With April being Autism Acceptance Month, our featured author, Michael McCreary, is a comedian and is autistic. He tells his story through his memoir, Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic and gives us permission to laugh at at the lighter side of the autism spectrum.
Michael McCreary was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, mild form of autism, at the age of five. His parents enrolled him in the Stand up for Mental Health program at the age of thirteen where he found a positive outlet for his anxiety and met the founder of the program, David Granirer. McCreary trained with Granirer to create his comedy act, “Does This Make My Asperger’s Look Big?”. He was a contributor to the 2015 book published by the Autism Society called Autism: The Gift That Needs to be Opened. Now at the age of twenty-four, he is a self-defined Aspie Comic, a stand-up comedian who uses his love of the theater and being funny to breakdown the misconceptions about Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Misconceptions about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
McCreary talks about some of the misconceptions in his memoir, but there are quite a few of them out there. Some of these misconceptions come from people not understanding the disorder. Here are a few of them
- Autism used to be rare, now it is common. The disorder has always been there, more people are being diagnosed and are given the opportunity to be diagnosed.
- People with autism lack empathy. In reality, people with autism are often highly concerned with feelings of the people around them.
- The goal should be to make people with autism “indistinguishable” from their peers. This approach make people a problem to be solved and not understood.
- We are over diagnosing quirky kids with a trendy disease. Some people who are really just eccentric, are diagnosed as autistic. But many of those people truly are autistic.
As I was learning more about autism, these misconceptions helped me to see that I had more to learn. So, I read his book.
Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic
This memoir is McCreary’s story about growing up on the autism spectrum. Sometimes funny and sometimes sad, McCreary takes us through his day to day life and the challenges he faced being “a little different” from the rest of us. McCreary helps us to see the struggles of the journey through his memoir. Sure, he writes it with a comedy theme, but it makes it more relatable to us. And he says, laughter was a coping mechanism for his family as they dealt with the disorder.
McCreary wrote this book to not only give young readers with ASD a story to relate to, but also to help readers gain a better understanding about the disorder and what it means to be on the spectrum. It is a very relatable story, even for those of us who haven’t had actual experience with someone who has it.
One of the main ideas that he brings up is that each person’s journey is as unique as they are. No two cases of someone on the spectrum are the same. Since he had a mild case, some could say this is not a representation of a person with a more debilitating case. Each person’s story will be different and they all go to our understanding and accepting.
If you have been wanting to learn more autism or Michael McCreary, here are a couple of links
Link to the author If you want to learn more about the author, here is a link to his website Michael McCreary
Link to the book If you want to purchase this book, here is a link to Amazon. Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic
How does his story relate to Mental Health
Autism is not a mental health problem, it is a developmental disorder. However, people who have autism are at higher risk to develop many mental health issues. According to the National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI) people with autism can develop anxiety disorders or even depression. Not only do people who are on the spectrum have to deal with their disorder, but they also have to deal with how people view them.
There are many books out there about autism. There are some that will talk about the disorder and some that will have exercises to help those who have it. I find in trying to understand people who are different from me is to listen to their stories; either by reading or hearing them. Michael McCreary story is just one of many we can learn from.
We can all become aware of people who have autism or any related disorder, but accepting them for who they are will help them have better mental health.