The Finale 3-10 Sep – #TaketheMaskOff How people have been affected by the weeks.
Over the past 7 weeks of the #TaketheMaskOff event, I have learned a lot about myself. Reading about the experiences of other people, all across the #autism spectrum, has been amazing and confirming. The ActuallyAutistic community makes me feel less alone.
Surprisingly, the event also gave me an unexpected amount of focus. It gave me something significant to write about. Gave me a new topic to think critically about – a topic that only recently became relevant to my daily life.
In writing about autism and masking, and how it applies to both myself and the kids I work with, I have made many new connections between all the disparate dots of my life. I have gained new understandings, of both myself and autism, that may not have been possible otherwise.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve also been listening to the “Hamilton” musical – in true autistic fashion – on repeat, exclusively. (This is true: Nothing but “Hamilton” has played on my car radio for the past 3 weeks!) And the lyrics of “Non-Stop” have been firmly lodged in my brain.
One line in particular always speaks to me: “How do you write like you need it to survive?”
And I thought, well, writing is how I make sense of the world, isn’t it? How I make sense of myself. How I reflect on my achievements and my mistakes. How I learn and adjust to (hopefully) make things better the next time around. Writing makes me aware of what I am doing and why.
Writing about autism allows me to better understand myself, my students, and the wide breadth of experiences across the autistic spectrum. And that’s what this event has brought me.
The underappreciated peace of mind that writing has always given me, but that I’ve always struggled to keep up with. I know now that I do need to write to survive. But when life gets tough, I let it slide, I stop writing, I stop thinking and reflecting, and I just get stuck.
Writing helps me re-center and refocus. Helps me find the hope in the midst of so much daily, constant anxiety. To quote another line from “Hamilton”: “I’ll write my way out.” That’s what I do. That’s what I’ve now learned to do.
Every person’s autism affects them differently. We all have our own unique ways that we cope. We all present ourselves to the world in our own individual fashion. And this is mine. I write. I write about autism. I write about life. I write about the world. I write about myself.
And I’m going to try to make a difference the best way I know how: by writing, and by sharing the stories of others. I am a storyteller. And there are so many stories still left untold.
As people #TaketheMaskOff and venture out into the world, I want there to be a solid precedent for them to follow. I want them to know that there are successful people with autism out in the world. I want to tell them, you can be one of them, however you define success.
I’m still working to define success myself. But I can tell you how I define hope. Hope is knowing that you are not alone, that things can get better. That you will survive. The more people with autism talk about surviving and thriving, the better place the world will be for it.
One more quote from “Hamilton” that seems appropriate here: “Overwhelm them with honesty.” That’s what I aim to do, and what I hope I inspire others to do, too. Be brave. Be true. Be you.
Masking, stimming, mental health, burnout, diagnosis, self-awareness, coping strategies. The #TaketheMaskOff event covered a lot of important topics. I hope the event has been educational for those unfamiliar with autism.
In summing it all up, I have to point out how incredibly important online communities are for people on the spectrum.
By participating in online communities (even if we can only find time to do so sporadically), we gain so much: understanding, guidance, strategies, ideas, tips, and love. Our conversations help us improve our lives.
It is the same in any community, whether you are in a physical neighborhood or an online gathering. It’s why teachers tweet so much, why teens can’t live without social media, and why we love our hashtags so darn much.
Our communities connect us, help us feel less alone, and give our lives structure and meaning. And they give us hope. People with autism need all of that – no matter where they fall on the spectrum.
I hope the #TaketheMaskOff event has inspired everyone to learn a little more about autism, and also helped people to better understand the perspectives of those on the spectrum.