I saved my dear friend and Autistic Advocate, Chantell Marshall, for the last of the Autistic Advocate Spotlights in the #ShineALight Campaign. Her photo in a sunflower field truly is the sunshine, kindness, and warm gentleness that is the essence of Chantell @ShyLittlePixie
Chantell is a writer, lover of cats and plants and can be found on the stages of organizations sharing her late identified autistic journey like #YellowLadyBugs and #ReframingAutism
Social Autie: What is your specialty or focus area of Autism Advocacy?
Chantell: It has been said to me previously that my posts are like personal journal entries. I was late-diagnosed just two years ago, so I am still learning about all the intricate ways that autism exists within me, and discovering how to embrace my true self on a more authentic level. My greatest hope is that, by inviting others to follow alongside me on this journey, I may be able to offer some insight into how autism can present, hiding underneath the surface of mental illness or masking.
Social Autie: Why did you begin advocating for yourself and others? What makes this personal to you and Your Big Why?
Chantell: I began advocating about autism not long after my diagnosis. I was 41yr and had struggled significantly with my mental health since I was 12yr, developing severe social anxiety, an eating disorder and experiencing severe breakdowns during my 20’s and 30’s where I had to be hospitalized. This affected my ability to function like my peers, meaning I have never been able to work or study, or maintain relationships. I raised my children as a sole parent, but unfortunately, they were the ones who had to seek help for me when I broke down continually. Receiving my autism diagnosis felt like I finally had the magic answer for why I struggled so badly – but so many people around me were confused and resistant due to common misconceptions about autism.
I speak out in the hope of saving others from struggling through life for as long as I did, believing they are broken when they are actually autistic. I speak out because I had decades of therapy from multiple psychologists/psychiatrists, yet not once was autism ever considered. Mostly, I speak out to share my insights to hopefully help parents and educators understand the younger generation of autistics better, to give them an easier pathway in life.
Social Autie: What is/are the top tip(s) or insight(s) you have discovered for advocating for a) others and b) yourself?
Chantell: I think the most important thing I have learnt is just how diverse autism is. I see it as a kaleidoscope in that there are a million different perspectives – each autistic person experiences autism with their own unique reflection.
On Instagram @ShyLittlePixie
Thank you for being a part of the Autistic Advocate Spotlight #ShineALight Campaign this year. Every time you took a few minutes to read an article written by one of our Autistic Advocates you were helping to elevate their voice in the world. Being autistic isn't easy and being seen, heard and understood is even more challenging, but each time we share time with another person even in writing we are opening our hearts to learning more about another person's perspective and experiences in the world and THAT is where we find connection. Get curious and be open to truly seeing another human and your world will change for the better.
Thank you to all the amazing advocates who shared their time and spoons with me in April and May to be a part of the Shine A Light Campaign in the blog series and the Advocate Panel in April which aired on YouTube. IF you haven't seen this incredible video head on over to YouTube HERE and feel the love and learn from some of the biggest advocates online what they have learned about being an advocate that will help you on your advocate journey even if it is only within your own family or community. You don't have to be on stages or even have a large following to create change in the world. YOU matter and your voice has power my friend.
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No one seems to ‘get it’. Friends and family think you just need to push through or "self-care" more. Internally, so many people in late identified life (me included) feel broken, ashamed or like they are failing or have never reached their full potential, when all along they've had a brain and sensory system that is different from the masses. It can take a lot of strength to keep going.
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