Traveling the world as an autistic

Traveling the world as an autistic


Travel always provides perspective about our limitations and the associated lies we tell ourselves. This is particularly true for those like me that continue to be defined by our limitations. As we embarked on an ambitious travel project that involved flights and transits that literally took us around the world via the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, the stage was set to challenge assumptions about ourselves and the world.

The likelihood of finding a supporting crew was increased when we decided to share our story proactively. Same with co passengers as well. Angry glances would become supporting nods. Light dysregulation would  move a crew member to bring a snack. General apathy and indifference would become genuine curiosity to learn our lives. Judgment would give way to appreciation for fighting the odds. Fear and apprehension about travel would be positively upstaged by a celebration of humanity. 

The airports were harder to control. We had some really seamless experiences where I felt supported and understood by the airport staff and several other challenging experiences with long avoidable delays as well as rough handling of my wheelchair or my body during security checks. It gave me a front row seat to how far we need to go in being able to understand all humans.

Overall the trip was a really positive experience. I am grateful for what I was able to overcome with the support of so many while also gaining a deeper appreciation for how far my body needs to go to meet the world where it is. If one thing was clear it is that we are unlikely to meet halfway soon.

Swarit Gopalan

About the Author

I am an 11-yr old autistic, nonspeaker that uses letterboard to spell/keyboard to type to communicate.I live with my family in Florida and go to Invictus Academy for school. 
I find a lot of solace in expressing myself through poetry. Music and nature also help me stay in the present, there is nothing better for me than to have my movement create a symphony with nature and to truly enjoy the sights and sounds. Living in harmony with nature is my life’s mission.
Right from the time of diagnosis, we are only told about all things we cannot or will not be able to do. Along with the check that is written to the doctor for the diagnosis, it often feels like our agency is written off too, especially without a reliable communication mechanism.  
Time to change the paradigm with more non speaker voices. It has always been a dream to share my thoughts and perspectives with the world so that I can be one of the catalysts to creating a better understanding of non speakers in general. 
My hope is that my words will help change the world from sympathy and pity for those like me to one of deeper understanding of our lives and allyship to ensure our rights.

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