What This Autistic Teacher would like Professionals to Know . . .
ONE: Many of us on the autism spectrum embrace the word “autistic” and prefer the use of autistic over phrases such as “with autism” or “with Aspergers.” Autistic isn’t a bad word. How one refers to oneself is a personal preference.
TWO: Autism Spectrum Disorder is the correct terminology for an autism diagnosis. “Disorder” serves its purpose in diagnosing and receiving services. But some on the autism spectrum would prefer “condition” over “disorder.” Autism is a neurological condition. “Disorder” implies that something is out-of-order. Condition is more so a state of being. Some autistic people embrace the word disabled, others do not. It’s a personal choice. Some are disabled and some are not.
THREE: NT means neurotypical and is a common word used in neurodiverse circles. NT means someone who is not autistic. The use of NT in some ways creates lines and separations between autistic individuals and mainstream folks. A growing trend is found in using the word non-autistic instead of NT. We are all neurodiverse. Some of us our neurodivergent.
FOUR: Disability inclusion in the workplace is a beneficial practice for everyone involved. Disability inclusion is most beneficial when the process includes input from disabled individuals and not just non-disabled people; this seems commonsense, but is something that is overlooked. Input from the minority about policy, accommodations, and implementation of accommodations is not only important, it’s vital. Have a diversity roundtable? Then please ensure the diverse minority is represented.
FIVE: The best source for autism is an autistic person. Professionals on the spectrum, LGBTQ+ autistics, autistic parents raising autistic children, and/or autistics married to autistic spouses have a lot of information to offer out about autism. In addition, books, videos, and blogs created by autistic authors and writers are a valuable source.
SIX: Common search terms on social networks can lead to the autism community. There are 1000s of autism groups on Facebook and many autistics connect on Twitter. You can use hashtags to find us. #ActuallyAutistic #AutisticElders
SEVEN: We don’t lack empathy. That’s a huge myth. Most of us are overly empathetic, e.g., double-empathy theory. There are specific reasons we might appear to lack empathy. Some of us take time to process our emotions, especially if the emotion is extreme, such as elation or sorrow. Also, there are times we show empathy in ways that aren’t expected or in ways viewed as atypical. But we do have strong feelings, especially about suffering, manipulation, bullying, discrimination and dishonesty. And generally speaking, we have huge compassion for the underdog, animals, and nature.
EIGHT: We do make eye contact. Not always, and not all of us, but we can. A lot of individuals who seek out a diagnosis of ASD are told they can’t be autistic because they make eye contact. That’s wrong. We also can dress well, look professional, and blend in. We don’t all fit one stereotype. We all have quirks, and many embrace our quirks. We have learned that in order to blend in, and not be shamed, it’s sometimes best to hide a part of ourselves. In addition, individuals on the autism spectrum are commonly very effective at putting on a façade (masking). Not necessarily on purpose, or even at a conscious level, but in order to socially survive.
NINE: Not all of us are good with technology and not all of us would consider ourselves “geeks.” We are all different, just as much as people who aren’t autistic. Our interests and vocational choices vary greatly. There are some commonalities in career choices, but they aren’t across the board. Many on the spectrum are drawn to service-oriented careers, such as teaching, psychology, counseling, writing, nursing, and animal care. Our vocational passions and list is practically endless. Unfortunately, a large percentage of adult autistics in many countries are either unemployed or underemployed. Typically, because they can’t find a place to fit in.
TEN: For the most part, autistic individuals are comfortable around other autistic individuals. We know what it feels like to be ostracized and misinterpreted. We are generally very accepting of differences and open-minded. We are sometimes over-apologetic, explaining ourselves at length, as that’s what we are used to doing. But in autistic groups we can be ourselves. And, after a lifetime of not fitting in and not being understood, that is very freeing. Empirical evidence demonstrates many of us have no social deficits when amongst other autistic people.
Marcelle Ciampi (aka Samatha Craft) is a respected autistic author and community advocate, is best known for her writings found in the well-received book Everyday Aspergers. A professional educator, she has been featured in various literature, including peer-reviewed journals, Autism Parenting Magazine, The Mighty, Project Aspie, Art of Autism, and Different Brains. Marcelle works as the Recruitment Manager and Outreach Specialist at Ultranauts Inc., an engineering firm with a neurodiversity-hiring initiative, and is a consultant for Uptimize and Spectrum Fusion. A contributing author of Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism, Marcelle speaks globally on the topic of neurodiversity. She also serves as the founder of Spectrum Suite LLC, the co-founder of the Spectrum Lights Inclusion Summit, co-executive of LifeGuides for Autistics (neuroguides.org), and a contributor and advisor to autism organizations and conferences internationally. Some of her works, especially The Ten Traits, have been translated into multiple languages and been shared in counseling offices around the world. She resides in the Pacific Northwest U.S.A. with her sons and life partner.
“Everyday Aspergers is an unusual and powerful exploration of one woman’s marvelously lived life. Reminiscent of the best of Anne Lamott, Everyday Aspergers jumps back and forth in time through a series of interlocking vignettes that give insight and context to her lived experience as an autistic woman. The humor and light touch is disarming, because underneath light observations and quirky moments are buried deep truths about the human experience and about her own work as an autistic woman discerning how to live her best life. From learning how to make eye contact to finding ways to communicate her needs to being a dyslexic cheerleader and a fraught mother of also-autistic son, Samantha Craft gives us a marvelous spectrum of experiences. Highly recommended for everyone to read — especially those who love people who are just a little different.”
~ Ned Hayes, bestselling author of The Eagle Tree