I am more than a diagnosis.
Accept me for who I am.
Understand that I may not always get what you’re saying.
Trust that G-d has me here for a reason.
I am an amazing human being.
Socially, I might not fit in with society’s expectations.
Mentoring can help me along the way.
Don’t forget that I have feelings even if I don’t express them.
Opportunities for my happiness are indeed possible.
Educate and encourage me without prejudice.
Show patience and kindness along the way.
Never give up trying to “get” me.
Ostracizing me will just shut me down.
Take time to try and come into my world.
Defining me as my diagnosis ignores my essence and best qualities.
Emerging talents may arise when you least expect them.
Friendship and honesty is valued to me more than you can imagine.
I am in need of love and tenderness too.
Never let me give up, especially when you see my mood shift.
Expect the unexpected and watch me enrich your life|
Many people will read this and I pray millions will act.
Embrace and empower someone with autism today.
To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight. -E.E. Cummings
I originally wrote this poem on April 8th, 2010. My sons Jason and Ryan were then and three at the time, both having been diagnosed with autism spectrum in 2008.
Ryan was diagnosed first with autism when he stopped speaking around eighteen months old and a variety of behaviours changed. We did a tremendous amount of research about autism and Asperger syndrome and realized that our older son, although he didn’t have the speech challenges of our younger son, had his own set of issues. Both children also had many sensory processing challenges. Justin was diagnosed a couple of months later with Asperger syndrome. Later, at an autism conference, I met some adults on the spectrum, including a couple of women (who present differently) and a light bulb went off in my head. I had been living for over forty years as an undiagnosed Aspie.
At the time, I wrote “Autism Does Not Define Me.” I was fulfilling a pledge to blog once each day during Autism Awareness Month in April. That particular day I felt an overwhelming connection with both Justin and Ryan. I wanted them to know that they have my full support in being who they are and I wanted to remind them that who they are is not defined by a word.
It wasn’t long after I wrote the poem that I founded a non-profit public charity called Autism Empowerment, which launched in June 2011. Our four foundational pillars are Accept, Enrich, Inspire and Empower and we share a message of positivity and support locally regionally and around the world through Autism Empowerment Radio and the development of inspirational programs and services.