Outspoken, smart, and unabashed, then 16-year-old Rosie King gave an eye-opening Ted Talk back in 2014 called How Autism Freed Me to Be Myself. She discusses the label that has in many ways defined her as a positive thing. She celebrates it for its uniqueness and appreciates it for its challenges, making it “normal” in a way that strips normal of its power entirely.
King pushes the boundaries for what’s acceptable by bringing up such valuable points. Human diversity cannot fit in a box and shouldn’t be forced into one. In many ways, she sees autism as an ability as opposed to a disability.
“I don’t try and fit myself into a tiny little box. That’s one of the best things about being autistic. You don’t have the urge to do that. You find what you want to do, you find a way to do it, and you get on with it. If I was trying to fit myself into a box, I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t have achieved half the things that I have now.”
And yet King doesn’t forget to share the problems associated with autism.
“There are problems with being autistic, and there are problems with having too much imagination. School can be a problem in general, but having also to explain to a teacher on a daily basis that their lesson is inexplicably dull and you are secretly taking refuge in a world inside your head in which you are not in that lesson, that adds to your list of problems. Also, when my imagination takes hold, my body takes on a life of its own. When something very exciting happens in my inner world, I’ve just got to run. I’ve got to rock backwards and forwards, or sometimes scream.”
And then she ties in normalcy, by knocking it off its pedestal. She discusses how near and dear we hold the idea of it, and how we strive to achieve it, yet, if someone were to give us a compliment of, “Wow, you are really normal,” we would feel plain. We are used to compliments that involve “beautiful,” “unique,” and “extraordinary.”
“So if people want to be these things, why are so many people striving to be normal? Why are people pouring their brilliant individual light into a mold? People are so afraid of variety that they try and force everyone, even people who don’t want to or can’t, to become normal. There are camps for LGBTQ people or autistic people to try and make them this ‘normal,’ and that’s terrifying that people would do that in this day and age.”
King says she wouldn’t trade her autism or one of her best traits, her imagination, for anything in the world. And she hopes that others can learn to realize that there is no room for fear of variety. We don’t have to exist in one box, because that’s just stifling. We would be better off spending our time, rather than punishing things that stray from normal, celebrating uniqueness, because what a beautifully liberating feeling it is to know you are like no one else in the world but yourself.