Victoria is a Neurodivergent advocate, speaker, and blogger from the U.K. She blogs at Actually Aspling on topics related to autism acceptance. This week she discussed her path to achieving an autism diagnosis and how she has since learned to accept and celebrate her differences.
What led you to pursue an autism diagnosis?
It was a couple of different factors which led me to pursue a diagnosis. I’d always felt different, you know? Like I didn’t fit in with everyone else. I saw myself on the outside looking in, but never part of the group. I’d also noticed what made me different, my actions and behaviours weren’t like all my peers, for example, processing conversations; I would be able to respond straight away and most times I’d take things extremely literally. All these things added up. My mum also told me a little bit about my childhood, and after researching a few ‘typical traits,’ I knew I had to pursue a diagnosis. I wanted to. I’d also read the book ‘Thinking in Pictures’ by Temple Grandin, and I remember going to my mum and saying “Mum, it’s me,” and that was pretty much it.
You recently wrote an article about “owning your weird,” getting rid of your mask, and embracing your Autistic identity. Can you give some specific examples of how your behavior and attitude has changed since you’ve gone through this process?
I’ve definitely become more accepting of myself. I’m less bothered by what other people think of me. I’m weird, I know I’m weird, and I’m totally embracing that. How have I done this? Well, I’ve been on this journey of self discovery; I’ve ‘re-found’ myself. In terms of unmasking, that’s a slow burner, but I’m much more comfortable in my own skin. For example stimming whilst I’m out, I’d never used to, but now I take tangles and fidget cubes out with me and play with them. I’ve accepted my differences, and it helps me, so why not?
What have your parents, teachers, or peers done to encourage you to “own your weird?”
My parents have embraced me. They’ve always supported and encouraged me and my interests. They know what I’m like, how loud and crazy I can be, and they have allowed me to flourish. As far as teachers, I found high school incredibly challenging–of course I was undiagnosed then. But my university lecturers have all gotten to know me, in particular my supervisor Dr Vital, I’d say he knows me and my quirks pretty well, and he just allows me to be myself and encourages me to be independent and grow as a person, whilst offering support along my journey, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.
On the other hand, what resistance have you experienced since you’ve learned to embrace your Autistic identity?
Resistance? There’s a lot in society that is deemed ‘inappropriate behaviour;’ society looks down on anything different, it fears it. I get the odd look and comment occasionally, which frustrates me, but I try not to be bothered by it. I just try to be myself, stimming and all, but that isn’t always welcomed.
Tell me about your Youtube channel. What inspired you to start it? Who is your audience?
Ah, I actually started my channel a couple of years ago, but I’ve come back to it recently, although I don’t upload as often as I probably should. I wanted to be able to use my voice and share my experiences with the hope of helping and inspiring others, to educate and support. It’s aimed at Autistic individuals and parents mainly, I’d say.
Who are your best allies and why?
I’d say the rest of the Autistic community, we are united (mostly) and stand together. It’s a wonderful space to be part of, and we all strive to make positive changes for Autistic people. There’s also some wonderful teachers and parents out there too!
Any advice for parents of Autistic children who want to raise their children to positively embrace their Autistic identity as early as possible?
It’s about embracing who you are and not being ashamed of yourself. All that matters is how you perceive yourself, not how the world perceives you. For parents, just keep reminding your Autistic children that they are amazing (because they are), there’s nothing they can’t do, and to be proud of who they are! It’s difficult because of society and the demands, but we have to be true to ourselves, and honestly, what even is normal? I’m proud of who I am and what I can achieve!