Storytelling predates written language and has played a huge role in shaping our societies throughout their evolution. Today, we share stories in completely different ways, but the value of sharing them remains and has the power to make huge positive impacts in the autism community. The best way I can think to explain is to tell a story. The story of why we started a YouTube channel.
A while before my oldest son was officially diagnosed with autism, when his seemingly peculiar behavior had reached the level where I knew my time as a parent wasn’t going to be what I’d pictured, I vividly remember being overtaken by a feeling of devastation. I couldn’t help it. My love was unwavering, as it always will be, but I very much feared the unknown.
As time went on, I noticed my mind was doing backflips trying to figure out his behavior. His routines and rituals would seem odd to almost anybody, but it became clear to us that his unique way of experiencing the world wasn’t holding him back from experiencing joy. He was the happiest boy I’d ever seen.
Those backflips my mind was doing were like exercises getting me all stretched out for maximum open-mindedness. We still had the moment to moment stresses common in autism families, but something bigger was happening. My devastation turned to revelation and I got a front row seat to a beautiful world most people don’t get to see. The only thing I could think to do was show them.
Sharing videos was one of the best decisions of my life, and having seen it play out to this point, I’ve found two reasons why sharing your experience is life changing.
1. Finding your tribe.
Some of the most meaningful comments we’ve received on YouTube are from people around the world who’ve felt isolated in their experiences with autism. It’s a powerful thing to know, even in times of anxiety and stress, that we’re not alone. We’re part of something massive.
Most of us have the tools to make a variety of online communities a part of our lives and engage on important and relevant topics. No two autistic people are exactly alike, but this doesn’t limit our opportunity for meaningful connection. Instead, it creates a diverse and dynamic environment where we can keep an open mind and collaborate.
Of course, those not intimately familiar with autism might not easily see the benefit here. But, that’s precisely the other reason to share.
2. Teaching the world.
Though I’m disappointed at times with the level of public awareness, I don’t get angry when people don’t understand or seem open to anything different. How could I? That was me a few years ago.
But sharing was hard for me at first. It was too personal. Everyone was ignorant and it was none of their business. Deep down I knew this wasn’t true, and once I finally cleared that hurdle, there was awesomeness on the other side.
We shouldn’t underestimate the impact we can have by allowing people a glimpse in. You don’t have to have an enormous audience or special connections to see the benefit. Sharing within your own circle of family and friends, in any of the many ways available to us, can contribute to a healthy environment of understanding to grow into. Every bit of curiosity and thoughtfulness we spark in others is a huge win.
The modern ways we share are enabled to a large extent by rapidly evolving technology. And while it’d be fair for us to fear the unknowns of future technology, it can present us with reasons for optimism. Autistic people, families, and caregivers are having their voices heard in ways we couldn’t have dreamed of 15 years ago. There is much more reasonable access to communication devices and other learning tools. Since technological growth occurs exponentially, imagine what another 15 years will do. What about 100 years?
Part of my autism revelation has been the willingness to look at that big picture. The present moment is part of a huge story that will unfold, and we can make our mark on it. With the energy we bring to sharing our journeys, along with advances in technology, we can use storytelling to push the evolution of our own society. The ending is a beautiful world of respect and understanding. To be as cliché as possible, we just need to contribute our chapter on the way there.
Feel free to connect and share with me. I love a good story.
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