In fact, I’m not any kind of professional. Neither is Caley, for that matter.
Why am I telling you this? Well, for one thing, I’m worried you may get the wrong impression. Though that fact is literally written at the bottom of every page of our website, in the side bar on the blog, and the about section of the Facebook page…the truth is, many of you may never read those, not because they aren’t plastered everywhere I can put them, but many of you readers solely know us from Facebook and really, how many people actually read the About sections? (I’ll be the first to admit, I never do.)
But more than that, I’m telling you this because I had a sobering conversation with a professor/mentor/super awesome wise-advice-giving person who talked to me about…well, a lot of things, actually, but on the importance of caution when giving any kind of advice and on my responsibilities as a graduate student clinician, among many things. And it was a wake-up call that made me see the page in a new light, one I’m very grateful for.
When I first started blogging on the ASE Facebook page (and reposting the blog posts on the website), I never thought it would go anywhere. To the first couple of people who suggested making it, I scoffed. I said, who’d want to read what I’d have to write? And honestly, would I even have enough material to write about? Well, the answers to those questions have turned out to be almost 500 people (wow!), as of this posting, and material to spare.
I first started out with family and friends – basically all I did was take all the posts about autism and interesting links I was posting on my personal profile and start putting them here, and invited those friends and family who’d commented and liked them on my profile to like ASE and see them here instead. That’s really what it was initially, and I never really expected people not biased by family relationships or friendship to find it interesting.
But you guys did like it (you all are awesome!), and I’m so grateful for that, because I truly and deeply believe that the more people read posts presenting the autistic perspective, posts that promote understanding and acceptance, the better the world will be for people on the spectrum. And that really is what all of us are working towards. Yes, every single one of us, even those of you who never even met anyone autistic – because you do your own part to work towards that world with every post you read.
Yet with all of you (super amazing!) followers comes a lot of responsibility, and a lot of possibilities for misunderstanding. So I’m going to be very, VERY clear here: I am not a professional. I am not a doctor, not a lawyer, not a psychologist, not a behavior analyst, not a speech language pathologist. For that matter, as I’m in graduate school now, I’m not even a nanny any more. I am not any kind of professional. Any and all perspectives or advice I share come from personal experience and nothing more.
What is my background? Well, I've got a bachelor's degree in Psychology, completed a post-baccalaureate program in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD), and I'm currently studying for my Master's in CSD (which will lead to a career as a speech pathologist). Absolutely none of those, however, have given me an understanding of autism.
Instead, all of my understanding comes from learning from the many autistic people, children and adults alike, that I know virtually and in person. I am an elder sister to an amazingly awesome Autistic woman, my sister Caley. Simply being related to her taught me very little about autism (this isn’t the kind of thing that works by osmosis), but actively seeking out her opinion and learning from her has taught me so much. In addition, I’m almost certainly at least Broader Autism Phenotype (BAP) with a lot of anxiety, and all my autistic friends think I’m autistic. On that count, I honestly don’t know for sure, but what I do know is that I do connect on a personal level to the words and experiences of autistics more than most, and that this connection helps me to better understand and convey autistic experiences.
Being an active member of WrongPlanet, the discussion forum mainly for adults on the spectrum, has also taught me so much about many autistic people’s perspectives. And I got the caregiver perspective from being a former nanny and babysitter to children on the spectrum. I’m also a friend to people on and off the spectrum, and I’ll admit I connect much more quickly with those on it. Even my free time is spent actively seeking out and soaking up writings and videos from autistic people. And, yeah, I would put ‘autism’ under the special interests category for me, so I do a lot of seeking.
Sister. Friend. Caregiver. Broader Autism Phenotype. These are the perspectives I am writing from, and these areas are where any and all understanding I have comes from. Those things and those alone - all from personal experience and from learning from the personal experiences of others. So all that is to say that if you’re looking for professional advice, look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for the perspectives of a sister duo with a whole lot of autism-related experiences…well, you’ve come to the right place.