April is World Autism Month and we at Developing Australian Communities love to share your stories and perspectives. From participants, carers and family members to providers and support workers, we want to hear your story.
In our effort to bring you a diverse insight into the disability sector and the lives of people living with a disability, we found this wonderful blog on Autism Spectrum Australia, written by teenager Aspen, who writes they are a proud autistic wheelchair user. This is an excerpt of their story and in their words.
Did you know that Autistic people have a greater chance of developing other medical issues at birth and later in life than the average non-autistic person? A lot of us actually use wheelchairs.
Hi! I’m Aspen, a proud Autistic wheelchair user and this is my story.
I have multiple chronic illnesses and a genetic condition that causes a range of issues including things such as chronic pain and an unstable heart rate.
Due to the severity of my pain, I use a wheelchair part time, as well as other mobility aids.
These life-changing aids have given back my freedom. They allow me to go shopping (provided I have sensory toys, and headphones and my assistance dog, Maisie), go to school, visit zoos, museums, and allow me to live my life in a comfortable and enjoyable way.
I haven't always used a wheelchair. Actually, it wasn’t until March 2021 when I first needed something extra to help me get around.
I did, however, show signs of chronic pain when I was younger, but doctors always reduced my symptoms to being psychosomatic; they didn’t trust me to understand myself.
It hasn’t been easy.
Thankfully, my GP understands and clearly outlines everything she is doing. Other doctors are not so understanding.
I try my best to educate them, but it usually ends in meltdowns or dismissal of my voice. There is a lack of knowledge from doctors of how Autistic people communicate.
They don’t realise that when I am stimming, covering my ears and non-speaking, I need them to slow down and wait.
These are skills doctors should be trained in.
People often get confused when they find out I’m Autistic and use a wheelchair. I get asked all the time “how does autism put you in a wheelchair?
It’s like people forget that someone can have multiple disabilities!
The worst part about being an Autistic wheelchair user for me is having to speak up for myself and my needs to complete strangers.
I fight back my social anxiety of speaking to people, and this is what I get!
People talk down to me, literally and figuratively and it’s really frustrating.
All I want is to be treated as an equal, but until society stops seeing disability as a negative and a deficit, that’s just not a possibility.
I make it sound like it’s a bad thing to be in a wheelchair and Autistic, but it’s not actually the case.
I am part of some amazing communities and I have met many great people from across the world.
I get to learn wheelies in my chair, I can go down hills super fast, and my friends call me funny nicknames like “Hot wheels” and “Lightning McQueen”.
These good things keep me going when I’m surrounded by chaos and negativity.
And best of all, I have these awesome opportunities to share my story and experiences, and maybe one day, my words will help people feel comfortable in their own identity and disabled body.
Thanks to Autism Spectrum Australia and Aspen for that great insight.