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A Year of Reflection: Breaking the Walls of Autism Myths

Updated: Jan 9, 2022

By Melissa Lushington, "Don't Cut Corners...Unless It's Cake" Blog Series - Slice #24

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

On Wednesday, November 10, 2021, I watched a YouTube video from The Wee Family titled, Autistic Girl Emotionally Reacts To New Room Setup | Quarantine Day 10. In the video, David and Stacee's daughter Braylee react emotionally, heartwarming to seeing her new room. In the description box, David explains that he used the term 'emotional' in the video's title for a very important reason. His reason is to break an autism myth of autistic people being described as 'detached and emotionless' when he states, "I added the word "emotionally" to my title of this video because so many times, I hear or see Autism being described as detached and emotionless. Recently, I saw the portrayal of Autism being exactly like that on a popular TV show. I am here to say that is wrong. Braylee shows 1st hand that she feels the same type of feelings we all do." According to an article titled, What Are The Common Misconceptions Of Autism? Misconceptions of what Autism can create isolation and loneliness for autistic individuals. Like The Wee Family using their platform to break barriers and misconceptions about Autism. I've spent most of this year breaking barriers and misconceptions about Autism as well.

One of the misconceptions given about Autism, according to an article from the website, is that people with Autism can't form meaningful relationships and friendships. I'm here to debunk that myth by saying that as an autistic individual, I do have a history of forming meaningful connections and friendships with people throughout my life. Two examples that will always stand out to me the most would be my experiences in high school. When I was a sophomore, I was rehearsing for a school production called The Wiz with my drama club classmates and friends. One day after school, I went to the classroom across from the music room for rehearsal, and when I walked in, I was surprised to see that it was a surprise birthday party for me! There were cupcakes, opera singing, and a signed birthday card with everyone's signatures inside. When I was a junior, I was in the middle of an SAT Math class when my teacher answered the door. She called me to the front, and I saw that one of my friends had given me a handmade birthday card with many signatures on it.

Other examples would be the connections and friendships I made during my experiences as a college student at the Community College of Philadelphia. Even now, since being a blogger for the Verge of Independence Project: Multimedia Autism Advocacy Organization, I've made meaningful connections and friendships with other autistic creators throughout the experience. Going back to June 16, 2020, I emailed autistic Author David Petrovic about the blog post he wrote about theater and Autism in a blog post for Autism Speaks. On June 19, 2020, I received a reply email from David Petrovic, who gave me his positive feedback on the blog post that I wrote about theater and Autism, which mentioned him, and the blog post he wrote for Autism Speaks. He gave me his heartfelt sentiments and support when he stated, "Hi Melissa, I enjoyed it very much! Thanks for giving me a shout-out on your blog!! I'll post it and will mention it on my Facebook page. Thanks for letting me know about the website, and best of luck in your career." He then shared my blogs in a Facebook post that he made on June 21, 2020.

Then on March 15, 2021, I wrote an email to Heather Renee, and Julia Raye from the YouTube Podcast channel Sit Back and Overreact about their podcast episode of Sia's Movie Music. I also mentioned to them my blog and shared it with them as well. A few days later, Heather sent me a thoughtful reply stating that she appreciates my thoughtful comments on her podcast episode and gave me her thoughtful comments about my blogs when she stated, "We checked out your blog and like some of the stuff on there! We record our episodes in advance by a few weeks, but I think we'd definitely be interested in chatting about it next time we record." On Sunday, April 11, 2021, she and Julia made their season one finale podcast episode, where they talked briefly about me and my blogs. On August 6, 2021, I emailed The Wee Family about the wonderful content that they make on their channel, and I also shared with them my blogs as a link attachment. By next month in September, I received a reply email from David, who gave such thoughtful words of gratitude and encouragement when he stated, "Hi Melissa, Thank you for your message! We are happy you found our YouTube channel, and it is good to hear that you find value in our videos. I have seen your emails and messages about your blog, and I was finally able to take some time and check it out. You are a talented writer, and I think it's time to share what you do." Then on October 1, 2021, The Wee Family uploaded their video wherein David shared and promoted my blogs in his segment called Coffee with David. I've also received wonderful support from other autistic creators such as BostongirlTv, who shared my blogs in a community post on YouTube, Francesca (Neurodivergent Franchfries), who shared my blogs on her Facebook page, James Dilbeck (JJ's Autistic Journey), who shared my blogs in a YouTube video and on his Facebook page, Adam and Holly Anderson (7-Ahead) who shared my blogs on their Facebook page titled Raw and Real Autism Mom, and many more! The most amazing support that I've received so far would be from autism mom and Author Mare McHale, whose YouTube channel is Redhead Mare. I sent her an email on October 13, 2021, and she sent me a beautiful reply two weeks later thanking me for giving her support on her comment and she gave me the most beautiful compliment and support about me and my blogs when she states, "Thank you for sharing the link to your blog. I truly loved your piece on Julia from Sesame Street. Your writing is brilliant, and the Autism community is lucky to have such a great voice in you. Keep working hard, and your cape will fly strong!".

Reading that comment from her truly meant more to me than any other compliment I have received so far. The reason why is because all I want to do is make a positive difference and create a positive impact for the autism community and myself who's part of the autism community by writing blogs that promote independence, social confidence, and self-advocacy. I also want to write blogs that promote autism acceptance, and I want to raise awareness about issues that offend the autism community. Having a statement like this from someone amazing as Mare McHale gives me confidence and confirmation that I am doing my job well and that my work as a blogger and advocate has its place and purpose in the autism community!

In conclusion, autistic individuals like me want relationships and friendships with other people. We can form friendships and relationships with other people; we do it in our way. As stated from the article and website mentioned above, "People with Autism often have very strong bonds with important people in their lives. They can and do have fulfilling relationships with family, friends, partners, and children. Studies have shown that most people with Autism want to form relationships with others. Still, they often find it difficult to understand social cues and navigate social interactions." After reading this blog, I hope that you will understand that misconceptions and myths about the autism community are harmful, but they also can hinder us from getting the proper help we need to function in life fully. As stated again by the article and website mentioned above, "This lack of understanding can make it difficult for people on the Autism Spectrum to have their condition recognized and to access the support they need." To all autistic creators I mentioned in this blog, I just wanted to thank you for making 2021 memorable for me by giving your support, kindness, friendship, encouragement, and appreciation for what I do for the autism community. Please give your support to those mentioned in this blog by checking them out on YouTube, Facebook, and more. I also want to thank everyone who has been supporting me and my blogs for two years now, and I hope that you will continue to support me next year and beyond. Happy New Year to you all. Cheers to 2022!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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