Autism Acceptance Mandala

Painting: “Autism Acceptance” 10 x 10" acrylic on canvas

This painting is part of an important personal journey. It expresses that I always felt so different from other people, until I finally found out that I am autistic. This piece is also for you, my autistic brothers and sisters. I created it to celebrate all of us on the autistic spectrum, standing together in support of our neurodiversity.

It was a deep awakening to understand and embrace my autistic brain, and to recognize that it is part of what makes me unique and special. My brain processes very visually, and is at the very heart of my art.

I was 40 years old before I suspected that I might be autistic. I was greatly relieved when my suspicions were validated through a full evaluation. That was one of the best things that has ever happened to me!

All the challenges, events and images of my life finally clicked into focus. At last, I came to understand that there was nothing wrong with me. I just did not have neuro typical (NT) brain.

This is who I am, and I’m just fine with that. Take it or leave it. My challenges are rooted in my humanity, not in my autism.

I have been through many of the common struggles of adult autistics who slipped under the radar and were not diagnosed as children. In some ways, I might be lucky that I was not diagnosed earlier, when far less was understood about autism.

Many women, in particular, remain undiagnosed until adulthood. Most past studies only focused on the behavior of young boys. Sadly, many people are never diagnosed, and struggle to fit into a world that always feels out of sync, and where they never feel comfortable.

A stereotypical viewpoint has been that autistic individuals are fundamentally broken and need to be fixed. That makes me very sad. Each person functions uniquely on the spectrum and, while sometimes outside support is helpful to overcome difficulties, isn’t that true of NT individuals, also?

I have been talking with an autistic friend, and we both agree it’s important to challenge the “broken” stereotype. I am proud of my autism – proud to finally discover that I just think differently than others. The world looks different to me, and I always thought that meant there was something wrong with me. Now, I recognize there is a very big gap between “wrong” and “different.”

I have noticed that the shape of a puzzle piece had come to be associated with autism. I’ve never liked that image. To me, it has a negative connotation – that autistic people are somehow mysterious and hard to figure out.

Then I discovered a fantastic alternative to the puzzle piece. The infinity symbol, used with the rainbow, works for me. After all, none of us are the same, and we are just as diverse as NT people. Each one of our lives is rich and distinct, although we share the common experience of autism in an NT world.

The real meaning of this painting to me? It expresses my deep belief… that all of us are precious and worthy of love and acceptance.