The importance of being whole...
Far too often, I hear from professionals who tell me that their clients have a feeling of being alone or somehow doomed because of their autism. This is especially common for the teen population.

(This poster was created by a group of Autistic Adults to help the rest of the world understand what Autism really is...)
Autism_is.jpg

Recently I had the chance to speak to educators in my area about advocacy and the importance of autistic people being able to advocate. But there is a block sometimes to this. Namely, many autistic people (teens especially, though I was guilty of it too) deny their diagnosis and get very angry because they feel broken.

(This is a very common reaction to receiving any medical "label" and I have documented some strategies that help with this issue in the "Label and Label Acceptance" tab.)

My suggestion to these teachers, and one great strategy to begin the process of both label acceptance and advocacy, is to change the autistic person's mind about what autism is. Unfortunately, the public image of autism is often pretty skewed towards the negatives. We have to understand and work with the negatives while embracing our strengths towards being whole people. Teach this new perception via introducing them to others with autism and also by pointing them to autistic role models. It is important that autistic people connect with their community and their culture so they feel a sense of validation and inclusion. It is important for them to see that autistic people are still people and still valued in society.

Self-esteem is where all good human abilities begin.
Here is a starting point for presenting autistic role models that teachers can use. It is not hard today to find others. If your autistic student, client, or son/daughter cannot name 3 autistic role models, start this task today! This should be required protocol in every school and professional office. I have yet to go into an ASD classroom and see anything on the walls beside ethnocentric viewpoint posters telling us about how broken we are. I cannot stand to be in these rooms for any time and it doesn't surprise me even a little when I hear that an autistic kid is resorting to violence (either in that classroom or later at home) after being exposed to these messages all day long. I always recommend that these kids learn about their role models and get away from these classrooms and their "you're broken" messages and you know what? So far this works every time to make things better. (cheaper and healthier than drugs....)

Start HERE if you have or know a kid who thinks they are broken because they are autistic.
An introduction to Autism and Neurodiversity
A message to Autistic Teens from Autistic Adults
4 autistic kids strut their stuff (MUST watch!)

Look at all the Autistic Role Models!!
50 Inspiring Autistic People of 2011 (autistic role models list by the AutCast)
Top 10 Autistics Known Today
Freshman (HS) football player
Different ...Not Less (book by Temple Grandin about adults on the spectrum who are working)
9-year-old autistic singer/songwriter on heroes (very real; Toys "R" Us commercial)
Teen doing the swim thing on HS varsity team
Autistic teen's graduation speech (top of his class!)
Autistic teen graduates with honors in magnet school after tough middle school experience
Another autistic graduates and goes to college
Autistic teens on YouTube
Kyle Coleman, severely autistic singer
12 year old talking about advocacy to large audience (very gifted, but considered IQ-challenged at first)
Autistic Eagle Scout!
College valedictorian headed to Medical School

Label Acceptance (not parents accepting that their child is disabled, but the person themselves accepting):
Crash course on acceptance of ASD label
Stages of grief of label acceptance (yep, I did these)
Diagnosis acceptance (fantastic short clip of Dr. Barkley describing ADHD adult DX emotions... yep)