Autism success stories in the media
The media like to portray heart-warming autism success stories, but the reality for many autistics and their loved-ones is often quite different. While it makes me happy, and sometimes hopeful, to hear stories of autistics’ major successes, I also wish we’d talk about the reality of autism more – the little successes that are so meaningful to many families. The truth is, most people with autism won’t graduate college, they didn’t learn calculus by age 6, and sadly, many won’t ever be able to even live independently.
“Six-year-old autistic boy says buh for bubbles”
For my six-year-old son, Charlie, a success story is him not running in the street before I save him at the last second. It’s Charlie being able to communicate “I want cereal” with his AAC device.
For me, a success story is being able to maintain a friendship. It’s being able to make small-talk with the cashier, being able to figure out on my own how to pump gas at different gas station than the one by my house.
These milestones seem minor on paper, but for many autistic people, they’re huge accomplishments. I get it, as a headline “six-year-old says buh for bubbles” doesn’t sound as amazing as “25-year-old autistic man graduates medical school with honors.”
But these smaller stories, the mundane achievements, they matter. They’re what autism is for many. To show autism under a different light to what you usually see in the media, I asked autistic adults and parents of loved ones with autism to tell me their autism success stories. Here were some of the answers*:
- My son zipped his jacket by himself today. Age 24 and he never stops learning. –Mother
- I watched my 33 yr old brother put on his socks independently for the first time this year. –Sister
- My boy, age 16, has learned using ABA techniques to do a pretty passable – and safe – wet shave for himself. –Mother
- My son put his clothes on by himself at age 8. –Mother
- My son has been trying new foods without a meltdown. –Mother
- My son tied his shoes on by himself for the first time at age 9, almost 10. –Father
- One for me recently is *finally* being able to check-out at a register with my Mother’s debit card without getting impossibly confused & breaking down. –Autistic adult
- My son successfully ordered lunch from a cafe counter without my assistance and even paid for it (while I thought he was just choosing from the boards) at 23. This is so BIG… I was gobsmacked and thrilled! –Mother
- Eating w/o gagging or choking (EoG, dysphagia). –Mother
- My son had his first haircut without a meltdown at age 5. – Mother
- Catching them before they have an accident at 10. –Mother
- Pointing to own head yesterday when we asked “what hurts,” instead of us worryingly inspecting his whole body as usual. –Mother
- My son used the toilet twice for #2 this week! We are so going to get there! He’s 14. –Mother
- [Saying] “my favourite colour is blue” using an RPM letter board. On cloud nine for a week with that one. –Mother
- I recently taught a man in his 60s how to refuse food he doesn’t want without throwing it on the ground.
These successes, while not media-worthy, are huge for these families and they’re worth celebrating too. What is your autism success story?
*I received hundreds of answers on Twitter and Instagram and loved reading them all. I couldn’t include all here but thank you for sharing. To read more success stories and share yours, check out this thread on Twitter.