Joely was 2 years old when she was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum, and 13 years old when she was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Joely says getting the diagnosis was “life changing, it was amazing to finally have a reason for the way I was feeling but then started the long and difficult journey of understanding and accepting my autism.”
Joely is supporting our Accept My Autism Campaign this April. The campaign invites people with autism to share their thoughts on what others can do to create a community that is open and accepting.
We follow her journey to not only accepting but embracing her autism diagnosis.
In our quest for Autism Acceptance what is the first word that you think of when you hear the word autism? As an autistic young woman, I first think of the word ‘beauty’. I always have, and probably always will and here is the reason why.
You see, autism, is a beautiful disability that impacts every second of my life, in a multitude of complicated, hard, frustrating and invisible ways. However, I have learnt that this is ok because I wouldn’t change my disability for the world. I love my AspergerWorld, after all; thanks to the beautiful and unique positive attributes and unique perspective that my ability gifts me with on a daily basis.
My name is Joely Williams (nee Colmer) and I am a passionate National and World Award Winning Autism Activist, Motivational Speaker and best selling Author of “AspergerWorld : My Fairy Jam Jar” book. I was diagnosed as autistic when I was 2 years old.
Learning to understand my disability changed my life for the better. From this understanding of my hardships, my disabilities and many positive attributes, came my biggest wish; to help empower understanding of the hidden hardships and quirks of my disability in order to enable autism acceptance, and change lives.
So what is Autism Acceptance?
To me, it’s accepting, that my differences do not make me bad, or un worthy of help or happiness.
I also believe that Autism Acceptance is moving past your fears, perceptions and ideologies of what autism is, it’s always challenging your perceptions and learning more from as many different perspectives as possible because you accept that all autism is different.
Autism Acceptance says that the tragedy would be trying to make me be any other way other than unashamedly myself. It is accepting that the environment needs to change to enable us to be the best we can be, not the autistic people.
Acceptance is striving to understand; in my eyes, acceptance is not forcing autistic people to hide their autism, or mask it, to fit in to be normal, rather it’s accepting that certain behaviours or characteristics are defence modes for a reason - purely to help us process and cope; for example our stimming, need for time out, day dreaming or shutdowns. It’s accepting that these things help, even if they seem unconventional, even if you cant see it helping.
It’s accepting that the best they can be may not be like your friend’s poster children or your other autistic friend. Its accepting that your child’s achievements, or your own, may seem non existent to people that don’t live your life but that they are still achievements, nonetheless. It’s accepting that surviving a day of non activities, is actually achieving a lot, in the face of mis understood adversity. It’s accepting that flowers can’t grow without a little rain.
It’s accepting that one minute I may not look autistic and the next I’ll be stereotypically autistic. It’s accepting that capabilities, skills and hardships fluctuate and change, on a daily, if not, hourly basis, depending on our environment. It’s accepting that not one autistic person is the same as another and just because our capabilities change does not mean our autism is fake or not ‘real’ autism or any less than another autistic person. Different is not less.
To accept us is to make a conscious effort to overcome any prejudice or misunderstandings, to recognise that any discomfort with our differences is far more your problem to overcome than ours. It is accepting that the environment is what needs to be fixed, not the autistic person.
It’s accepting that there is no shame in having these misconceptions or misunderstandings; it’s an invisible disability, after all; even experts are still learning and that’s what is important. Autism Acceptance is all about learning and trying to improve our understanding and never settling with the knowledge you have. Autism Acceptance is to enable us to be the best we can be by trying to understand and challenge what we think we already know.
Ultimately, it’s accepting that, in all the diversities of the beautiful autistic spectrum, we are all AUSOME, in our own unique ways.
I believe there is a lot to celebrate in autism; our honesty, loyalty, punctuality, motivation, passion and our innate need for justice, to abide by the rules, laws, and protocols. The beautiful fact that as autistic individuals we have an innate need, due to the way we process information, to always try to do the correct, right, justified thing or action – this means that often, we find ourselves masking or hiding our autism because we have been taught that being ourselves is wrong, no matter how counterproductive the mask is, no matter how much the mask harms us- we try to do what we perceive to be the right thing. Not to mention the joyous passions and desire to learn
anything and everything about a topic of interest, and then the ability to systemise data and process information fact first, then emotions or old memories, which means, I, as an autistic individual am very good at remembering facts, dates and information of interest. Yes, I rather love my autism, and although it’s complicated, I can't help but feel, that it is so beautiful, with all its hidden depths and quirks, too.