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When I speak about growing up with autism to different organizations, schools and businesses, it’s often a surprise for people to hear that I’m on the autism spectrum. When I was a kid, I was considered on the severe end of the spectrum, from things such as being nonverbal until I was 2 and a half to having severe sensory integration difficulties and emotional challenges. Almost 25 years later, I’ve been able to turn my disability into an ability through interventions and supports that have led me down the road towards being a motivational speaker.
With that, I wanted to share some things I’ve heard on my journey that I hope you will try to refrain from saying the next time you talk to someone on the autism spectrum.
1. “You don’t look like you have autism.”
2. “You have autism? I would have never known.”
3. “Was math always your strongest subject?”
4. “Is your autism similar to that of Rain Man or Temple Grandin?”
5. “I’m sorry.”
6. “But you seem so normal.”
7. “Really? You can talk though…”
8. “Are you cured from autism because you can talk?”
9. “You’re pulling my leg right?”
10. “You must be very high-functioning”
11. “Do you take any medicine to help you with your autism?”
12. “What’s it like to have autism?
Whenever someone asks me about that last one, “What’s it like to have autism?” it feels slightly weird to me because I’m just who I am. Autism is a part of who I am in many ways and my experience will vary completely to the next person you will meet; autism or not.
To continue the conversation towards acceptance and awareness, here are some things you should say to someone with autism…
1. “Want to hang out sometime?”
2. “Can you tell me more about the spectrum of autism?”
3. “What do you like to do in your spare time?”
The list goes on and on, but regardless the conversation and what you say or don’t say, just know that I’m Kerry and that’s exactly who I was meant to be.