Reimagining Autism

Happy World Autism Acceptance month!

This is such an important month for us, for our small business and for the ASD community. It shines a light on all those who struggle to succeed in a world that doesn’t always recognize their gifts. It’s a month where we can really amplify the need to educate the world that ASD individuals (adults and children) need your acceptance and understanding.

What is ASD you ask? So the dictionary describes ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) is ‘a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication’(1). In the history of Autism, these challenges have been the main focus and for good reason. They give us a better understanding of the difficulties our loved ones and their families face, and help us access appropriate support. 

Life can be extremely difficult for people with Autism. They face a myriad of obstacles in a world that is generally not designed with them in mind, facing problems with learning, both academically and socially. Despite trying extremely hard every day, individuals experience results that are minimal in comparison to their peers and social acceptance is momentary. The result is painful comparisons and bitter feelings of defeat, frustration and low self-confidence. 

Things that non-ASD people find fun and fulfilling can be a minefield of stress, depression and anxiety for a person with ASD. Especially now, during this extraordinary time of a global pandemic where routines are majorly disrupted and support services are being affected. I can tell you it’s utterly heart-breaking, exhausting and stressful watching the person you love struggle to find their way in a world that is so difficult for them to be included in.

Living with a person with Autism affects the entire family. It causes a huge amount of emotional, financial and sometimes even physical stress. Parents of ASD children experience higher levels of depression, anxiety, and mental health related issues. Danielle, who has Autism says: “When you’re diagnosed with autism, it’s a diagnosis for the entire family and not just that person. It’s really a test of family.“ 

But there is so much more to Autism than the descriptions above. As Dr Temple Grandin (professor of Animal Science, activist and person with Autism) says “‘There needs to be more emphasis on what a child can do, rather than what they cannot do”(2). We only have to look at the incredible achievements of prominent people on the spectrum to envisage what is possible for people with autism if they have the right support and opportunities. Take Greta Thunberg for example. She has become one of the most prominent faces of the global climate change movement and was named person of the year 2020 by Time Magazine, at age sixteen. The sheer force of Greta’s personality and influence, to which Autism is integral, has led to countless impressive accomplishments and has grabbed the attention of the world’s most powerful leaders. 

The list of talents and gifts a person with Autism has is long and impressive: attention to detail; deep focus; observation skills; absorb and retain facts; visual skills; expertise; methodical approach; novel approach; creativity; tenacity and resilience; accepting of difference; integrity. And this is by no means an exhaustive list! As with every other human being on the planet, people with autism have their own set of unique abilities.  

ASD has been around for as long as humans have. Science has been crucial in helping us understand it, but now it’s time to move on from the negatives and focus on the positives. As Dr Temple Grandin states, people with autism are “different, not less”. And Colin Zimbleman, Ph.D. states “Autism…offers a chance for us to glimpse an awe-filled vision of the world that might otherwise pass us by”(3). 

We must talk about an individual’s strengths and talk to parents about those strengths too. Continuously hearing about ‘deficits’ and ‘impairments’ has a terrible effect on the wellbeing of our loved ones and their families. A positive approach, an extra smile and more kindness will help build stronger relationships - the basis for growth and a better quality of life for everyone. Celebrate different ways of thinking and what that can add to the world we live in! 

A final word from Dr Temple Grandin: “What would happen if the autism gene was eliminated from the gene pool? You would have a bunch of people standing around in a cave, chatting and socializing and not getting anything done.”

In solidarity with people with ASD and their families, please help raise awareness during this important month – thank you!


10 Inspiring Temple Grandin Quotes Everyone Should Know

105 Favorite Quotes About Autism And Aspergers

At Society’s Growing Edge – Dr. Colin Zimbleman

The Positives of Autism

Top 10 Positive Traits of Autistic People

What Is Autism?

Impact of Autism Spectrum Disorder on Family

Defining crisis in families of individuals with autism spectrum disorders

Experience What Autism Might Feel Like

Real Stories from People living with Autism Spectrum Disorder