Kerrin Maclean is an Autism advocate from New Zealand. She vlogs at Aspie Answers, spreading awareness of Autism and invites viewers to witness the everyday life of an ‘Aspie.’ Maclean is also the author of Life of an Aspie and blogs at Life of an Aspie. This week she shared tips for spreading autism understanding and acceptance.
When/how did you become aware of your autistic identity?
I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, which is now being called Autism under the new diagnostic criteria. This is also known as an ‘Invisible’ condition and can be difficult for many females. Many of you may feel that we are just seen as quirky, shy, emotional, and difficult, or even blunt and outspoken. Whatever feelings or traits that we display, we are who we are, and we just need to be understood and not taken advantage of.
Before being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, my parents and I may have felt that I was sometimes obnoxious, shy, quiet, rude, selfish, and cruel to some extent. The whole mass of feelings inside of me that I do portray then comes with the label “Drama queen” from many people who see me, along with many other labels, and certain labels can be damaging.
What inspired you to write Life of an Aspie?
After talking to some people on Facebook, I felt that regardless of my diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome and a host of other mental health conditions, it was time for me to be a voice, advocate, and/or educator for the ones who don’t have a voice yet. I wanted to become a voice to let others like me know that they’re not alone.
I believe strongly that with some of my life experiences- BIG OR SMALL -, some people may be able to relate somehow. When I wrote Life of an Aspie based on my everyday life experiences and struggles, I believed that we could embrace our identities and have the choice to speak out and make a change/difference to anyone who we may meet or come face-to-face with. I’ve always had a passion to write as well as being able to try and help people no matter what they’re facing. This includes being there for others if they needed someone to talk to, or being a listening ear or a sounding board, or offering, if needed, a piece of advice. In addition to writing this book, I have also been vlogging, and I hope sometime soon to do an updated version of my book.
I feel really strongly about other people’s thoughts and feelings, so I guess I’m also empathetic. I was also hoping this book might help remove the stigma and stereotyping about autism and mental health. I wanted to give others a better understanding and knowledge about autism and illustrate that not all autistics are the same.
Excerpt from Life of an Aspie: Looking into Everyday Life with Aspergers Syndrome:
We should at least enjoy every part of life as it comes. We should at least enjoy life by embracing it by being happy and at peace within ourselves and others around us. We should always live in the present and not worry too much about the future as it has not arrived yet for us. Life is also about learning the everyday lessons along the way. The trials and challenges we endure and face can determine everything about us and our future. Life is also about self-discovery – finding out who and what we really are as a person. I believe strongly that we all have a purpose and a reason in life as this is to why we are here today – to make a better start to the day starts with us.
What are you most passionate about?
There are quite a few things that I am passionate about, and they are my love for cooking, listening to music, singing, dancing, writing, vlogging, or whatever other means that allows me to show my creative side. I also love to read and be around people who love me and accept me for who and what I am as a whole, and not just an autistic. I love to learn new languages and different cultures. I also love animals, especially ones that will keep me company and at ease with my health. This are just a few things I am passionate about.
What are some of the most important things neurotypicals can do or understand that would make life easier for people on the spectrum?
- Accept us for who we are as people and don’t make us someone we are not to meet your expectations.
- Don’t forever be talking down to us! After all, we are still human despite our different ways of communicating, comprehending, etc.
- Be patient with us. If we say or do anything wrong, do tell us or show us a different method/technique that may work for you that could possibly help us as well.
- Have empathy but not sympathy for us!
- When giving a host of many tasks for us to do, be sure to allow time for us to complete each one as well as help us compose a list that will help us breakdown the tasks throughout the day.
- Communicate to us if there is a problem as many of us autistics are problem-solvers. Talk to us about the problem and then we should all be able to work together to make things happen.
- Inclusion not exclusion. What I mean here is that many of us autistics are excluded from our peers or even just everyday people, when often we would like to be with everyone else.
- When we have our meltdowns, shutdowns etc, again, be patient and give us time and space to do what we can to recharge.
- Socialisation for many of us can take a lot out of us; therefore, we need the time and space to recharge our batteries. So, please don’t feel or think that we’re being rude if we are walking away or needing to get away from the people and environment that we are in.
- When we have a meltdown, be sure to ask us if we are okay. Sometimes many of us just need the reassurance that others around us will be there once it’s over.
(Reference: Some other answers will be found in my playlist on YouTube Autism & Aspergers Syndrome Help Central/Tips & Advice
What were the important steps that helped you learn to accept your autism (and gain the confidence to write a guide for others?
The important steps that have helped me to learn to accept my autism were realizing:
- I am not alone. There are other autistic people like me.
- I should never be ashamed of who and what I am.
- We all have different abilities and talents that we can show to others, and they can learn from us.
- Without awareness, acceptance isn’t possible.
- How to find the right people who will love me and accept me no matter what. The right people will be positive and supportive enough to help me throughout my life, which is crucial to fulfill my needs, dreams, goals, etc.
- Embracing autism and loving ourselves does take time for some of us after being diagnosed.
- I am human, and yes, I do make mistakes as well.
- There are some support networks out there, it is a matter of finding the right ones where we can feel that we belong.
- Finding my voice can be valuable for the ones who haven’t found theirs. This way I can advocate and educate others about this and more.
Ways to Connect with Kerrin