Change is Happening!
Sometimes I can get so passionate about what needs to change within our world as it relates to autism that I don’t spend enough time thinking about what is right and good. So often I help my clients scan their world for positive as a way to shift away from negative thinking. Today, I am going to take my own advice. When I scanned my world for positive change within autism, here’s what I found.
Autism is in Big Media
From brief story plots on Disney’s Girl Meets World to major network shows like Netflix’s Atypical and ABC’s Good Doctor, autism is on TV. This is a good thing. Regardless of the critics or enhancement that we may have about how media can represent autism, when mainstream media gets involved, people outside of our community can deepen their understanding.
Necessary Therapies are Covered by Insurance
Healthcare is not a perfect system, but since I am working on scanning my world for positive; therapeutic coverage must land on the list. Not so long ago, autism was considered education and insurance companies did not cover it. A whopping 48 states have laws enacted to cover autism treatments. We have much work to do here to expand age, decrease wait times, improve diagnosis and access to treatment for females, people of color. We need to extend treatment after childhood, as some autistic people need supports through the lifespan. We have so much to do, to create positive change here; but we are at least started. Right now, I am able to offer RDI services through medically necessary autism services. For all these things, I am grateful.
Autistic Characters Find Their Way into Fiction Literature
Every child should be able to pull a book from the library shelf and see themselves represented in a book. Yet, for autistic kids that was harder to do. Even harder yet was finding a story that was written that is autistic and has a healthy identity. Sally Pla, San Diego’s very own award-winning author, is changing that. In Some Day Birds, her character Charlie is autistic and just darling. I loved reading this book. The story isn’t about autism, it just has an autistic character. This is an important distinction. Sometimes we learn about differences without even knowing we are doing it. This book gives both young readers and old a compelling story line and a neurodivergent character. I love this book.
Siblings Making a Difference
Clearly Love & Autism is about giving autistic people the power to shape the conversation about autism. Behind the scenes there are many people that help make this happen. This year, Gina Marzo joined our team as our social media intern. Gina Marzo is Clay Marzo’s little sister. Why is this important? As a therapist, I so often hear the fears of parents that I treat discussing sibling relationships and the sibling’s relationship with autism. When Gina contacted me to volunteer for us, I thought, “Now that is #siblinggoals." My heart burst because it just again demonstrated that showing up for those that we love comes in all kinds of ways. The very fact that shifting the global conversation around autism is important to Gina just speaks volumes about love.
Healthy Autistic Identity Is Becoming the New Norm
Social media and specifically Instagram has allowed people--autistic self-advocates, their parents, their grandparents, to tell a new story about autism. Really, it used to be actually hard to find people that were talking about neurodiversity being a very reasonable thing. Because people are telling their story, I get to meet some of these people like eleven-year-old drummer Gavin Martin. I started following him on Instagram and I just love his stuff so much that I invited him to Love & Autism. He’s “out” autistic and seemingly living his best life. He’s not alone, in fact, if you have a favorite person, send them my way.
Neurodiversity is Becoming A Thing
Slowly but surely, I find that more and more people have heard this word. This excites me. I’ve taught at college classes and I routinely ask people to honestly raise their hands if this is a familiar word and they know what it means. More and more hands go up every year. What needs to be said about neurodiversity is that neurodiversity doesn’t reduce the need for autistic people to get necessary and personalized supports. This doesn’t reduce the need for educators, therapists, employers, etc. to improve quality of life for autistic people that benefit from support. Neurodiversity doesn’t mean that autistic people don’t have real needs. In fact, it allows it to talk about those needs in a way that extends basic human rights to this group of people.
Love & Autism Continues On
This closes my list for the day. I can tell you that there have been many months where it appeared impossible to continue with Love & Autism. Like many not-for-profits, we are big on ideas and short on cash. I field personal attacks that really hurt. We contend with anger that feels misplaced. We keep adjusting and revising in areas where we are weak. As a fully volunteer run organization, we sometimes feel like we won’t be able to pull it off. And then we do and it’s beautiful.
As much as there are so many things that I want to change in this world. There is still a lot of good. There are kind people, new ideas, people that are risking emotional exposure to share their ideas, change makers and activists. In in all of this, there is always LOVE.
If you would like to be a part of an organization that stands for autistic individuals we invite you to join us. Without the support of our members we would not be able to continue our annual conference. Become a member here.