The View From Here: Autism Acceptance

by Ivanova Smith

foreground: Ivanova Smith speaking at Disability Pride Rally. Background: Washinton State Capitol


This month is Autism Acceptance Month. Lots of people call it Autism Awareness Month. I call it Acceptance because I want people to not just be aware of people like me. I want them also to be accepting.

I want all autistics to have acceptance.

Sometimes, it’s hard to understand autistic people. Since I was a child, I had hard time understanding the world, and the world had hard time understanding me. Communication is hard for many autistic people. We don’t communicate the way non-autistic people do. Some of us use tech to communicate, like an iPad or tablet. Some autistic people are so verbal, though, you can’t get them to stop talking. I was not always verbal. I did not learn to talk till I was five and a half.

True inclusion is when we acknowledge our differences with pride and not shame.

Autistic people are not burdens. We are people who see the world differently. We can do great things for society. Autistics are artists, musicians, teachers, cooks, workers, activists, and much more!

My passion is deep for our rights.

We need to know our rights as citizens, to have jobs that fulfill our passions and use our strengths. We ask employers to look past our social difficulties and encourage our abilities. The employers that have done this, like Microsoft, have benefited.

Families need support, and I want fight for that in a way that’s respectful to the dignity of autistic people. When we are children, we are children. But when we are adults we are adults. We grow. We are not burdens. We need support as adults, and we love our adult lives. I want to find programs to help families with that transition.

There is still a lot of stigma around autism. We are seen as burdens, an epidemic, a disease. Just because I can’t drive, or need help with emotional regulation, some say I have to learn to fake it till I make it to be successful. Not really. When people see me, I stick out as autistic like a sore thumb. I rock back and forth and hold a little fuzzy Wookie plushie. I have speech impediment because I did not learn to speak properly till I was five and half.

I want to see programs that support autistic people being autistic.

Treatments that propose to make us non-autistic don’t help us. We need treatments that work with us, not against our nature. I have sensory issues, but there are sensory things I love, like the feel of the hot sun my skin, the feeling of running water on my fingers. I don’t think I would have so much love for these feelings if I was not autistic.

We experience stress more intensely. I have impairments. I have audio processing issues, so sometimes I ask Can you can you say that again? I do better in one-on-one conversations. In a group conversation, it is hard for me to concentrate on who’s talking.

Autism has not killed me.

It’s made me an eccentric person with impairments in certain areas. So? It’s also made me a great artist.

illustration by Ivanova

I have a passion for history and politics.

I aspire to be civil rights leader for the I/DD community. This community is my home. It’s filled with people that love and support me as autistic person. When I give a speech, people are always shocked at how fearless I am. I tell them I can’t tell what the audience is thinking, so I just don’t worry and keeping talking—another gift thanks to autism.

Ivanova Smith, Olympia WashingtonI did something that many of my peers have not gotten to do: go to university. I attended Central Washington University and got a bachelor’s degree in history. Seeing how my education affected me, I became impassioned make it accessible for all I/DD community. I want all I/DD youth to have chance at University.

It’s why I advocate in Olympia.

I want autistic people to get to live, play, learn and work in the community.

We want be included, and the way do that is having a place for us to thrive! We need to have our abilities acknowledged and valued. We need to be accepted as different.

Acceptance allows me to be a successful public speaker and activist.

Acceptance allows me to get an education.

Acceptance allows me to live in my own home with my husband.

Acceptance allows me to be forgiven.

Acceptance allows me to live happy as autistic.

All autistics need acceptance.

So please celebrate with autistics this month. Encourage our abilities. Engage with us in our special interests. Let’s show to our autistic youth that they feel good about who they are!

Happy Autism Acceptance Month!


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