Who To Tell About Being Autistic?
This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro. Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a rising senior at Seton Hall University, majoring in Sports Management. He started an Autism Speaks U Chapter: Student Disability Awareness on campus to help spread awareness and raise funds for those affected by autism. Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.
I can’t help but take this blog post personally, because I think now more than ever I have questioned telling other individuals about being autistic. In one of my previous posts, I talked about how I came out about being autistic during my freshman year of college almost 4 years ago. In high school, I had no worries at all about being autistic because no one was there to judge; everyone had a disability and I was with people I could relate to.
“Autism can’t define you, only you can define autism.” That’s what I said. And while it’s true, I still fight for my rights to be treated just like everyone else. I wish this could be described as a fairy tale ending; you see someone against all odds prevail in the end; however, the road blocks along the way have been staggering. The example below will hopefully summarize my point….
I had recently been seeing an individual at my university, who had no idea that I was autistic. This wasn’t because I was holding back, merely something that had never come up. She didn’t know that I was autistic and we were doing great. Then something happened, something that I really didn’t understand till just today.
A few weeks back I appeared on Caucus NJ, on a segment called “Breakthroughs in Autism,” with Steve Adubato. On the air I discussed my life growing up with autism. As any person who ever is on TV would tell you, it’s a very exciting time. Once the episode aired I was telling my friends, my parents, pretty much anyone in an ears length of me. However, one person who saw the show happened to be the girl that I had been seeing. As soon as she saw the clip, things had changed dramatically. Every time we met our conversations would become more distant and less frequent and finally, what ended up being great turned into something of pity.
“I think we should see other people.”
“I think you should be around people more like yourself.”
“What does that mean?”
“You know, people who are more like you.”
“People more like me?”
“Enlighten me please.”
“You know…people who know who you are.”
“And what people would those be?
“I’m so sorry…”
I could tell you that it wasn’t about having autism, but it would be a lie. I could tell you that I went back to my apartment, cried and asked what I did to deserve this. But, honestly, I’ve been there before and will certainly be there again. My best friend freshman year even called me out on it, “Why didn’t you tell me you were autistic? Aren’t we friends?” On the other side of this dilemma, I have been called out about not being autistic enough. “He functions so well, he couldn’t have autism.” I’ve been associated with several autism organizations that have considered me, “misdiagnosed” because I didn’t show enough, “autistic tendencies” and therefore “not autistic.” Autism can’t define you, but apparently others can definitely define you as autistic.
So I guess the answer to this topic “who to tell about being autistic?” really comes down to how secure you are about being who you are. You don’t have to go up to every new person you see and say, “Hi, I’m ____ and I have autism,” but if you do feel like mentioning it, don’t be afraid. I don’t want to come off as insensitive in this post to those who I know don’t have a choice on whether or not to tell people about being autistic when its apparent to some. My advice stays the same, security in yourself as an individual is the best way to approach life and build your confidence. Everyone is unique in their own way. The people who I mentioned in my post have been ignorant and the only way to defeat ignorance is by awareness. Be proud of who you are. As a matter of fact, love who you are. Everything happens for a reason and if you ever need a hand, please know that you are not alone.
(This is one of my Autism Speaks U related blog posts. If you would like to contact me directly about questions/comments related to this post I can be reached at email@example.com. Thanks everyone!)