– By Ivanova Smith, Intern at The Arc of King County and guest blogger
It never makes sense to me when people say that autistic people can’t be happy being autistic. Personally, I find great joy in being the way I am.
I love my neurodiversity, and I love that it makes me different. First, my autism makes me think visually which helps my ability to draw. (I’ve included a couple of my drawings with this blog.) I love the memories it allows me to see in intimate detail. I love when different textures make me feel happy. I love the passion it gives me to do what is right. I like my repetitive movement because they give me great comfort. I enjoy the times that I became so happy and energetic that I start jumping and my body goes spastic. I really love my life. I am blessed to be!
The thing that made me sad was knowing how people felt about me being autistic. During my childhood, I was happy being the way I am and had no shame in needing extra help. I actually enjoyed special education. In late elementary school I was a proud special education kid. It wasn’t until junior high that things changed. I have never forgotten the confusion I had when people started shaming me for being who I am naturally. People told me it was wrong for me to be in special education, but I liked being where I was I was comfortable. Society wasn’t okay with it, and I was shamed because they did not like it. That is what makes me sad. They made me feel shameful during junior high and in high school, and I had a hard time processing how I felt. Their shame led to my self-hatred and loneliness. I did not understand why I had to change when I was comfortable and happy being me. Deep inside I just wanted to be accepted.
Eventually, I discovered the neurodiversity movement which helped me realize that I didn’t have to feel ashamed. My happiness grew by leaps and bounds as I started to love myself again. I felt pride in myself again. I enjoyed my talents and the things that make me different.
I believe that schools need to make sure that students with disabilities don’t get shamed for being themselves. Every child needs to hear that they are okay being themselves. If I had known about neurodiversity sooner, I would have been empowered to feel better about my strengths, and I would not have dealt with such depression. Because of neurodiversity, I have the confidence to help do great things for the disability civil rights movement. Having autistic pride helps me see the good in myself and my passions. This is what gives me strength. Even when I have times of deep depression, God uses neurodiversity to show that I am valued. Being autistic is not something to be ashamed of. I am epic just the way I am. And so are you!
The Arc of King County enjoys featuring the thoughts, feelings, and ideas of people in our community who believe that inclusion includes everyone, especially people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We hope you enjoyed reading today’s blog about neurodiversity from our intern Ivanova Smith. We invite you to submit your ideas for blog posts that mean something special to you. We especially encourage members of our community who have an I/DD to submit thoughts for future blogs. To have your suggestion considered, please contact Michelle Wilkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.