Why should we, the autistic community, try to sensor everything we say to make sure it is more palatable for those around us? Should I try to fit into a societal image that has been forced upon me? I think about these topics more than I am willing to admit.
“I daily remind myself and my daughters that we must live in a world that doesn’t understand how we think, act and feel. I also tell my daughters to be themselves.“
Do I really want them to be their true selves? Of course, ideally, I want them to feel free to express themselves. I want them to be authentic. I want them to be autistic. The question is, why can’t I follow my own advice?
It seems like such a simple task. Just be yourself.
Don’t hide your true self. Feel free to be you. The problem is, I have spent the majority of my life trying to hide my autism. Without a diagnosis growing up, I was forced into the category of being eccentric and odd. I really didn’t mind this label, except, that wasn’t really who I was.
My parents wanted me to fit into “normal” society. My “weird” behaviors were punished and frowned at on a daily basis. My family just didn’t understand why I couldn’t be typical. They sent me to counselors, psychiatrists and tried various antidepressants.
Nothing changed my behavior, my personality, my autism.
My parents were continually convinced that I must have some disorder that could be fixed by modern medicine. When their efforts failed to make me change, they became angry and hostile towards me. I remember my mother would frequently tell me to try harder to change my personality.
She would tell me to just try to act like everyone else. Of course, trying to be like the other kids never happened for me. The harder I tried, the harder I failed. I spent hours watching TV shows that revolved around teenagers and their lives. I watched other teens at school. None of these activities increased my knowledge of how to be “normal.” I tried desperately to fit in with my peers. I tried even harder to make my parents accept me.
In all fairness, I wasn’t diagnosed with autism until my mid-thirties. Still, I don’t think an earlier diagnosis would have mattered. My world, and the people in it, wanted me to be average. Just be like everyone else.
When I had my daughters, I decided that I would never ask them to be normal. I have tried my best to just let them be who they want to be. Two of them are autistic and my middle daughter has ADHD. I have never treated them as if they were different or needed to be someone else. I have never treated autism as a dirty word not to be spoken in polite conversations. I have let them express themselves in every phase of their lives.
So, I will not try to be less autistic to make others more comfortable.
I will not expect my daughters to be any less than themselves. No one should be shamed for being authentic. I will not stop wearing headphones in public when the noise is overwhelming. I will not stop my daughter from flapping her hands in public. I will stand up for who I am. I will stand up for autism because my family is autistic. I will not be what you consider normal. I will be myself. That is something to celebrate.
Celebrate your uniqueness and diversity. Celebrate Autism Pride every day!