Emmalia Harrington is a nonfiction writer with a deep love of speculative fiction. Her work has previously appeared in Disability in Kidlit, All the Weight of Our Dreams, and FIYAH. She’s a member of the Broad Universe writing guild. This week she shared some of her writing process and autism advocacy advice.
What type of writing do you enjoy most? Why?
I like writing speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, etc.) It’s fun playing with possibilities and making my own worlds.
How do you balance writing for work and pleasure?
I write for work at one time of day, and for myself later on. As I write a specific type of non-fiction for a living, it’s easy to keep the two apart in my head.
Describe something one of your parents or teachers did to support you that you found especially helpful.
After a hellish high school experience that gave me PSTD symptoms, I enrolled in a college with professors that cared about me. My advisor was visibly excited to have me as a student.
Describe the level of autism awareness or acceptance in your community. Do you feel part of a community that is embraced and supported? Tokenized? Misunderstood? Stigmatized? Some combination of these?
My family accept my disability, and I live with a very supportive spouse. I’m also active with a social club for autistic women.
There’s also the occasional jackass on public transportation that uses “autistic” as a casual insult.
What is something about autism that you think surprises neurotypicals (Or a misconception you encounter)?
I’m nothing like Rain Man or Sheldon. I’m not a math genius, computer programmer or anything like a Vulcan. It also bothers me how most autistic people in media tend to be white, male, and heterosexual. I’m none of the three.
What ableist mistakes do autism advocates make?
Don’t talk over us. We may need allies to help amplify our message. This is not the same as being center stage.
What can parents of young autistic children do to promote the development of positive autistic identity?
Respect your kids’ boundaries. Don’t kiss them if they say no, don’t force them to visit people they hate, and if they say something hurts, they’re not lying.