You are not broken

  • 3 minute read

Even as we have shifted from the idea of autism awareness to focus on autism acceptance, many of the campaigns out there have focused on how those around autistic people can learn to accept their autism.

And let me be clear, these kinds of campaigns are often valuable.

Until the day comes when:

  • families are connected from the start to all the resources and community they need to best support their autistic loved ones,
  • professionals are given the training to approach their practice from a strengths-based perspective,
  • systems are set up to prioritize inclusion and recognize each person’s worth and humanity,
  • our communities are designed with everyone’s needs in mind from the start,

these autism acceptance campaigns will continue to be sorely needed.

The path to genuine Autism Acceptance

Our society is a long way from true autism acceptance, but this is not an individual issue, it’s a systemic one.

No matter how much support and care you as an autistic person have in your life, it can be really hard to navigate a society that simply isn’t built for you.

I want to be clear — I know that as I was growing up as an autistic person with very limited speech, I needed to hear these messages of support just as much as anyone around me did, if not more.

In my experience, in the absence of someone in your life who can talk to you about your differences and reassure you that those differences don’t change your value as a person, it’s really easy for young people to come up with their own alternative explanations.

Explanations like, “I’m bad,” or, “There’s something wrong with me.”

Assuming that a young person cannot grasp the concept of autism acceptance or their differences robs them of the chance to challenge the negative messages about their disability that they are likely internalizing.

Being exposed to messages affirming and celebrating someone’s autistic identity is valuable, no matter who that message comes from. But it can often be even more impactful when that message comes from someone a lot like you, who shares your experiences and is navigating a lot of similar struggles. I know it was for me, when I first got to meet autistic people with similar backgrounds to my own.

To the autistic person reading this blog

At this point, I’d like to speak to the autistic person reading this blog or having it read to you.

I wrote the message below, addressing my younger self with words I needed to hear at the time. But I hope it could also be what you need to hear.

You are not broken

There is nothing inherently broken about you. The way you exist in the world is different, and people are going to tell you that that difference means that you’re broken or wrong somehow. You’re not. You don’t need anyone’s permission to exist in the way that you do.

You don’t deserve to be punished for the way your brain works. You don’t deserve to be forced into doing things that are painful or upsetting to you. You are allowed to flap, and jump, and clap, and rock, and move your body in the ways that feel natural for you. The ways your body moves are beautiful and brilliant. You don’t have to suppress that for anyone

You are a human being. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that your ways of being make you less than human. It’s not true, it will never be true. You are human, you are worthy of love and respect, and dignity. Needing support does not take away from these rights. You deserve love even when you struggle, even when you have hard days, even when the people around you make you feel like you’re hard to love.

- Cole Sorensen


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