until the day I die. I find it unfortunate that certain beliefs still exist. I’m supposed to look or behave in a certain way, otherwise there’s no way I could be autistic in some people’s eyes. I wish more people would read about autism or listen to autistic people and not just remember the movie “Rain Man.” No, I can’t count toothpicks that have fallen on the floor. I am a decent artist, though. I will give myself that.

I am autistic, like it or not. And I’m no less than a neurotypical person.

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Thinkstock photo by Lisa Anfisa

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Why Eye Contact Can Be Difficult for People on the Autism Spectrum

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People on the autism spectrum describe why eye contact can be difficult.

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Comic Redesigns the Autism Spectrum to Crush Stereotypes

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Comic redesigns what the autism spectrum means and looks like to her to help crush stereotypes around ASD.

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Chuck E. Cheese's Adds Sensory-Friendly Events to More Locations

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Update: Chuck E. Cheese’s announced in a press release plans to expand its sensory-friendly programming to all U.S.-based Chuck E. Cheese’s locations starting later this year. 

Over the past few months, several major companies, including Target, Toys “R” Us and Costco, have announced sensory-friendly events for people on the autism spectrum. Unfortunately, many of these events have been limited to one or two locations, making it hard for people beyond those locations to participate. Now, Chuck E. Cheese’s, in partnership with the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), is expanding their “Sensory Sensitive Sundays” program to include an additional 54 locations.

Chuck E. Cheese’s already hosts regular “Sensory Sensitive Sundays” at it’s Attleboro, Massachusetts and Glen Burnie, Maryland locations. In addition to its other locations, Chuck E. Cheese’s is adding sensory-friendly events to every one of its New York, New Jersey and New England locations – 54 venues in total.

The first of the new “Sensory Friendly Sundays” will be held on Sunday, January 8 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., before Chuck E. Cheese’s opens to the general public. Following the January 8 event, Sensory Sensitive Sundays will be held on the first Sunday of each month – including February 5, March 5, April 2 and May 7 – at all locations.

As part of the sensory-sensitive event, Chuck E. Cheese’s will dim the lights; turn off the radio, music and shows; exclude costumed characters – including the Chuck E. Cheese’s mouse mascot – from walking around the venue; allow outside food for children with special dietary needs and provide sensory-friendly training for staff members.

A spokesperson for CARD told The Mighty that these new programs are not mainstays, rather they are being tested, and, if all goes well, more events will be rolled out nationally over the next year.

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Photo credit: Mike Mozart

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Amy Gravino - Autism Advocate

Diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at age 11, Amy Gravino is now a national public speaker, author, autism consultant, and Certified Autism Specialist.

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People With Autism Explain What Stimming Feels Like

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