As an autistic person, I am tired of hearing autism being used as an insult and a joke. It has become somewhat normalised. Looking back this is probably one of the reasons I began a spiral of self-hatred following my diagnosis.

I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at age 11, young and shy I had just started secondary school. It was in this environment that I often heard jokes with autism as the punchline. I didn’t understand why people like me were so looked down upon by certain neurotypical members of society. As people we are the products of our environment, this environment caused me to be clouded with shamed and self-hatred regarding my new diagnosis. I considered it my deepest darkest secret that I vowed not to tell a soul.

This mindset that I had acquired caused me to reject the accommodations that my school were offering me; I didn’t want anyone to find out. I was making my own life my version of hell because I couldn’t even accept myself. I have memories of me sat crying in my head of years’ office or tucked away corners drowning in my own self-hatred.

It wasn’t until I learned to accept myself for who I was that I began to have a more positive outlook on life. It was a hard journey. I’m not going to hide it but one that was worth it. I had to unlearn what society had imprinted upon me. I was not incapable and unsociable but talented in the areas I had a great interest in, compassionate and reliable. Whilst being autistic has and still does make aspects of life significantly more difficult for me it is also a gift and a blessing.

Yes, some autistic people may not be able to communicate verbally at times but we have learnt alternative ways to express ourselves.

Yes, we may struggle in specific sensory environments but as autistic people, we see the world from a different perspective.

Yes, some of us may be unable to tell a lie or keep a secret but we tell you the truth when you need to hear it and don’t hide from it.

Yes, we may find it difficult to understand abstract and/or metaphorical concepts but without autistic people, we wouldn’t know about gravity, have the iPhone or any apple products, or the beautiful poetry of Emily Dickinson.

Being autistic is something that I am proud of, it is a part of me and that isn’t going to change anytime soon.