Photo by Nicole Baster on Unsplash

We Need Everyone

Jim Irion

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It has been almost 40 years since Dr. Temple Grandin published her first book about life with autism in 1986. It has been almost 30 years since Asperger’s was added to the DSM-IV in 1994. It has been almost 20 years since Autism Speaks, Inc. was co-founded by Bob and Suzanne Wright in 2005. It has been ten years since Asperger’s was combined with autism in the DSM-V in 2013, but not to everyone’s benefit.

It has been almost ten years since Tania Marshall published her book, “I Am Aspiengirl,” to demonstrate the disparity of female autism diagnoses in 2014. It has been almost a year since I discovered that autism influences my neurology. My diagnosis in 2019 was not enough. I endured four incidents of discrimination. Minority groups worldwide have still not been taken seriously when it comes to autism services. It is now 2023.

Modern awareness efforts by autism influencers on Twitter have been relentless. Yet resources are still largely limited to those under the age of 21. I have found direct evidence that in some US states, there is no access to resources in rural areas for autistic youth under the age of 18. Contrary to publicized information, I have also found that in certain US states, resources for autistic youth are actually counterproductive because they encourage kids to mask autism.

The new services that are claimed to be for ages over 21 consist primarily of assisted living instead of employment accommodations. Some stipulate eligibility by evaluating IQ, leading to an untold number of applicants being declined. Many autistic people are still not proactively assessed or diagnosed. Therefore, a major re-evaluation of all autism care is needed. It is now April 2023.

The majority of my information above involves a part of society whose awareness has not been affected by even the most ardent influencer on social media: the mental health profession itself. Psychology and psychiatry still have difficulty defining what autism is. As a result of this being true, autism acceptance will not happen within the foreseeable future unless we deal with these problems together at their source.

Are we all being included in the feedback on existing “autism” services? Nope. Are we being consulted on which “autism” services to fund or create so that we may excel in society? Nope. Are there any widely accessible occupational services that connect “autistic” people of all ages to their special interests? I would wait, but I am 41. Over twenty years of my life that were vital for my future are gone. Forever. Let that think in.

I don’t have time to waste, and neither do most autistic people. It is already too late for Osaze Osagie. It is too late for anyone who has already succumbed to suicide. If I have to wait another 20 years, I may not have enough strength left. Cognitive distortions and long-term, severe depression have taken a serious toll. But I made it this far. There is no unified voice seeking the changes in mental healthcare or employment that we need.

So, as of September 2022, I took matters into my own hands by taking my autism presentation to my mental healthcare provider. I am choosing to do what is right because it matters to every one of us who is struggling to get by each day. I persist because I care. The key to reducing autism’s stigma is education. Otherwise, it may be another 40 years before society understands or accepts us.

True autism acceptance must first come from within the mental health profession. The best way to succeed is for autistic advocates to work together. I will put myself on the line for every single person out there, because everyone deserves to find happiness and have a quality of life. No one should be left behind, because no one should be left to feel abandoned, as I have felt.

As if forced to watch everyone else’s happiness pass you by while yours always remains painfully out of reach. Helpless and utterly hopeless. That is no way to live. So, I choose to act because it is the right thing to do. I am more than my autism, but I am me because of it. And for that, I am proud. We are more than a scattered list of traits and labels.

We are human beings with beautiful minds.

#WeNeedEveryone

Thank you for joining us for April 2023’s autism awareness and acceptance.

Welcome to the next Autism Experience.
The Day After Yesterday.

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Jim Irion

I am an autistic advocate, writer and presenter. My writing is primary source research material. "A leader leads. They don't walk away when someone needs help."