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April 18, 2024 4 min read

Hello there, everyone. Brendan here once again, and I wanted to discuss something that’s very important to me today. April is Autism Acceptance Month, and today in particular is Adult Autism Awareness Day. That’s very important to me, because I was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum over ten years ago, and my condition has affected my life in profound ways for as long as I can remember. I wanted to talk a bit about that in general, as well as how it’s affected my time working here at Nakee.

It’s difficult to know where to begin talking about this, admittedly. I consider my condition to be such an integral part of who I am as a person that it’s impossible for me to imagine life without it; it’s like trying to invent a new color. I know that I see the world differently than neurotypical people do in a variety of ways. Verbal communication isn’t always easy for me, and I can sometimes become overwhelmed or made anxious by crowds or other social situations. It’s also contributed to my greater interest in history and the arts, particularly writing. In relation to my career, such as it is, the fact that I’m more inclined toward creative professions like marketing feels like a natural evolution of those interests. 

I’m very fortunate in that I was raised by two amazing parents who empathized with my condition, and have done their best to understand it while supporting me. They also ran a small business for almost twenty years, starting when I was in elementary school and retiring after I finished college. Though I didn’t always appreciate it at the time, that was as much an education as any class, seeing the ways in which a business is operated and maintained.

As I’ve started my own career, I’ve also come to understand what being on the spectrum can help me bring to the table as an employee. For example, autistic people are generally pretty straightforward communicators when it comes down to it– we’re willing to say what we think or what’s on our minds. Additionally, many folks on the spectrum also have excellent attention to detail, a benefit that speaks for itself, and are excellent problem-solvers. 

The thing that I think has most benefited me, though, and has helped to guide my career so far, is the concept of “hyper-fixation.” It goes by a few different names within the autistic community, but that’s the most common one, and maybe the most iconic trait of the average depiction of an autistic individual. When we get invested in something, however niche or odd it may be, we getfullyinvested. We nerd out like no one’s business.

That can definitely be an asset for those who find a job related to their hyper-fixation (I’m hoping that someday I’ll get hired as a Star Wars historian, but I’m starting to have my doubts). My hyper-fixation has always been movies, and as a result I became interested in video production and editing; I now have a degree in exactly that, and marketing is one of the many avenues I’ve found to utilize those skills. 

There are some great guides online that discuss other effects and symptoms of autism, including this one. If you’re keen to learn more, I’d recommend trying to find first-hand material (like this, this and this) rather than disseminations of symptoms by those outside the community. One of the most common misconceptions about autistic people is that we’re unable to articulate our feelings, or even that we don’t have them in the same way neurotypical folks do. It can be difficult for us at times, but we feel no less vividly than anyone else, and we’re capable of expressing our beliefs and feelings as much as anyone.

Sometimes, though, the feeling of being different or 'othered' can weigh on us. It's that sentiment that inspired the header image of this blog, in fact. More than once I've felt as though being on the spectrum was like being an astronaut, observing the world from a distance. That's not reality, however; the truth is that we're as much a part of this world as anyone, and people on the spectrum do have a place. 

People on the spectrum are perfectly capable of being successful; there are many famous autistic folks, including actors Daryl Hannah, Wentworth Miller and Anthony Hopkins, Detroit legend Eminem and environmental activist Greta Thunberg. It’s also believed that many historical figures, including Albert Einstein, Michelangelo and even Thomas Jefferson were on the spectrum as well. Some contemporary figures who may have it, however, have not disclosed their diagnosis.

I disclosed my diagnosis upon being hired, but I know for a fact that a lot of my friends on the spectrum do not do this, even though they might receive accommodations if they did. There are still a lot of biases and misunderstandings about people on the spectrum and indeed the autism spectrum itself. I empathize with my friends’ hesitation immensely, partly because I felt the same hesitation for a very long time. It was only once I started to reflect and analyze the benefits of my condition that I felt safe enough to be fully open with it, and embrace it as a part of myself. Getting to utilize the skills that I’ve learned and the knowledge I’ve gained has helped on that journey.

For those still working on finding themselves (and I think we all are, to some degree), I have to say: stick with it. Things will improve. Be patient with yourself, and do your best to learn your strengths. Remember, as the Nakee slogan goes, that you are doing better than you think!

Of course, I’m not done learning yet. No one ever is; that’s what life is for! I’m eager to hone my skills further here at Nakee and in my own personal projects. Whatever happens, I am grateful for the opportunities that I have been afforded, and the chance to speak with you all about something so important. Thank you for reading, and best wishes as always. This is Brendan, signing off!

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