At age 16, climate change activist Greta Thunberg is already making international headlines and speaking on the world stage. When Greta shared that she has an autism spectrum disorder, a wave of empathy and validation washed over the autism community. “Wow. Even her, too?”
Three things happen for us when a public figure opens up about what it means to be on the spectrum and works to change the way others perceive an autism diagnosis.
First, they help to destigmatize autism. The condition becomes more visible and understood. Suddenly, we see our friends and family changing their attitudes toward people on the spectrum, and even toward us as caregivers.
Second, we feel more hopeful and inspired in our own life. Knowing that a public figure is facing the same day-to-day struggles we do or our child does, all while under the glare of stardom, we are more endeared toward them. We especially feel a connection when they use their voice to bring visibility to autism.
Finally, we feel empowered by the will of celebrities to step forward and take control of the narrative about their condition under intense media scrutiny. When they show the world what it means to live and thrive with autism, they offer a roadmap and inspire confidence for how we might do the same.
Whether famous or not, the public acknowledgment of one’s condition is a brave act in the face of the stigma of those on the spectrum. As autism awareness spreads, acceptance soon follows.
Is there a notable person who has inspired you? How do you feel about public figures discussing their condition? Share in the comments below or post on MyAutismTeam.