HAVING A CHAT: w/ STEFANO ESPOSITO
C: Hi Stef! I'm so excited to catch up and chat about you and your activism. :) Can you first explain the autism spectrum for those who may not know?
S: "In the way I can explain, the autism spectrum is about the way our brains are developed, it's different to other humans and affects different parts of our daily life, mostly affecting our social and emotional development. For example, our senses are heightened and sometimes people on the spectrum don't get sarcasm. I'm verbal and I do understand a lot of social situations but still face heightened senses, needing time to process different situations and having many specialized interests."
C: Got it, and thank you for breaking it down for us! What's your earliest memory in regards to being diagnosed?
S: "I was 2 when I got diagnosed and I don't remember being diagnosed. However, I got told when I was 11 I think after school and I just remember crying heavily when I found out and being so confused on what this means. But once everything was explained, I then straight away wanted to tell everyone I'm autistic. An emotional jump, I know. I remember going to sessions after to learn about and again, I cried in all of them. I'm a very emotional person. But I think they helped understand how autism affects me and why I do certain things."
C: That's awesome that you attended those sessions, it sounds like they really helped you come to terms with your body and mind. Now I know this is a pretty broad question since you were diagnosed at such a young age, but how do you feel being autistic affected you and the way you go about life?
S: "Autism has affected me in so many ways, good and bad. One way is getting overwhelmed and this happens quite a bit. Especially when it comes to busy environments where my senses are pushed to the limit, which leads me to face sensory overload. And when I was younger, loud noises affected me the most, to the point where I'd cry and have to leave things. But now, I love concerts and music and they make me feel so good. I feel like because my senses are heightened, I appreciate things like sounds more and that's why music excites me. Another way is that when something happens, I sometimes have to process it and that can take a while for me to understand it and move on. That is due to me feeling stuff very deeply, which also means I can empathise with a lot of people and often will listen to people when they need help."
C: Haha, as a huge concert-goer myself I'm so glad that you're able to go experience and enjoy live music. I love watching your YouTube videos about new music and albums because you can tell you're so passionate about what you're talking about! Speaking of YouTube, I know a reoccurring topic that you cover is growing up autistic. Are there any stigmas surrounding the autistic community that you’d like to clear up?
S: "OOOOH THERE'S SO MANY!! The one that I feel needs to be addressed is the stigma of we're child-like. OOOH THIS ANNOYS ME SO MUCH. Sometimes when I tell people I'm autistic, there's this patronising tone with it and I get treated like a baby. Autistic people are not forever child-like. Just because we have autism, doesn't mean we don't enjoy stuff like drinking, dating, having sex and other things adults enjoy. Autistic adults are adults and should be treated with respect instead of treated like a baby."
C: Yeah, that's very understandable. Everybody deserves that respect as an adult. I am curious though, what made you want to step into the spotlight and start your YouTube?
S: "I wanted to see me in the media. An autistic gay man who was like me, not a stereotype. I never did see [it] at all and I felt lonely a lot of times and felt like no one could relate, so I think I've become an advocate because I want to be there for other autistics and show they're not alone. But also I want to show that autistic people are just like everyone else, so that's why I post other content as well to show that we are multifaceted and not just autistic."
C: Wow, that was such a beautiful answer. I'm so glad that you decided to start it up and I know your videos have helped others out there. Do you have any creators that you look up to in the autistic community? I’d love to highlight some others that you feel deserve it!
S: "Honestly for this question, there's 2 main creators I can think about. One of them is Chloé Hayden aka Princess Aspien, she was actually the first autistic Youtuber I saw and not only did I really enjoy her content, but the stuff she was talking about, I really related to and I felt seen for the first time. And the other creator I'd say is Tim Boykin aka blackautisticking on Tik Tok, I find this content really fun because he has a certain warmth and kindness to his content and is also really relatable again. So I'd say those 2 at the moment but there's so many creators that I could talk about."
C: Nice! :) Before we wrap everything up, I just wanted to say thank you once again! You have helped me understand so much. Is there any advice you’d give to parents or families that have children diagnosed with autism?
S: "I'd say the best thing is to be there for your child and fight to get support for your child in school especially. Now, while support is there, like a one on one teacher next to them in class and speech therapy (which I did when I was round 3-4), it is hard and you have to do so much to get that support so be prepared and get everything ready in order to gain that support. It will benefit them, make them understand life more and allow them to develop. And being there for your child is literally listening to them when they are struggling and doing things to help them vs. making them feel worse by forcing them to do things and trying to cure them. That's not how it works. Please be there for your kids."
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