So you were just diagnosed as autistic. Or you just figured out you may be on the spectrum. Or you’re just now accepting and embracing your diagnosis. Maybe you were diagnosed in childhood. Maybe you’ve always known. Maybe you never even thought until this very second that you could be autistic. That’s OK. There are so many different variables to autism.
It is OK to be autistic. There is nothing wrong with it. You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. You are more than a puzzle piece. You are not a burden on your family. The world would absolutely not be better off without you, whatever the media may try to tell you.
Your voice deserves to be heard. It doesn’t matter if you are verbal or nonverbal. You have a voice — it’s just a matter of people choosing to listen to it. It doesn’t matter if you talk with your hands, with your vocal cords or with augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). No matter how you talk, your voice is beautiful and has value. Don’t let the world silence you because you don’t meet their cookie-cutter mold of how you should be.
It’s OK if you need to stim. It’s OK to flap your hands. It’s fine to take your stuffed animals places with you. It’s OK to comfort yourself in public. Whatever you do, it’s a part of what makes youyou, and it is beautiful.
It’s OK to meltdown, be it at home or be it in public. You can’t control it. You aren’t lesser of a person or have less worth because you are simply overwhelmed. The world is scary — sometimes there are too many sounds and smells and things touching you and it completely overwhelms you.
It’s OK to take care of yourself. To pull away from the world and take care of yourself. Don’t let it get too extreme where you are damaging your mental health; but taking care of yourself is OK. Letting people know you have autism is OK as long as it doesn’t put you in acute danger.
There is nothing wrong with having texture aversions to food. There is nothing wrong with eating the same thing. As autistics, our routine is valuable. It’s OK if you want your routine. It’s OK if you don’t want a routine and it makes you feel more on edge. It’s OK to have a loose routine. And it’s fine if you are involved in something and your routine gets thrown off if it changes.
It’s OK to have your own comforting routines, like listening to the same song over and over, watching the same movies over and over, playing the same video game over and over and reading the same book over and over. These things are always the same, no matter what we try to do to change them, and in a world that always changes, it’s OK to have something consistent.
It’s OK to have scripts. To have quotes. To have things that make you calm and help you communicate. It’s OK to have your interests — the things you fully throw yourself into, whatever they may be. It’s OK to know obscure facts about them. (I know obscure facts about “Sesame Street” and that’s OK.) It’s OK to like things that are deemed childish and too young for you. I refuse to be ashamed of my love for things that are supposed to be too young for me. I fully believe that while there may be a minimum age for some movies, shows, books and games, there is no maximum age, and as long as you enjoy it, who is anyone to judge you?
It’s OK to have your own sensory needs. Be comfortable. Don’t force yourself to dress a certain way because it’s what the world expects you to be like. If you’re the most comfortable in yoga pants and a T-shirt, rock it! Most comfortable in tunics and leggings? You do you!
You may be socially awkward. You may not know how to start or stop talking with someone. You may just wander off awkwardly online or in real life. You may not know how to make friends. Believe me when I say that someday, you will find those friends. It may take some time and it may be a difficult road, but it will happen, I promise. And I’m willing to be that first friend if you need.
It’s fine if you don’t like to make eye contact. People will understand. And if they don’t understand and force you to make eye contact, they aren’t people you need in your life to begin with. It’s OK if you need a safe person, be it a friend, a family member or a care person, to go places with you. It’s OK to be scared. It’s OK to do whatever you need to do.
I don’t need to be cured. I don’t need you to be aware of me. I don’t need you to tell me that the world would be better off without me because I am on the spectrum because guess what? You’re wrong. I don’t lack empathy, and anyone who says we lack empathy has truly never known one of us. In fact, I’ve found my autistic friends to be far more empathic than the ones who say we lack it. In my case, I feel empathy so deeply that I often need to just shut myself off. It’s not that I don’t feel it. It’s that I feel it too much.
Autism is beautiful. Autism is unique. Autism is a part of what makes you you. There is nothing in this world wrong with being autistic. Choose to use first-person language, if that is what you wish to embrace. Choose to be proud of your diagnosis (self or professional). Be open and honest with your friends. Let them know how to be your friend.
And above all, be your own friend and relish in the beauty of your autism.