Apr 9, 2019
There are so many people in
my life that are extremely supportive, but for privacy reasons I'm
leaving out their names. But I genuinely and deeply appreciate
them, more than words can express. For the time being, I just want
to briefly cover the supports that started me on the path that I
find myself today:
My parents - and especially my mom - I credit for so much support growing up, and ensuring that my life was a good one. I wrote a lot about my mom in my first blog post of the year, so if you want to know more click here.
I am also thankful for getting my diagnosis the way I did, instead of the usual doom-and-gloom lectures given by most medical professionals. My doctor at the time told me what I and my parents needed to hear most: “You have autism. You will be able to grow up, get a job, live on your own, get married if you want to, have kids if you want to. Autism is a part of who you are, and you have always been autistic. There are some things that you may need help with, but having autism in no way means you cannot have a life you choose.”
But what permanently set me on a path of advocacy (self and otherwise) and activism was the Forum.
Shortly after I was diagnosed, one of my teachers recommended me for the Forum, a 4-day camp in my home state that revolved around disabilities, the disability civil rights movement, self-advocacy, and more. I'll be honest - our country's view of disabled individuals had influenced my mind, despite the best efforts of my parents and others; I was averse to attending, simply because I thought all the other attendees would be so disabled I would be alone...the r-word did surface in my head at one point.
It's not something I like to admit - but the fact that I held this bias despite my own diagnosis is clearly an example of just how much this bigotry has permeated our society.
The Forum changed that - permanently. I was around other people my age with a variety of disabilities, coming from various financial backgrounds, ethnicities, etc. For the first time, I didn't feel left out or isolated in a group of people, which is what I often felt in school. The bias was eliminated, and in its place a core of advocacy and a strong sense of belonging. The forum taught me many things, most notably the disability civil rights movement and its leaders; up until then, the ADA was just an act kindly signed into law - instead of something we fought for literally on our hands and knees, chained to buses and buildings.
Too often we overlook programs
like the Forum for individualized treatments, because insurance
won't pay for a few days at a summer camp. Yet the Forum has had
and continues to have positive, proactive consequences for
Being around others with disabilities different from your own, while learning about the disability civil rights movement and other forms of advocacy was life-changing. I feel that I am a better advocate and subsequently that has allowed me to successfully be the person I want to be.
You can find out more about the Forum here.
- Leo Jones