top of page

Voices of Aut2ask: Unveiling the Strengths and Challenges of the Autistic Community

“We are people with strengths and challenges that often differ from the neuromajority, but our strengths and challenges are still valid and important.” - Aut2ask Anonymous Survey Respondent

This month, we connected with Beth Duttera, a remarkable activist and founder of Aut2ask, a platform that empowers the autistic community through dialogue, support, and advocacy. Through Aut2ask, Beth amplifies the voices of autistic individuals, showcasing the power of inquiry and connection. Below are some key takeaways from our conversation on her journey and mission.

Tell me a little bit about Aut2ask and why you started it.

Beth: Growing up, my parents advocated for me and did as much as they could with what was available at the time. I was nonverbal and in speech at age 3/4. Fast forward to 6th grade (1996), I received an ADHD diagnosis. In high school, I received panic/social disorder and generalized anxiety disorder diagnoses. It never seemed like that was “it” though. I still had struggles and was behind, or different, from my peers.

Beth as a child

It wasn’t until I was in my 30s and teaching an autistic child who was a challenge. One night, I was telling my parents about her and my parents laughed and said “that sounds exactly like you at that age!” And like a light bulb, it hit all three of us. OH MY GOD. Autism! My dad has called the autism diagnosis the missing piece to the puzzle. It makes my life and everything make sense! And if I was/am “classic textbook autistic” and had no idea—-that’s incredible and so upsetting. The world needs MUCH better awareness. Even autistic people don’t fully know what autism really is!! WE are exposed to what’s fed to us and it’s largely misinformation about autism. I am a teacher, and I didn't know I was autistic. Teachers aren’t being trained enough or taught how to best handle their autistic students. Its failing educators, families, students, students, and even their peers!

As an autistic educator, I bring a unique perspective and ideas that can hopefully change the current system that is not working. I hope to change that by uplifting autistic voices with Aut2ask.

Aut2ask started with an anonymous survey shared through a facebook post. The survey asks general questions about the support available for autistic people and the satisfaction they have with these supports. My hope was to lift the voices of other autistic people to advocate for what they need. It’s turned into a community and resource where people can ask questions and find connections and support. It’s also been a great way to bridge the gap between autistics and non-autistics.

What are some of your personal strengths along with strengths you often see highlighted among autistic people in your survey?

Beth: One of the biggest struggles with my autism, is also an advantage for Aut2ask.

Beth goes on to discuss her determination to receive responses from people as one of her biggest strengths which has allowed her to advance in her advocacy work.

Beth: When I started Aut2ask, I began emailing many many organizations and people asking for their support and help to lift autistic voices. Usually I get NOTHING back. And it leaves me SO confused and upset. Did they not see it? Are they seeing it? Do I email/tag/comment/etc again? I always do. Sometimes, I get a firm no. Sometimes I get a polite no. Sometimes I still get ignored, but I keep persisting until I hear a no. It physically hurts (like a dull blunt pain) when I do not receive an answer, or clarity when I ask a question. I HATE HATE HATE the saying “no answer is an answer.” It makes my brain hurt. I have a tough time accepting that. And it’s not because I want to be pushy or annoying- I just want an answer. I respect no’s and never bother again.That tenacity to keep going and not minding being the squeaky wheel is what’s going to make Aut2ask that much more successful. I’m not doing it just for my voice, but every autistic teen and adult's voice that needs more support and help to be heard.

A common theme among Beth’s survey responses is the fact that autistic people already know what their strengths are, but society has a hard time accepting and valuing these strengths. Below are some powerful quotes from Beth’s survey that reflect this theme:

“Our minds may work differently but we are creative, honest, and caring people. We often care too much and offer ourselves even when we have nothing else to give. We’re really struggling to even be here, so please be more patient.”

“We are smart, capable, kind people…Being autistic isn’t a bad thing, it’s something I am proud of. However, it is hard to live in a world that is made for neurotypical people. We need to change the environment we are living/working in to make it inclusive for all neurotypes.”

“Our way of being in the world can be very beautiful. We’re not often good cogs in capitalism, but I think that’s a good thing. And just because I’m not a good cog doesn’t make me less than. I have beautiful gifts to offer; our society just doesn’t value them.”

What advice do you and your community have for neurotypicals to better understand and support you?

Beth: My advice for neurotypicals is ALWAYS SEEK out autistic voices. Facebook, IGs, blogs. Hear and ask us! Especially autistics of color who are even more unseen and unheard than their white counterparts. And, you can ALWAYS ask us questions. Presume competence, but allow grace when we "fail."

Beth’s survey responses capture some other important themes:

  1. Autistic people want to be accepted for who they are and supported for what they need.

  • [It can be] “overwhelming to feel broken and like there’s something wrong with you because the world refuses to adapt to our needs.”

  • “While it is true, autistic folk suffer and struggle, a cure may not be the best solution. What if autistic folk were supported and helped so they can live and thrive with their unique and wonderful minds.”

  • “Support for autistic people needs to be centered on accepting us as we are and supporting us with that acceptance in mind.”

  1. As Beth mentioned, autistic voices need to be at the forefront of discussions about autism:

  • “If autism is being discussed at a table, an autistic voice should be seated among them.”

  • “Too much of the public discourse on autism support focuses on how neurotypical people perceive us and how neurotypical people think we should be supported, when it would be so much more sensible and productive for that public discourse to be led by the people who actually have and experience autism first-hand.”

  • “We need to be involved in decision making for our own community, so that new generations of autistic people don’t have to heal from the same trauma we did.”

Another common theme was the lack of resources and supports available for autistic people. Beth’s survey has reached the hands of 1.8K+ respondents and so far 41% say they are “not satisfied” with the resources available to them. 21% responded “what supports?” and 36% responded “somewhat.” That leaves a measly 2% who responded “yes.”

In our conversation with Beth, we've learned about her passion and how she's helping other autistic people. Aut2ask is more than just a group; it's a shining light for people with autism, creating a place where their voices are heard and valued. The stories and opinions Beth gathered show us something important: autistic people have their own strengths and ways of seeing the world, and they deserve to be recognized and included in everything we do.

The message from Aut2ask is clear: we need to listen more to autistic people, learn from them, and support groups like Aut2ask that make sure their voices are loud and clear. For teachers, parents, and everyone who wants to help, this is a chance to join in and make a difference. By understanding and supporting the autism community, we're building a future where everyone is valued for who they are.

Beth Duttera is an autistic educator and founder of Aut2ask, a platform that empowers the autistic community through dialogue, support, and advocacy. Follow her on Instagram at @aut2ask and take her survey here.

77 views0 comments


bottom of page