Tell us about yourself.
I am Rosie, I am 17, I really really like books and writing. I am going to do creative writing at university this year. My favourite season is summer, and my favourite book is The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde, my favourite colour is purple as it is a beautiful colour and it reminds me of a warm hug on a cold night by the fire. My friends are cool, we go out sometimes. I go to a youth group especially for young people with autism, its great. My ambition is to be a writer when I am older, I am very lucky because already I have the opportunity to write for magazines here in the UK, and I have also written two episodes of a tv show that is coming soon to our children's channel. The episodes have been approved by the show's creator and they have also tried me out for a voice part in the show, which is so good because I have a job even before I go to Uni!
How does Asperger’s Syndrome affect your personal & professional life? Are there aspects to Asperger’s Syndrome that you find to be misunderstood or underestimated by people?
My Asperger's affects my ability to socialise. I have a lot of anxieties and become paranoid about saying the wrong thing. Other people without Asperger's Syndrome (AS) do not seem to get this so much, and are able to relax in social situations. I wish I could relax more, and I think I am working well towards that goal. The fear is always that I will offend someone. When I talk to my Mum about this, she says that if you have a definite personality, and definite opinions, you will always offend some people, and not to worry too much about it. It's easier said than done! On the other hand, because of my AS I am able to be myself completely, I don't feel any urge to try and conform or be 'normal' which is something I am very grateful for. I have a vivid imagination, which helps with my writing. The world inside my mind gives me much of the joy that I get from my life. So, actually Asperger's is good for me. Because of my lack of social understanding, people sometimes perceive me as rude, I think, and I am sure I have offended people in the past by saying the wrong thing.
your ted talk, "how autism freed me to be myself," challenges stereotypes of people with autism and asks, “why be normal?” how did this incredible speech come to be and what has been your journey with autism advocacy?
I was invited to speak for TED after the organisers saw me on BBC. It was my first public speaking engagement, so I was very nervous, but I practiced every day. Even though the thought of speaking in front of all of those professional people made me very nervous, I was determined to do it. I saw that the world needed to be a more accepting, more loving place towards all people who are different, and it was a great opportunity to share my ideas on a world platform. I worked alongside my mum with the writing of the speech, and the TED people helped me with the delivery, showed me how to perform it powerfully, using voice coaching and body language. Looking at it now I am happy with the way that it turned out, and I have had lots of positive feedback from it, plus other speaking engagements here in the UK and in America.
You have two siblings who are on the spectrum as well — tell us about your relationship with them.
My siblings are the best in the world. Daisy and Lenny are bundles of joy. They are hard to look after, but I wouldn't trade them for the world. They are both non verbal but we have ways of communicating. I play with them every day, and I find them better company than a lot of people who do speak. We laugh together, tickle, rough and tumble, cuddle and loads of stuff. They both love outdoors so that we all have to spend lots of time in parks, woods and beaches. Sometimes I'd rather stay at home, but you can always put your coat on and take your book with you. Picnics are great because Daisy and Lenny are messy and its easier for the dog and the birds to clean up their crumbs than mum who spends a lot of time with the hoover in her hand. Daisy and Lenny can be noisy despite being non verbal. Lenny hums loudly and Daisy's cry can be like a cheese-grater on your nerves. Their happy noises though fill me with joy. There is a noise that Lens makes when he realises we are going on holiday (stacked up cases against the door, and mum with the hoover in her hand!) This noise is 'EEEEEEEEEH' and his face is pure joy. He knows there will be a week of beaches and swimming and eating out. Great!
What community or support system has been most valuable and important to you?
Mainly my family and friends are my support system. There is a special needs unit at my college, and the staff and kids there are very supportive. If I was stressed out or sad in a lesson, I could ask my teacher if I could take a breather. I do this, but sometimes I need a little more support. I can go to 'Open Doors' (the special needs resource) and the staff there will talk me down or give me space. Without the Open Doors support, college would have been very difficult for me. I have done well at college, despite all the things that are against me, and have gained an unconditional offer at my preferred University. I deserve the credit for this I think, but the support has helped me immensely. I have a lovely doctor, Dr. Meredith, who is kind and understanding. She doesn't just get her prescription pad out when I come in. She talks to me, she listens to me, and she has found the perfect medication that helps me to cope. If I miss an appointment (I can be a bit disorganised) she phones to ask me if I'm ok and never gets cross about wasting her time. I really like Dr. Meredith. My mum and dad have been the absolute best parents. Mum and dad have raised me to love everything about me that is different, and never to repress anything about myself. They taught me to be strong, and have been extremely kind. Because of my mum and dad I am the person that I am now, and I am pleased with that person.
As someone on the spectrum, what makes you most proud about your identity and experience?
I am hot. (kidding). I like my imagination. I have a unique sense of style, I get most of my stuff from charity shops but I think that I look unique and quite good. I like my autism, I feel like it helps me to be a real individual. I sometimes stand out from the crowd in negative ways, but often in positive ways too. I can do things that other people without AS cannot do. Nobody else at my college has won an EMMY or done a TED talk, or writes for BBC. I don't mean that to sound big-headed, but it is true. I love my AS because it helps me to connect with my brother and sister, who mean the world to me. I am proud of my family - how close we are, how we get through problems. How happy our little house is and how much love there is. Daisy makes me proud because she learned to walk and communicate in her own way. I am proud of her art skills, and how pretty she is, her hugs and her kisses, and her relationships with people. I love Lenny's fierce hugs, and the fact that his social skills are coming on. He tries to be appropriate even though he is very sensory. I am proud of mum for being strong and for being a great writer. Her social skills are better than anyone's and I look up to her. I am proud of dad working so hard but still being a lovely kind dad. I would not trade my family for anything. I have lots of hopes for the future, to write characters and people who are disabled, and represent other minorities in books, but in a real way, not so that their difference is the only point of them being in the book (this happens so much in tv and literature!). I would like to do more speaking, as this is a good way to push for autism advocacy and earn good money. Voice acting is another ambition, although it will not be my main career. I love singing and would like to be in a musical one day. I play guitar and love rock music. That's me!!!