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How Autism Acceptance Has Increased During My Lifetime

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What is autism acceptance? Our society really needs to sit down and think about what autism is and what it means to the millions of families around the world who are living with autism.

Autism is a brain disorder and not a disease. There is a wide variety of people on the spectrum, spanning all ages and genders. Many people still do not understand what autism is and are scared of us. They still treat us as something that should be ignored by society or they want to get rid of us or try to find a cure for autism. What would the world be without autistic scientists who work in the medical field? Without scientists that are into space exploration? Without our actors and actresses on the spectrum? There are also musicians that provide the world with wonderful music, and many other talented people that are on the spectrum.

Some people struggle with being on the spectrum because they feel it has messed up their lives and relationships. But there are many people on the spectrum that have positive experiences, too. As one of the millions of individuals on the spectrum, I can tell you from personal experience that autism has opened many doors for me that I never thought possible.

Two wonderful people saw potential in me that I never saw in myself. I was first diagnosed with a learning disorder through a college program at what was College Misericordia, Misericordia University. Through its Alternative Learners program, I was able to earn my Bachelor’s in Science in Business.

Later in life at age 44, I was re-diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. I had no idea of what autism was during that time period. I was pretty much a messed-up person. I joined a new autism spectrum disorder (ASD) adult support group in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania area. This was around 2009-2010. I took it upon myself to get guest speakers to come to our meetings to help get our group known in the area. I have made many wonderful contacts! Some of these contacts have now become friends of mine.

In 2017, I was awarded the Dennis O’Brien Autism Advocacy Award. I also worked on many different autism committees. I joined our local autism society as a board member eight or nine years ago because I needed to further challenge myself and find out where I fit in society in general.

Now, what does this all have to do with autism acceptance? Much! I have seen autism go from awareness to acceptance in Pennsylvania, especially through our annual Logan’s Run/Walk for autism acceptance each year. Hundreds of families come out to support each other through this event. I have witnessed this firsthand as a board member. They accepted me right away.

How did others like my friends, family and former friends and schoolmates take the news of my autism diagnosis? Many of them did not know, so I began to teach my friends by sharing many autism posts and doing Facebook Live videos to discuss my autism journey. I want them to learn what it is to be someone on the spectrum. I have three former classmates who have kids on the spectrum and have come to me for help and advice. With all that I do as an autism advocate, I have managed somehow to make a name for myself in the greater autism world. I hope to continue my role as an autism advocate in the years ahead.

Getty image by MangoStock.

Originally published: August 19, 2021
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