He's an autistic journalist, but in his book that's not the whole story

What’s the most surprising thing you learned while writing it? I learned how important the LGBTQ + community is within the autism commun...


What’s the most surprising thing you learned while writing it?

I learned how important the LGBTQ + community is within the autism community. I’ve been to a lot of autism events where there are a lot of LGBTQ + people, but I hadn’t thought, “That’s one thing. But looking at the data, there are more people with autism who identify as LGBTQ + than neurotypical people.

Credit…Kristin herbruck

Another thing was that the spike in autism diagnoses wasn’t just caused by changes in DSM [“The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” a book used in the medical field to classify conditions] in the 1980s, but also because the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 included autism as a disability, which meant schools had to report the number of students they served. This created the larger thesis of my book, because it said that the only reason people like me – I was born in 1990 – had resources was because of deliberate public policy decisions. It made me realize that my life has improved dramatically. I went to a private school from grade 7, but before that I attended public schools and got housing that wouldn’t have been available otherwise. And at university, I had private lessons and I had services for people with disabilities. It was the result of the ADA. Our lives are often determined by things beyond our control. People like to talk about personal responsibility and personal choices, but my ability to determine my destiny was due to these deliberate public policy decisions that had not been made before.

How is the book you wrote different from the book you are about to write?

Initially, I intended to be much more ambitious. I wanted to focus on the international, to report around the world. But because of time restrictions and then the pandemic, things have changed.

My impulse is always to report. With all due respect – because I have a lot of friends who have written excellent autism memoirs – my feeling was that my story is compelling but it’s not the whole story. Even though I’ve written a book with much of my personal life, I’m generally a very private person and feel like there are some things that I’m not comfortable sharing. And there are also things that, in my opinion, are not indicative of the whole autistic experience. I wanted to be as holistic as possible.

Which creative person (not a writer) has influenced you and your work?

If you read the titles of the chapters in the book, many of them come from songs. I wanted to be a musician growing up, so I’m as inspired by Black Sabbath as I am by journalists like Steve Silberman or Ta-Nehisi Coates or Rebecca Traister. I’m as influenced by the words of Bob Dylan or NWA as I am by Woodward and Bernstein. If I’m on schedule, I tend to listen to really aggressive music: The Ramones, Metallica, the Misfits, Public Enemy. When I was writing “We’re Not Broken,” what really helped me was listening to jazz music. John Coltrane sponsored the last three chapters of the book.

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Newsrust - US Top News: He's an autistic journalist, but in his book that's not the whole story
He's an autistic journalist, but in his book that's not the whole story
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