Who do you picture when you think of an autistic person? Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory, Rain Man, the boy from Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time? These are the responses you’ll get from most people. Not the most diverse line up of voices, not least because they are all fictional, and all follow a really specific set of characteristics: good at maths, socially inappropriate, male, strange.
Yet the saying goes in the autistic community that if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person; our individualities make us just as unique as neurotypical people, shining through beyond the diagnostic criteria that links us.
Around 1 in 100 people in the UK are autistic, but rarely do autistic people have a voice. Dialogue around autism often follows a bleak and cliched path — “problem” children, parents desperately seeking answers and cures, unemployment — and it has been neurotypical people who have often led the discussion on autism in the wider media, the parents, carers, doctors, and experts. They are the ones on the daytime tv sofas, in parliament, or writing about their experiences with us. While these voices are important, the balance is tipped, and rarely do we get to use our own voices to talk about our experiences or to show how creative, smart and funny we are, how different from the stereotype most people have.
But the tide is starting to turn, and autistic people are taking the chance to speak for themselves, rather than being spoken about. The stereotypical view of autism we once had is starting to slip away, and the more representation there is, the more this will happen.
Autistic people have routinely been denied the opportunity to share their own stories, and we want to change that.
This anthology represents an important step in reclaiming that power, of using our own voices. This book will bring together some of the best autistic writers, showcasing the immense talents of people who just happen to be on the spectrum. It won’t just feature essays about what it is to be autistic, but also stories, illustrations and art. So this isn’t just a book for autistic people or those who work or live with us; Stim will be an enjoyable, insightful collection for people around the world, who want to discover and champion unheard voices.
The campaign video was filmed by the wonderful Jamie Drew, who I wholeheartedly recommend.