I recently watched “How to be Autistic” by Charlotte Amelia Poe. Ms. Poe has won the Spectrum Art Prize for this video.   In it she shares her perspective on what it is like living with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The first 3 minutes are fairly raw. Ms. Poe shares her anguish and fears saying, “Nobody will tell you what is wrong with you, just that you are wrong.” She discusses how medication is presented as the only solution, and numerous people made it clear that her life was less valuable. Just when her video seemed to be at its darkest Ms. Poe introduced a well needed “but.” Then she celebrated those who did help, the unconditional love she received from her mother, and how all the pain she suffered has helped her become a strong and beautiful person. The video ends by extending hope to all those with ASD who might be feeling disheartened.

Ms. Poe’s video is a poignant reminder of the very real struggles encountered by people with autism as well as the beauty of their differences. I hope that those of us in the neuro-typical community will take a closer look at our expectations and behaviors and aim for more compassion and less judgment. Thank you, Ms. Poe, for sharing your experiences.

Rebecca J. Weaver is a Certified Autism Specialist at Independent with Autism, working to empower individuals with ASD. Need help creating your success strategies? Check out IndependentwithAutism.com for more information.

Here is another take on the article by Marianne Embree – Community Relations Coordinator

My initial reaction to Ms. Poe’s award-winning performance “How to be Autistic” was one of discomfort.  My coworker, Rebecca, asked for my opinion – was this something we wanted to post on social media?  We share the responsibility of the direction we take with social media and check with each other if we have questions.

After a few minutes, I was ready to turn it off and say, “no way, that’s depressing, we don’t want to post that. For crying out loud, how long is she going to go on?”

I waited and listened relieved that she ends with a message of hope and power.  That’s the message I – and likely others – are more comfortable with.  Unfortunately, in order to get the message of joy, I realize you have to understand the message of pain.

The definition of art according to Oxford Dictionaries is “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”

Ms. Poe’s piece has a great deal of emotional power.  Too often people only think of art as something they like.  It can be something that makes them uncomfortable, angry or exasperated.  I watched her piece a second time and would love to tell you I was more understanding and at ease with her expression.  Nope – I made terrible faces while I watched it!  It’s tough.

It made me question myself.  Why am I so uncomfortable with her expression?  Have I ever made someone feel like that?  Why doesn’t she just get over it – suck it up already?  Her work did what I suspect the best art does – it made me look inside myself.  I probably won’t stay here as long as I should.  I probably won’t study her words, though I would love a transcript, to really understand what she’s saying.  But for even a small amount of time, I grasped a little what it was like to be in her skin.

It also made me check out the contest and the other finalists – powerful stories – I recommend you take a look too!  http://www.thespectrumartprize.co.uk/about

I hope you stick it out if watching is hard, you might learn something about yourself in the process.