Elesia Ashkenazy is a classically trained ballet dancer, community volunteer, mother, public speaker, research assistant, wife, writer, and the Chapter Coordinator for Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN). She authors the blog, Aspitude!
Sometimes, a person will look at me, shake his or her head, and say, “You don’t strike me as someone who could be autistic and deaf.” I smile and answer, “Perhaps you need to alter your mental references of how autism and deafness should appear.”
In the world of disability rights and public awareness, many of us cannot help but to seize any opportunity to demystify female autism.
I am a drop of water in a sea of autistic females. As a whole, we are individuals with likenesses and differences just as any other members of the human population. Background, community, education level, family relations, life experiences and more, all play as much a part in the autistic female’s life as in any other person’s life. Boxing autism into categories of appearance or so-called functioning levels is a strong contributor to the lack of diagnoses–in addition to misdiagnoses–in females. (Unfortunately, this also applies to males.) As an autistic person, and mother of an autistic child, I seek to promote widespread understanding of the needs and rights of autistic individuals in the here and now.
A dear acquaintance of mine, a mature autistic female, offered advice for younger people on the spectrum. She said we do ourselves, as well as those who live and work with us, a serious disservice by constantly laboring to compensate for who we truly are. She related that as we age, it only gets harder to “fit in,” and that we’ll most likely awaken to find we are missing the true pleasures in life because of our constant scramble to assimilate into mainstream society. She concluded by relating that she gave up a lot to achieve what she has. At this juncture in life, she would do anything to reclaim the enjoyment she felt in her childhood years when she was simply being herself, instead of what others wanted and expected her to be. What she shared rocked me to the core, and I will never forget her words.
My name is Elesia Ashkenazy. I am autistic and deaf.