Helpful Videos on Autism & Disability Issues

Thanks to Youtube, educating yourself about the autism spectrum and disability in general is easier than ever! Be warned that there also a lot of bad info online so be careful- avoid anything with language like “epidemic” “tragedy”, find things from the perspectives of people with disabilities themselves rather than people who claim to speak for us! Note: I tried to put this roughly in an order of basic to more complex ideas about autism and disabilities.

How Aspies Communicate: Literal Thinking & Bluntness

Ask an Autistic: What is a Meltdown?

Can We Stop Saying “High-functioning”? What are the problems with using high vs. low-functioning autism labels?

Ask an Autistic: What is Neurodiversity? Truths & misconceptions about the neurodiversity movement. Lots of links listed below video!

Undiagnosed Autism/Asperger’s in Adults– It’s often misunderstood that autism is a new “epidemic” when actually people with autism have existed all along, often struggling to get by. I feel all too this goes ignored by the broader autism community that is very child-centric.

Sh!t People Say to People with Disabilities and here’s a 2nd

S#!T Ignorant People Say to Autistics– Danger: satire and truth ahead!

Stella Young on Inspiration Porn & Objectification of Disability– Stella Young wittily explains how we have all been mislead (heck, lied to!) in our understanding of disabilities. (This is not literally about pornography)

Autistics Speaking: Self Advocacy in a Culture of Cure (Part 2 here)

Jo Case on Asperger’s Syndrome: Identity or Illness– a woman with AS with a son with AS explores changing views of the autism spectrum.

Ask an Autistic: What’s Wrong with Autism Speaks? Why many autistic people and their allies oppose Autism Speaks

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Growing Up Autistic

As she introduces me on my tours, my colleague Joanne Bowles often mentions that I am very comfortable discussing my autism and answering questions about it, while other tour guides often don’t feel that way, which we certainly can respect. Why is this? Well I can’t speak for them, but it’s been a long journey for me towards self-acceptance.

I’m 32, and unusual for someone my age, I was diagnosed around age 8 with autism, more specifically Asperger’s Syndrome. Most people I’ve met around my age weren’t labeled until their teens or twenties, often they were identified as having AD/HD or another learning disability or mental condition. I was the opposite. My partner jokes that I have “male-pattern autism”- females are less commonly diagnosed with autism, but a lot of that seems to be that it tends to manifest differently in males and females, and most of the research on autism and Asperger’s has been done on males. Autistic girls are more frequently quiet and good at hiding their symptoms. I was loud and opinionated, and definitely didn’t act like a “proper young lady”. Fortunately my father at the time was working for the Menninger Foundation, a mental health organization that had more up-to-date research on various conditions, and that is why I was able to access doctors who could figure me out- at least a little bit!

My parents were amazing advocates for me, constantly communicating with teachers about my IEP, what I was studying, and emotional and social issues that I had. I was mainstreamed throughout my schooling, and had an aide to assist me in 4th thru 8th grade. The aide was mainly there to help keep me focused on my work, and help me calm down (sometimes by whisking me out of the room) if I had anxiety problems. My parents took the attitude with both my brother and I (he is also on the spectrum and has ADD) of focusing on one year at a time. They didn’t worry about planning for the future, they focused on what was in front of them. In retrospect, I can see the disadvantages of that approach, but it was understandable in the light of the more limited resources that were available at the time for transition-age youth.  I believe they did the best they could, and in fact far better than many parents would’ve done in the same situation!

Anyway, my attitude towards my label was very negative at first when my parents told me, because it sounded negative- Disorder, Syndrome. It sounded like a disease, like there was something wrong with me. My parents tried to explain that I was still the same Mariah, but now we could better understand how Mariah thinks and what she needs. My brother had similar reactions when he was told as well.

I finally felt better about being autistic after attending a camp for kids with Asperger’s/ASD, Camp Discovery at Courage North as a teenager. At last I could be around kids like me (no, my brother wasn’t enough!) I realized that autism wasn’t necessarily a negative, it just meant I was different. Meeting an adult on the spectrum (each cabin had one- called a mentor) was a life-changing experience. I could look up to this person, and have an idea of what I could grow up to be. It was run by the Autism Society, and after going there a couple times, I returned as a mentor and worked there for seven years.

Related Topics I’d like to expand on:

Patterns of Autism in Males/Females

Integration Should Not Mean Isolation

Autism vs. Asperger’s