April is Autism Awareness Month and we should all work to promote awareness and acceptance of the differences of those who are on the Spectrum. On April 7th our own Reggie Williams stood up in the Statehouse for AFAM’s Autism Awareness Day and spoke to those assembled about the issues that confront many on the spectrum. Bullying, hatred, lack of readily available services and supports in time of crisis. His story was powerful and moved those who heard him speak . We share his words with you and thank him for being an eloquent voice not only for himself but for all those who are unable to speak out.
Hello! My name is Reginald Aaron Williams. I’m 23 years old and I’m here to tell you of an unfortunate situation that happened to me in college.
I was a student at Quinsigamond Community College, where I had recently changed my major from General Studies to Human Services. In my new Human Services program, we were asked to express ourselves and tell our stories. So, I told mine of being autistic, and how I surround myself with good, supportive people. Throughout the semester I thought I was in an environment that understood me, understood how I work, how I think and was accepting of me. But I was wrong.
Near the end of the semester I received a very hateful text that I was meant to believe to be sent by my father who I have not seen since I was 6 months old.
The texts told me that he was having a new baby son and hoping that his son wouldn’t turn out retarded like me.
I was so shaken I immediately went to the assistant dean of students, who told me to go to campus police to file a report, which I did. The campus police couldn’t do anything other than to tell me to go to the local police and file a report. So I went to the Worcester Police Department with my mom but nothing could be done, because the number was probably a ‘ghost number’.
This event sent me into a downward spiral, and I still had another class project to work on, but was told by my partner that I was not focused on the project at hand and that I didn’t care. What my partner didn’t know is that I was falling apart and no one cared or knew how to reach out. Even the campus counselor’s time was split between 3 campuses, and has not been available whenever I needed to regroup. And true to form, was not available during my crisis.
My only salvation was my mom, family, and very close friends, because a trip to the ER was not what I wanted. Trying to get in touch with my therapist and nurse practitioner at the end of the college semester, right before the Christmas holidays was almost impossible.
In the middle of all of this, which I thought was interesting, the campus police had been notified, by whom I don’t know, that I ‘might harm myself’ which warranted a safety check by the local police. My mom informed them of what was going on and showed the officer these horrible texts. He told my mom there’s not much that can be done at this point unless my life is threatened. I don’t understand, wasn’t my soul threatened?
My therapist and nurse practitioner finally got in touch with me, over 72 hours later. To me that’s not acceptable and at the time I completely felt like Amanda Todd, a young girl who was cyber-bulled and took her life. But I knew I did not want to be another statistic.
Looking back, I realized that if you surround yourself with good people, take some time off, re-evaluate yourself and trust that life will work out in the end, it will all get better. So my advice for any individual who is struggling or feels isolated and insignificant dealing with Autism, don’t give up hope. Don’t let the naysayers win the battle so they can destroy your self-esteem.
What’s needed is to have adequate services available for times of crisis for young adults with Autism. If things do not change, society will continue to lose wonderful people. We deserve to live good lives too.