Today is World Autism Awareness Day. It’s an important day that highlights a specific group of amazing people whom we may not actively realize is being overlooked or dealing with painful stigmas on a daily basis. Stigmatizing descriptors such as strange, weird, and insane swirl around many neurotypical people’s conception of autism. Aside from being callous and pejorative, these ideas are simply not accurate.
Many who are living with autism tend to feel as if they have to hide or downplay their diagnosis due to fear of rejection and misunderstanding. In an article for autismspeaks.org, Ryan Lee, an autism self-advocate, explains that “Society can force those of us who are different to hide or ‘mask’ their autism. That’s not how it should work though, at least not in any way that’s healthy…”
To that end, we’d like to highlight some amazing women who are transforming the idea of autism and taking back control of the narrative surrounding it. They’re breaking boundaries by doing things that society typically tells them they’d never be able to do.
Haley was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. Her family was told that things such as making friends and graduating from school would not be attainable but she proved that she was capable of doing more than most of us can imagine.
She is now an attorney, artist, author, and activist advocating for autism. Her books, What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew, A Freshman’s Survival Guide for College Students with autism spectrum disorders and Middle School – The Stuff Nobody Tells You About: A Teenage Girl with ASD Shares Her Experiences are resources for those who are looking for advice, plus the art is super cute!
Haley has shown that she is a force to be reckoned with and chose to prove everyone wrong by building a professional career, becoming a published author, and making amazing art. You can follow her on Instagram or check out her website.
Nina Marker is a Danish model who has graced the catwalks of major brands such as Versace, Fendi, Stella McCartney, and Alexander McQueen. At fifteen years old, she was diagnosed with autism. She has quickly become a popular model, being ranked on models.com’s “hot list” as well as being named as a breakout model on Vogue. She uses her platform to spread awareness of autism, starting with her Instagram bio where she declares herself “autistic & cute.”
In an interview with Vogue.com, she discussed the importance of advocating for autism awareness by saying It’s important to me because the lack of [awareness] has created some issues in my life that maybe wouldn’t have been there if my autism had been discovered earlier.”
Nina continues to be a complete powerhouse and has recently worked with brands such as H&M, Zadig & Voltaire, and (di)vision. You can keep an eye out for her new Zadig & Voltaire adverts throughout the streets of NYC (or the internet) or check her out on Instagram.
Leanne is a writer who mines her experience in pieces for publications such as The Art of Autism and Womens News. She uses her Instagram as a hub for anyone to visit and learn more about autism and how it affects, or rather doesn’t affect her.
She’s obliterating expectations by spreading the word and trying to help those who are not affected by it to truly understand its complexities. She also enjoys singing, dancing, and makeup in addition to working with In Our Own Presentation to present her story to the public.
She is completely fearless and knows that by sharing her story, she is helping take part in destigmatizing autism. You can keep up with all her greatness by following her on Instagram.
The takeaway here is that these awesome women are killing the game and already have a big fanbase to show for it. People on the spectrum and/or living with autism are more than capable of not only doing anything a neurotypical person can, but are exceeding what we consider successful at every turn. In a society that insists on lowering their status or setting up inherent barriers to their dreams, they are shattering those expectations and showing us that while we should educate ourselves on their real struggles and difficulties, we should never expect those things to hold them back.