Autism In Real Life

Episode 10: The Divide in the Autism Community with Russell Lehman

October 30, 2021 Ilia Walsh, Executive Director of The Spectrum Strategy Group Season 2 Episode 9
Episode 10: The Divide in the Autism Community with Russell Lehman
Autism In Real Life
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Autism In Real Life
Episode 10: The Divide in the Autism Community with Russell Lehman
Oct 30, 2021 Season 2 Episode 9
Ilia Walsh, Executive Director of The Spectrum Strategy Group

Russell Lehmann: Speaker, Poet, Advocate

Russell Lehmann is an award-winning and internationally recognized motivational speaker and poet contextualizing autism, mental illness, and cannabis use. His words have been featured in the USA Today, LA Times, NPR, Yahoo! News, Success Magazine and archived in the Library of Congress.

A graduate of MIT’s “Leadership in the Digital Age” course, Russell sits on the national Board of Directors for The Arc and is a council member for the Autism Society of America. Russell has also been the Youth Ambassador for the mayor of Reno, Nevada, and a member of the Nevada Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities as well as the Nevada Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Russell showed signs of autism as a newborn, however, he was not formally diagnosed until the age of 12 after suffering through 5 weeks in a lockdown psychiatric facility.

His new book, “On the Outside Looking In” recently hit bookstores nationwide.

In 2018, Russell was named as Reno-Tahoe’s “Most Outstanding Young Professional Under 40”.

In 2019 & 2020, Russell lectured for the prestigious King’s College of London and the Mohammed bin Rashid Center for Special Education in Abu Dhabi, respectively. 

Russell currently travels the world spreading hope, awareness, and compassion in a raw and dynamic fashion, while also setting his sights on erasing the stigma and stereotypes that come with having a disability. Russell’s passion is to be a voice for the unheard, for he knows how difficult and frustrating it is to go unnoticed.

Website and Testimonials





Show Notes Transcript

Russell Lehmann: Speaker, Poet, Advocate

Russell Lehmann is an award-winning and internationally recognized motivational speaker and poet contextualizing autism, mental illness, and cannabis use. His words have been featured in the USA Today, LA Times, NPR, Yahoo! News, Success Magazine and archived in the Library of Congress.

A graduate of MIT’s “Leadership in the Digital Age” course, Russell sits on the national Board of Directors for The Arc and is a council member for the Autism Society of America. Russell has also been the Youth Ambassador for the mayor of Reno, Nevada, and a member of the Nevada Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities as well as the Nevada Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Russell showed signs of autism as a newborn, however, he was not formally diagnosed until the age of 12 after suffering through 5 weeks in a lockdown psychiatric facility.

His new book, “On the Outside Looking In” recently hit bookstores nationwide.

In 2018, Russell was named as Reno-Tahoe’s “Most Outstanding Young Professional Under 40”.

In 2019 & 2020, Russell lectured for the prestigious King’s College of London and the Mohammed bin Rashid Center for Special Education in Abu Dhabi, respectively. 

Russell currently travels the world spreading hope, awareness, and compassion in a raw and dynamic fashion, while also setting his sights on erasing the stigma and stereotypes that come with having a disability. Russell’s passion is to be a voice for the unheard, for he knows how difficult and frustrating it is to go unnoticed.

Website and Testimonials





Hello, and welcome to the autism in real life podcast. In each episode, you'll get practical strategies by taking a journey into the joys and challenges of life with autism. I'm your host, Ilia Walsh, and I'm an educator and the parent of two young adults, one of which is on the autism spectrum. Join me as I share my experience and the experiences of others. So that we may see the unique gifts and talents of individuals on the autism spectrum, fully recognized.

Hello, everyone, and welcome. This is Ilia with the spectrum Strategy Group, and I welcome you today I have Russell Lehman here with me. And I'm very excited. As you know, I like to find people from all over the internet and people that I meet. And I think I first found you Russell on LinkedIn, and you were posting work that you were doing and videos, and then it kind of went down the rabbit hole as people do and just started looking, looking for you all over. So and you talk about a variety of topics, and we've picked one particular one that I think is particularly timely. So, but first, before we get into that, if you could you introduce yourself and let people know who you are, and a little bit of the work that you do.

Yeah, sure. Um, firstly, thank you for having me on Ilia. And yeah, my name is Russell layman, I'm a motivational speaker and spoken word poet platform of autism, mental health. And, yeah, so, you know, what I do now is I keynote a lot of conferences, do a lot of workshops facilitate a lot of trainings, surrounding the nuances and ambiguities behind invisible disabilities, I really like to talk about what's not talked about, I really like to initiate vulnerable dialogue, so we can become more aware, you know, we're calling for autism acceptance right now, but I, you know, I fully believe for nine in your close to full awareness. So I really like to, you know, kind of be vulnerable and bear my soul, because there's a lot of people out there,

you know, who are in my situation that have a lot of internal struggles that are invisible. And so, you know, along with my conferences, keynoting conferences and workshops, you know, I write articles, you know, I do videos on social media, obviously. And just to get education out there, you know, awareness is the foundation for acceptance. So awareness is key in all aspects.

Yeah, and I think that's, that's a, that's a really great point, we do talk about awareness versus acceptance versus, you know, advocacy and all these a words. I'm actually doing a talk on Saturday, and we're using similar words, but in a different context.

But yeah, I think you're right, I think we kind of keep looping back and forth. And in between all of those. And, and, and one of the things that I wanted to kind of preface in our conversation, I like how you say, we want to talk about the things that people aren't talking about. And, you know, I think, you know, myself as an advocate, and as a parent, and as an educator, you know, my, my goal, even in doing these podcasts is to just raise that awareness, give people some more information than maybe they would have had, and there's so much information, sometimes it's hard to filter through what's out there. But I feel like we're all trying to do the best that we can with the information that we have. And you know, there are some people who I've recently podcasted with who have gotten really slammed and I'm guessing you might be one of them. There's I think everybody has gotten some kind of, you know, about a particular topic or a particular belief, or just raising an alternative perspective within the Autistic community. And I think they're, you know, I think all of us are well intended, right, we really want to help and do whatever we can and ally with the Autistic community. But I think we all have different approaches, and there's definitely different sentiments within the community. So that's, that's sort of the topic of our conversation is right is the divide in the autism community. So So I thank you for you know, being open to having this kind of, you know, open conversation.

So, yeah, so I don't know, you know, I'm not really sure where to start. There's so many so many places, but one of the first things I yeah, I just really recently did like a short podcast on

feeling invisible, and then sort of expanding on that in, you know, autism being an invisible disability like you just mentioned, and with that comes a lot of different conversations.

So, I'm wondering, like, where do you think is a good place? I know I have like a list of bullets here that we were going to talk about

About but what do you think is the most relevant? Because I know we could probably talk way more than an hour here?

Oh, gosh, I think right now is just the kind of the vitriol and the bullying within the autism community. I mean, that's, there's just so much

hate going around, like you said, for dis altering perspectives, and then sometimes, you know, half the time when I get, you know, hated on.

They're not offering any alternative perspective, they're just literally just saying, I'm a hate, I'm a I'm a hateful person. And I'm doing a lot of harm, but they don't say like, why. And to get those messages, you know, I will have a conversation with anybody. A, it's kind of hard to have a conversation when somebody starts out with insults, but be they don't, they don't offer their own perspective. And I, you know, I don't care how you feel about me, but I do care how you feel about the issues at hand. Too often, I have people tell me how they feel about me, but they're not offering what their different perspective is. And so again, we're like, we're we're not getting in, we're running in circles. And that's very frustrating for me, because I'm very pragmatic guy, I want to hear different perspectives. And I'm happily, you know, I would love to agree to disagree and agree to agree, but half the time we don't even get that we start with name calling, and then just ends and it turns into a food fight of sorts. Hmm.

Yeah. So I'm thinking, you know, one of the areas well, what do you think some of those areas are that create people to, you know, that sort of, I guess, trigger people to have a strong reaction or have a strong emotion where they would just kind of lash out at you personally or myself? You know, because, you know, I don't know, maybe that's the place to start. But what do you think are some of the those hot areas that make people really uncomfortable?

Um, for me, personally, it's, when I talk about two things. One of them is when I talk about the the real suffering that occurs with autism, you know, there's a lot of people out there these days, I'd say autism is not a disability, it's a different ability, right? But for me, and for many others, autism can be very detrimental. You know, I struggle with that every single day. Is it a gift as well? Absolutely. But it doesn't come out come without the struggle, I found my success through the struggle. Far too often, especially during the month of April, we talked about, again, Autism Awareness how great autism is, and it's like magic and unicorns, and you know, all this glitter, but we don't talk about the suicidal ideations, that the isolation, the bitterness towards outside world from being misunderstood all the time. We don't talk about that. And then we expect employers to go and hire these autistic individuals. But once they see this employee who has autism struggle, since we don't talk about it, how are they going to help? They're not familiar with it. So that's one of the biggest issues that people don't like me talking about, again, I think it and I don't know, where it stems, you know, it obviously stems from some kind of insecurity about autism, but uh, you know, obviously, you'd have to ask every individual their own perspective. But another topic I get a lot of, you know, feedback on unpleasant feedback on is the topic of ABA therapy, right? You know, there's this whole anti ABA movement, about, you know, wanting people, a lot of autistic adults think ABA is trying to almost cleanse these young kids of autism. But I mean, ABA is just basically at its core learning how to behave in society. But that's basically it has nothing to do with cleansing autistic traits, obviously, those can't be cleansed or permanent. So again, there's just a whole lot of misunderstanding out there. And there's a whole lot of buzzwords that people, you know, it's kind of that herd mentality. If one person stands up and says, I'm anti ABA, who's with me, a lot of people, especially those in marginalized communities, will say, I'm with you just because they want to feel included, not necessarily because they believe in the message, but they want to have a tribe of sorts. And so there's a lot of differing kind of aspects of this whole bitterness, logical community that needs to really be unpacked forever gonna move forward together.

Yeah, no, I think those are really two important topics. I've recently had conversations about this, this the suffering that occurs with autism and there is and I totally get it, there is a gift that comes with it as well, but we we tend to kind of want to push it and I I like your thinking about it being maybe people feeling insecure, or maybe that there is, you know, we're trying to balance that insecurity. But, you know, with that comes with some of the language that I think has been used in the past which is, you know, the Dutch

diagnosis of Asperger's or maybe it was, you know, high functioning autism. Or, you know, maybe it was PDD NOS, pervasive development disorder. So, you know, and, and I feel like, and I don't even know sometimes how I feel about it, because there's like a balance here. On the one side, it's clinicians are trying to discern, right, like, Okay, where are we in? What are this person? What is this person's need? As well as helping people understand, like, when they're working with someone, or as an educator, working with someone, okay, what am I looking at here? But I think, you know, when we say now that we have just autism spectrum disorder as the diagnosis, I think we really need to look like you said at the individual for each person, it's a very individual thing. And we can we can have some generalizations because of the diagnosis itself. But I think it's about really working with an individual as a whole, which is something I would do anyway, as an educator is how we should kind of work

on it. But I wonder if that's not part of it. And I've heard so many times my, I don't even know how many times I've heard this, my son is 10 years old. He has autism, but he's high functioning.

You know, and it's sort of like, okay, you didn't have to add that part. But I get it, I get it. Yeah, I know. And, you know, it's, that's another odd kind of irony of the autism community is, we all know, if we're a part of this community, we all know how different we all can be right? Again, like you said, we can share some overall general traits and diagnostic criteria, but we are all very unique in our own way. At the same time, there's a huge part of the autism community who wants to speak for the entire spectrum, right, again, anti ABA, for the entire spectrum. You know, there are certain areas of you know, let's let's make autism, again, a different ability for the whole community. So it's odd that, you know, given the uniqueness that we all know about, there are many people out there who have autism who are trying to speak for the whole community. And that's where I get offended, because they're stepping on my toes, right? If you, I make it known, whether it's through my social media, or my presentations, or my articles I write, I will never speak for anybody other than me, my life as anybody's life, our lives are the only life we'll ever get to know, right. So I can't speak. For anybody with autism, I can just relay my experiences and hope they can generalize over income, some food for thought for others, but too often we speak for others without asking if that's okay. And again, we kind of need to kind of reset things and see, where are we at? You know, are we going to focus all this and all this attention on terminology? Or like, are we going to focus it on again, seeing the human behind the diagnosis? Because let's, there are times where say a teacher does everything right, right? For a student with autism, but say they accidentally call the student autistic, but the student doesn't like that, that will change the whole dynamic. For some reason, we have to get past that terminology. If they're doing everything, right. If they mess up on a word, they you just tell them, you don't prefer to be called that way. But again, terminology is such a hot button issue that it takes away from all the good that is being done behind the scenes. And that is unfortunate, because now educators, parents, teachers, doctors,

people, I mean, I don't even know when I'm apparently offending somebody if I refer to myself as someone with autism rather than being autistic. And so it's like, let's talk about something more substantive. Right? I mean, we have things we need, we need things to get done in the society to move our community forward. But it's not going to be done talking about terminology.

Right. And, and it's funny, I'm getting like, the Goosebumps here, as you're saying that because it's it's happened so many times with people that I've worked with who and you're not the first one to say we have to get past the terminology. There's probably three guests that I've had that have said the same thing all adults on spectrum. And, you know, for me, I I've always prefaced it as I kind of move in, I interchangeably say terms in different ways, because I want to make sure I'm covering all my bases. But again, I think it's super important that we yeah, we totally have a lot of work to do, and if we get hung up on the words. And I think we can also raise awareness and educate with words. But if the words can't come, I mean, the word can't come at a price of choosing the right words, I think. Yeah. Yeah, yes. I mean, I mean, I think, again, I have no problem with terminology. What I do have a problem with is

Being all or nothing on a few select terms, right? Again, let's you know, if you want to call yourself neurodivergent, go for it, but to say, How dare you call me autistic? I'm neurodiverse that that's, you know, that's kind of, you know, getting away from the mission at hand. And so again, let's need to kind of refocus on what does the autism community need? Well, we need more transition services after age 18. We need more therapy throughout the lifetime, we need more therapy for individuals with severe autism and their families and respite care, we need more insurance coverages. But we're not talking about any of that we're here fighting about terminology. And you know, whether autism is a disability or not, and it's kind of just ridiculous.

Well, it's funny, because I work with, you know, with an organization that actually is working so hard to try to promote the exact services that you're talking about. And it's very, it's a very hard area, it's really hard to, to get funding for it. But it's also on top of it very hard to get people to come. So adults, you know, who who would need these services, I think sometimes are blocked by the terminology, perhaps or by feeling that they may not need those services, even though maybe others around them feel like they might need the services. And I think that media, there's this mixed message, and then you know, where you're different, you know, well, we think differently, you know, or we just behave differently, okay? Yes, that's true. But if we say that it's not a disability, then a lot of work that's been done so far, is going to get lost, and people aren't going to get the help and support that they need. And in an ideal world, could we say, let's look at each individual. And no matter what they bring to the table and say, yes, what are your needs? And what are your needs? Yes, I love for their world like that. But that's not how are designed especially here in the US. So

it's, it's good to hear that you're also saying these are the things that we need, because it's work that's being done by some people, but it's just so hard to get that connection.

And I wonder if it's because of this thinking, right?

I know, I know, I saw

a preview, I was watching Netflix show in the preview for after my show into a preview for dating on the spectrum aired.

And the intro was an individual with autism saying autism is just a different way of thinking. But no, it is a different way of thinking. But it's not just a different way of thinking. Okay, right. And so again, it's like, no, I just posted on social media, the other day of

autism is the last thing you would think of if, you know, you see me walking down the street, right?

My autism when it presents itself,

because I don't look like I have a disability when I have a meltdown in public when I'm when I'm shaking, crying, hyperventilating, pounding my chest, and just rocking back and forth. People who see that because we don't talk about this, people who see that who are familiar with autism think that I'm either crazy. Or they pretend like I'm invisible and walk right past me. And I don't know which one hurts the most.

And again, that's why we need to talk about this. If I did it, we don't want to talk. We're naturally inclined to have walls, right? We don't want to talk about our weaknesses, especially in front of people we don't know. But that's the only way forward here. We're not going to know how to support one another unless we talk about what we need support with.

Yeah. So what do you think are some of the ways that we can do that? And and, you know, I know we have, there's a couple things I also want to talk about, but

how can you know, we as a community, and I mean, the broader community is, you know, you and I come from different perspectives. But you know, how, what can we do to kind of keep this dialogue going and have people understand

that there's, there's more going on than meets the eye? Right. And I agree with you, and I don't know, I don't know, right? If I saw you on the street having a meltdown, we'll use that term. I don't know what I'd want to be like, Oh, my gosh, what is wrong? You know, is there something we can do, but then would I also be scared and not know what to do? So I would, you know, I, I don't know. And I think it happens, yeah, for sure. Yeah. And you know, if I saw somebody, you know, if I saw grown man kind of doing what I do in public. I don't know. I would acknowledge him, maybe make eye contact and maybe at least give them a smile or a head nod or any some kind of validation. But to walk up to a stranger and approach I don't know, right. So it's a it's an empty area.

Yeah, so I think, you know, ways to start that initiate that vulnerable dialogue like for me, art, you know, I'm a poet, I think, you know, putting my suffering and those experiences into a poem and creating a piece of art through my suffering, a, there's really nothing more cathartic to be able to turn your suffering into a piece of art that you're proud of, but be when I do my spoken word poetry in my presentations.

People love it, you know, that's what art is, art comes from suffering. And art is meant to be a vehicle for dialogue. And so I think if we can get and obviously, a lot of autistic individuals are creatively inclined. So whether it's painting, drawing, writing, you know, music, we can start a lot of these dialogues through that medium. And then there are other ways as well, you know, social media has really been good in that aspect. Obviously, it's a catch 22 with the comments that come with it. But there are a lot of good advocates out there posting really good, thorough deep dives into the nuances of the autistic mind. And I think we need more of that, you know, instead of having these kind of pseudo celebrities with autism, just you know, you know, whether it's on a typical or the good Dr. Sheldon from the Big Bang, we again, that's so superficial and one dimensional. A lot of people you know, I can't tell you how many times people have asked me after they find that I bought to them, they say, Oh, you watch the good doctor, then like, No, I don't watch those kinds of shows. I'm not going to watch the show just because the person has autism. Right. So again, we need to find out a way to get underneath the surface layer, because right now we're all about the surface.

Mm hmm. Yeah, no, that's, that's definitely. It's funny, because people ask me those questions, too. And it's like, yeah, no, I mean, I, then I go, then I think to myself, well, maybe I should be watching them like, because just from knowing what the outside world is, like, looking at and learning from. So maybe from that perspective, it makes sense. But it's also I get to, I want to enjoy shows that I want to enjoy when I'm spending that time.

But well, yeah, yeah. And I think that's where people are learning a lot. And I also think, like you said, media is a catch 22. It can have so many good resources. But but there's a lot of resources that are not that are less than stellar, I will say. And I know I was speaking with

Eileen, I don't know if you know, I lean lamb from the autistic cafe. Yeah. And she was talking she was talking about, you know, the first thing you look up, and we're going to get into the next hot topic here, which is ABA. But if you look up ABA, a lot of things that parents are going to get or educators are going to get is a lot of negative, especially if you put ABA with autism together in the search, because ABA is used for other things. It's not just used for autism, but that's what we think of.

And, you know, I think people will get this really scary impression when they first see something like that. And I know there there is a contingent of people on spectrum who are like, No, this is not all bad. We can't throw out everything because there was some negative, you know, there were some negative ways that were being worked 1020 years ago, so So I'm curious about what your perspective is on the whole ABA piece as well. Because when people you know, I know many people who their kids get diagnosed first, right? They have the rundown? Well, we start 20 hours of ABA therapy, then we're going to add speech, we're going to add ot right, like becomes all this laundry list of things.

So what your perspective is as an adult who, you know, who's also an advocate.

Yeah, I think, you know, it's, you know, I can't tell you how many moms I've reached out to me saying, I don't know where else turn because I joined this ABA Facebook group, and it's not what I thought it was. It's a bunch of anti ABA rhetoric. I want to look for supports for my newly diagnosed child and they're afraid to ask me questions, because if they do, they're automatically shut down, right? Aba is I have no problem with ABA. I have two problems on both sides of it. One from the anti ABA movement. They think anything that is just termed ABA makes it ABA. For instance, there are a lot of you know, BCBAs out there and RBTs who really are adhering to what ABA is all about. They're they're very strict, like you said, you know, the kid comes home from school, then they have another three hours of this and that while it's technically ABA, it's not conducive to any kind of nurturing of the child's abilities Right? So there's there's blame too.

go around on both sides. But for the anti ABA movement to say, we're purely anti ABA, when ABA is again, I never had therapy myself at all growing up, but I did ABA on myself, you know, it's all about learning how to reinforce positive behaviors to become more efficient member of society, right. And for me, that has helped tremendously. And whether you have autism or not, it helps us all tremendously. We all grow up, sub unconsciously having ABA therapy as we're conditioned throughout life. But when it comes to autism, the ABA practitioners, I find oftentimes are way too strict. They're way too hard on the child or the adult, and they're not very person centered at all. It's all about the data. It's all about the stats, it's all about the progress or the regress. But again, let's remember, there's a human here, who just got home from school, they have autism, so they're probably already very overwhelmed. So it's not conducive at all. There are a lot of good ABA practitioners out there, though. So what the anti ABA movement should be doing is saying, okay, ABA can be used as a very good tool, Let's weed out, let's better help these BCBA understand autism experience, so they can better help progress their clients. But to say ABA, just any form of it is bad. It's torture, it's cruelty is absurd. Again, it's very black and white thinking, and I know, you know, I have autism, I'm very black and white thinker. So I get that, you know, a lot of autistic adults who are anti ABA, or, you know, other black and white thinking I get that's part of having an autistic mind, right. But we really need to just kind of look at the big picture and think, you know, especially on the severe end severe autism, it's almost a whole different diagnosis, right. And those kids really, and their families deserve all the help they can get.

Yeah, and I think, you know, as you're saying, and I'm thinking there, I would think, or I would hope there's an organization that's helping families, pick a good therapist, I mean, I think we've seen so many, you know, I've seen a lot of different ABA therapist, and I've seen all the range that you're talking about. And there are definitely some ways to ask questions when you go into find the right person, even though I know it's even harder to find the right people. But what do I ask, you know, we, and I don't know think I'm the right person to come up with maybe we can find the right person who is but you know, if we're, if we're going to get a dog, there's a whole list of things, how do you pick out the right dog, you know, or how do you find the right home for yourself or the right, you know, college or whatever. But I feel like this is a this could be a really good Checklist to help families or, you know, even in conjunction with educators, or clinicians find the right type of person who can deliver the services that someone needs, that works for them specifically. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, if someone were to develop an organization like that, that'd be a terrific, you know, kind of middleman, right? It's almost like a matchmaker for dating services. But for ABA providers, right? Because it is, no matter what therapy that's delivered, therapy, whether it's talk therapy, whether it's ABA, whether it's CBT, DBT. It's all based on chemistry and an emotional connection, right? If those two things aren't there, it's not going to be helpful. It just isn't. So again, I would encourage all new parents especially, and I can get how overwhelming it is, you know, they just want services as quickly as possible. But you really want to hold out until you find someone that you have that gut feeling about parents with kids on the spectrum. There's so much noise. I encourage all of you guys listening to always follow your parental instinct, you know your child better than anybody. If you don't like this person coming into your house, practicing with your child, ABA, you find a different person, trust your gut instinct, because again, you know your child better than anybody ever will.

Yeah, no, absolutely. And I think that goes into another area that you had talked about is parent shaming. I know I've been in I'm in I'm in a lot of family, you know, parent groups. And I've, I think I've never posted in any of them because I don't feel comfortable in most of them. Because I feel like if I say something people are gonna jump all over me. And I'm read but I'm reading some of the there's a lot of desperation in those rooms. Right. And there's a lot of there's also a lot of anger. So I get Yeah, when your kids diagnosed, you're angry. You're sad.

You're not really sure what the next steps are. Um, but if I was new coming, I mean, I have I have a 23 year old son, so I'm not new to this. But if I were new, and I was hearing that information, in some ways, it's better that there wasn't this kind of social media back then because I probably wouldn't have been right, I would have been freaking out and not knowing what to do at all. Yeah, I mean, it's a it's almost gaslighting, you know, it's, these parents are, they're trying to help their kids, and then all of a sudden, they think that they're the ones possibly contributing to their child struggles. Because of all the noise out there. You know, there's a lot of parent shaming, and I am unsure of why, you know, I can probably guess, which probably might not be the smartest thing to do in public. But, you know, maybe the majority of autistic adults just don't like their parents. So they think that's the way all autistic people are raised by their parents, I don't know. But again, let's remember that

parents are very much part of the autism journey, just as much as an individual. And to shame a parent is shaming the child of that parent, right? If you're really trying to help autism community, if you're really trying to help autistic individuals,

there is no room for parent shaming there and learning just like everybody else, I'm still learning about autism, and I have autism for 30 years now, right. So to expect a parent to be absolutely perfect in every aspect, even 20 years down the road, 23 years down the road for you is absurd. Parents, with our kids with kids who don't have autism, they're still learning. So let's set some people some slack here, you know, we're all again, trying to figure this thing out called Live makes it a lot more difficult when the rules change in this game, when autism comes into the picture, but let's have some slack. And again, it boggles my mind that here we all are struggling, whether it's parents struggling to find resources or, or individual's adoption, autism struggling with social dynamics, we're all in some kind of struggle right now. But we're fighting with each other instead of collectively coming together. And that struggle, we can bond through that if we start talking about it, we can relate. Oh, I felt that way before to, oh, I know where you're coming from. If we talk about the one commonality we all share, which is struggle, we can bond through that and become much closer as a community, and then figure out a way to move forward together.

Yeah, wow. I think that's, that's super powerful. Because I think that's where, you know, I think my mission is to kind of be as open and transparent as I can be. I think, in my learning process, as a parent, and as an educator, I think I, you know, I think I'm trying to, you know, again, validate parents experience, validate the teacher experience, and, and sort of say, Yes, this is complicated, life is complicated, just, it's complicated enough without adding any other variables on there. But we're all working toward it. And as we see people who are, like, kind of just doing the work and learning and being able to just take in more information, and I see it, as you know, kind of take what serves you and your family. And you know, leave the rest. It doesn't have to be that you take all you it's not an all or nothing like you're saying, I had always seen myself as sort of like a general contractor with my kids. And it was sort of like, okay, what is my kid need now? Or I have to So what what is, you know, wasn't my daughter need was my son need? And let's sort of pull in those resources. And I think being super attuned to your child's needs or significant other other family member, like, what is that? And then sort of working together to come up with a strategy? Seems Wait, like, it makes way more life sense. I don't know. But yeah, that's sort of the approach. I try to enlist. Yeah.

Yeah. And then another thing that goes under, I guess it's just not covered enough is

for me from my own lived experience. But again, I'm not going to speak for everybody, but from many individuals I've encountered. People with autism are usually very passionate about a few select things in life, right? They usually, you know, tend not to be interested in, you know, corporate finance, for instance, right? We're not dreaming up to be about going to a nine to five we tend to be those kind of creative, uniquely thinking.

People that are very passionate about the stuff they like to do and if we can nurture that passion at a young age

that's gonna alleviate a lot of that's going to be huge outlet. All right. We need to find out what's right as kids with autism

even for adults with autism, because if the kid doesn't have an outlet with autism, they're gonna start start bottling their emotions up, and then get to the point where they're an adult. And they might feel like taking out their anger on somebody else, which is what is happening right now. So again, it's like, let's focus on the human. Like, I love what you said earlier about in a utopia, you know, wouldn't matter if the person has autism or not, let's just see them as a human, let's be emotionally intelligent, let's be emotionally aware. And just see that human, validate them for whatever they're going through. And maybe the four most magical words you can always ask anybody is, how can I help? Right? Let's just go from there.

Yeah, no, I think I think that's a really good place to kind of pause. And I know that there's so much that that you have that we can we could talk about, and I would love to have you come back to talk about some of your other areas. But but in the meantime, where can people find more of your work?

Yeah, so my, my main, the main source of all my work, and what I do is my website, it's be autistic From there, you can find all my social media links. I'm basically mostly just on Instagram, Youtube and LinkedIn right now. But the artistic poet calm will kind of give you my life story, the presentations, I have to offer testimonials, there's poetry on there, there's a bunch of good stuff.

And yeah, there's a contact form, too. So if you ever need to reach out for advice, or if you want me to speak at your event, feel free to contact me there.

That's awesome. Thank you so much for being with me today. And I really appreciate all this information. I think you've given people a lot to think about as far as what we mean when we talk about autism, awareness and acceptance, particularly if we go back to the those those two words. And yeah, and really think about what that means for us, as you know, no matter how we're connected. So thank you so much. And I look forward to chatting with you again. Yeah, thank you so much for having me on. I appreciate it.


Thanks for listening to autism in real life. This is Ilia Walsh. And if you like the show, please hit subscribe so you can get notified each time a new episode is released. I also offer training, consultations and parent coaching and would love to help you in any way that I can. You can check out my offerings at the spectrum strategy calm and when you join my email list. You can get a code to receive a discount off of an online class or a coaching session. Looking forward to hearing from you take care and see you next time.

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