April is Autism Awareness month — a time to learn more about the disorder and those living with it. But for Tiffany Hammond, who lives with autism, this month can feel overwhelming.
“I’m just always hit with the reminders of how hard my life is. These are red flags, symptoms, all of the bad stuff,” Hammond tells Yahoo Life. “It’s hardly ever, like, positive. We’re people. We have happy positive things that go on in our lives. I think that should be celebrated, as well.”
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may impact social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and verbal communication. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that autism impacts 1 in 54 children in the United States.
When she started an Instagram called fidgets.and.fries to share her family’s journey, Hammond discovered the autism community that didn’t exist when she was originally diagnosed at 18. Last year she got a second autism diagnosis, in a quest to learn and understand herself better.
“Society pretty much dismisses and ignores the voices of autistic people. That’s what makes my life more difficult. It isn’t really autism itself, it’s living within a society with a brain that differs from the norm,” Hammond says.
In the larger community, Hammond says she has struggled to feel included. At autism events, her family is usually the only, or one of a few Black families. At times she feels like a prop that organizations use to show diversity, without acknowledging or addressing the intersectional issues that limit crucial access to resources.
That's why Hammond started her Instagram — to create a space that was more representative, and worthy of her boys' membership. As a mother with autism, raising two boys with autism, her family's dynamic is one that hasn’t been deeply researched. Though she has found a handful of families like hers on social media, and that has strengthened her passion to make sure they're heard.