Name & Pronouns: Aspen Thompson (they/them)
Year: First Year
Major(s)/Minor(s): Environmental Studies Major
How my disability has impacted my life:
My disability is autism, also generalized anxiety disorder and chronic pain. Some people will say, “autism isn’t a disability.” Yes it is. It affects how you live your life. Same with anxiety. For me, it does make things more difficult. I did not get diagnosed with autism until a few weeks before I turned seventeen, so I didn’t get any accommodations before that, which made school quite hard—especially the social part. Anxiety can get in the way of doing pretty much anything, same with chronic pain. If I’m in a pain flare, I don’t necessarily have the energy to do other stuff. I always felt different, and I didn’t know why. It was written off to be, “Oh you’re shy. You’re just such a shy child. Oh they’re anxious.” After finding out [the diagnosis], all of it made sense. Once I started doing my own research and finding other autistic people, mainly online, who are sharing their stories, it made sense. It gave me words to explain how it feels. I do not pick up on a lot of social cues super well. I’ve definitely missed stuff that my parents have said, and I always was told, “Oh, I am so innocent” and no one really shared things with me because of that and I found that very frustrating.
How my disability functions as a strength in my life:
If I get hyper focused on something, it will get done, which is helpful. That has always been a good thing.
Barriers to accessibility I would like to bring to light:
A lot of times, especially at universities, to get accommodations you have to have a documented disability which can be very hard for some people to get. For me, it’s called masking—when you cover the fact that you’re autistic by copying other people and hiding it. I masked really well for that long and no one suspected anything. So, it’s important to have more awareness of how to spot it, especially in younger people, especially in women.
“Disabilities are often not one, a lot of time people have more than one disability.”