If you met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.
Dr. Stephen Shore
Stephen Shore’s quote inspired Debra Muzikar, autism mom and co-founder of The Art of Autism. She’s launching an initiative that will bring positive attention to the autistic and showcase many autistic individuals’ gifts, culminating on World Autism Day. She explains…
I noticed Lent this year started on February 18 and ended on April 2. I was raised Catholic but no longer am a practicing Catholic. I woke up in the middle of the night and had an inspiration—40 days of autism through the period of Lent. I can do something for forty days. Rituals you are brought up with are hard to let go. . . Then I noticed that World Autism Day ends on April 2, the last day of Lent. And the Jewish holidays start on April 3 and I thought how we are all connected through our children with autism and how autism has no borders—religion, socio-economic-class, ethnicity, gender issues—autism is a connecting factor in the world today. I talked it over with Kurt (my Aspie husband) in the early morning hours and I decided to do a 40-day project. We came up with the idea of the veil and how the veil needs to be lifted to see the beauty of the people and how we are all interconnected.
The next morning I contacted Dr. Stephen Shore who has the quote above and he immediately signed on to kick-start this project. Later Jennifer O’Toole (Asperkids) came on and said she was behind the project. She became an advisory board member that day for The Art of Autism.
I like that Stephen is a male autistic and Jennifer is a female aspie. That shows the diversity of our population right off the bat.
Kevin, my autistic son, also inspired us. Kevin and our family has had a difficult year with misunderstandings about autism. Kevin’s a delightful person but he doesn’t show himself to too many people. He’s shy—that’s his personality and has nothing to do with autism. Sometimes his shyness is mistaken for brooding or something sinister. Autism is an integral part of who he is. I wanted to come up with a project that honors both autism and the humanity of people on the spectrum. They are so misunderstood. The media today has done a number on autism—the sensationalistic stories of school killings and parents who kill their autistic children do our population no service.
I’ve asked each person who contributes to the project to give me a few words that describe themselves and how autism is part of their personality. Then they can show who they are through their writings, art, poetry, videos, or whatever.
The submissions I’m receiving are mind-blowing! Even Temple Grandin is participating.
My goal is raise the energy around autism. The negative thought forms that people are getting from the news media and others who see themselves as victims of autism do our children harm. We need to see each and every person as a gift. Many autistic people struggle with simple things, such as speech or how to tie their shoe laces. We need as a society to show we appreciate their challenges and we don’t judge them for their struggles. All of us have gifts. The gifts are to be shared. The Art of Autism collaborative, which I co-founded with Keri Bowers, is all about showcasing the gifts.
There is a lot of money going into genetic research to cure autism. We don’t need to cure autism. It’s not a disease. It’s a neurological diversity. If the money that went for genetic cures was shifted to initiatives that helped autistic people lead better futures we’d all benefit. But first we need to see autistic people for who they are.
Young people on the autism spectrum need every-day role models. They should not be ashamed of their autism. They should embrace their uniqueness. I want this project to inspire people to embrace their uniqueness.
What is your desired outcome?
My desired outcome is that people on the autism spectrum, whether they be Aspie, verbal Autistics or non-verbal are respected for their contribution. We put too much emphasis on functioning level and worldly things. Many non-verbal autistic people are brilliant. Their writings are profound. The non-verbal autistics may be holding space for the rest of us who are so bound and tethered by superficiality. All of us are here for a purpose. We shouldn’t trivialize another’s journey.
Are you still looking for submissions and if so how do people contact you?
The submission deadline is Feb. 4. Contact me at [email protected]
What can we do as a community to support the initiative?
You can share the project on social media, and support the project and the people who post their stories.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
This will start on the Art of Autism blog on February 18 and each day I will post one or more blogs from autistic people. Please read, appreciate and support our shared journey.
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