Has anyone ever said to you, “You have autism? But you look so normal!”
When I was diagnosed with autism at 4, my parents could never imagine someone coming up and saying this to me. Experts considered me on the severe end of the autism spectrum. I didn’t say my first word till I was 3 and it would take many years for me to truly find my voice. For a while, my parents were worried about what my future would look like. Therapies such as music, theater, occupational, physical and speech therapy played a big part in my development and I’ve overcome a lot of my challenges.
However, when people meet me today, and see that I’m a professional speaker and author, they often believe I don’t still deal with obstacles and challenges because of being on the autism spectrum. My challenges don’t show up on the surface as much now, so people often think they aren’t there. What people don’t know is that I still sometimes struggle with transitions and making friendships. I also sometimes feel overwhelmed with sensory challenges in places like airplanes — unexpected turbulence can make me uneasy because I can’t necessarily plan for it.
Others tell me when I bring up the topic of invisible disabilities that, “You should be lucky to be so high-functioning.” Autism is a spectrum, don’t get me wrong and I feel truly blessed with the progress I have made. I know some will need more help then others in our community, but we should try to help all those who need it. I still need help at times, and I hope people like me won’t be brushed aside because our disabilities might not be visible.
I hope we can educate our community on this because it’s not only people with autism who face this, but also those with other disabilities like ADHD and dyslexia, among others. As I tell everyone I meet — if I could have one wish for our community, it is that the word “progress” becomes the mantra. Progress for every person with autism and person on this planet for that matter, so they can live their best lives possible.