‘Who are you to judge? You have absolutely no idea what it is like’: why everyone’s talking about this teen’s article on autism
Beth Hiatt, 13, is the co-editor of her school’s magazine.
She wrote her story, Let’s Talk About Autism, to offer insight into being autistic and to help change public perception of people on the spectrum.
It has been made clear that this is one individual’s experience and that no two autistic people are alike, but the story has made a huge impact not just with Beth’s school community, but internationally after her mum posted it on social media.
This is an edited version of Let’s Talk About Autism:
“Imagine having all five senses multiplied by one hundred.
Many people with autism, myself included, have never experienced complete silence. We always hear the humming of the lights, or a bird outside, or even the sound of our own breath.
We always hear this loud and clear, even in a noise-filled crowded room.
We feel labels in our clothes for the entirety of the day if they are not cut out, some smells and tastes make us literally unable to breathe.
After this all gets too much (trust me, this usually doesn’t take too long for most) we can experience something called sensory overload.
If visible to others, it probably looks like a tantrum (If you were wondering, I haven’t experienced full-blown sensory overload in years, but it still stands. You just learn how to repress it).
However, we are not waiting to see if others respond. We want to get out of there as quick as possible, and we certainly don’t need judgement from others.
I know our behaviours may seem self-injurious to those around us and it may seem funny to see a child who is not two kicking off and screaming, but who are you to judge? You have absolutely no idea what it is like.
Imagine being seen as rude when you do not get the gist of social norms.
Most people are born with a general understanding but just need to be reminded to mind their P’s and Q’s from time to time.
Usually, they are well-mannered by the age of four or so. Well… we are all still learning, whether we are eight or eighty.
We do try our hardest to think before we speak, but we slip up quite a lot.
Sure, it’s funny and cute when a three year old says something they shouldn’t, but when a nine year old accidently starts an argument between their family after they repeat something their parents muttered under their breath (Guess who did that, kids!), you’re seen as rude and inconsiderate.
Imagine struggling to catch a ball, hold a pen or do anything that involves fine or gross motor skills.
We are the children that run with a gait, who are always picked last for the team, whose handwriting ranges from scruffy to illegible.
The worst thing is, we are not often given help for this.
As autism is known as an invisible disability, people think we are not trying hard enough, children laugh at our mishaps, we feel left out and like a failure on many occasions.
Although after reading this article autism may seem like a terrible thing to have that will ruin your entire life, don’t be fooled!
All of the best scientists (Einstein, Edison, etc.) that changed our world and way of thinking drastically were rumoured to have autism, along with such famous faces as Daryl Hannah, Tim Burton and the legendary Temple Grandin.
We can go on to do the most amazing things if our self-esteem isn’t shattered.
Autism has no known cause and no known cure, but there is somebody who can make life easier for those who are diagnosed.
Make every day autism awareness day.
Try to make a safe space if somebody with autism is on edge at a party.
Pick them for your team if playing sports. Even smiling and saying hello in the corridor. Small gestures matter. Often, they can speak louder than words ever could.
Please, be autism aware.”