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To the Classmate Who Told Me I Couldn’t Have Autism Because I Could Talk

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Dear Classmate,

I know you may have not believed me the day I told you I was on the autism spectrum. You said it was the first time you met someone who had the disorder. We were both in middle school. I’d only just begun telling a few of my peers that I was on the spectrum. A year a half earlier, my parents told me about my diagnosis. I honestly had no idea what it meant other than this was the reason people had said I have “special needs.”

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It didn’t really faze me when you said, “You can’t have autism! You can talk!” I started discussing the facts and statistics about autism I’d heard to help you understand why what you said was inaccurate. As time went on I forgot this talk ever even happened.

I recalled the conversation when I started to become an autism advocate in college. Even though many individuals in our community can’t talk, some still communicate with amazing grace and ability. Some exceptional persons I’ve met on the spectrum have gone on to give talks around the world.

So as an addendum to our conversation that day in sixth grade, I just wanted to tell you this:

If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. Don’t think of autism as a one-size-fits-all disorder because you will be wrong. I was nonverbal until I was 2, and it took many years to be able to speak and have conversations with my peers. Being able to talk today is a blessing I will never take for granted. I can now call myself an author and a professional speaker. Now I give talks about combating bullying, but more than anything, I try to give our society an education on how different is beautiful. We all have our unique traits that make us who we are, and that’s something to celebrate.

I hope now that we’re both in our mid 20s, that if you ever come across this letter, you can educate your friends, family and community on what autism is. We all need to start thinking about how we can make an impact in a world that’s getting more diverse by the day. It can start with us right now if we want it too.

Your friend,


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Originally published: August 12, 2015
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