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The #ActuallyAutistic Culture and Identity Project S38

Name: Arabella Sterwerf, @ILoveUAllSo2

Pronouns: She/Her

Age: 17-18 years old, when I finally started to recognize me being Autistic.


  1. Did you feel you were different from others as a child? Yes all of the time. I knew since I was in Kindergarten that I was "different" when I and the other Disabled kids were separated from the able-bodied and Neurotypical people on a different playground. I immediately knew something was different with me when I struggled connecting with the other "Neurotypical" and "Able-bodied" students.

  2. Are your parents supportive of you as an autistic individual? My mom is supportive even if she struggles at times to understand me due to our different ways we communicate due to her being Allistic. My Dad and I aren't on good terms, but that isn't because I am Autistic. He actually is probably Autistic himself.

  3. I determined my ethical system by what I have learned, what I read, what I listened about, and what I felt is right. Once I learned something is hurting other people, I couldn't stand by. I constantly wanted to learn more so I wouldn't hurt people anymore than I already have. I deeply believe in social justice, advocacy, and activism.

  4. My private self differs from my public self because I hide a lot of what I am struggling with. With my public self, I tend to put out a mask that I am happy and that I am ok. I hide a lot of what I am really thinking and feeling because I learned that the moment that Autistic mask disappears, people don't usually like you when you are yourself. I'm better now at letting me be myself, but I still put on a mask a lot. I don't show in my public self that I am internally struggling with sensory stuff along with getting overstimulated. My private self, especially when I am alone really shows what I am struggling with. Also, I tend to talk to myself about my special interests and hyperfixations due to most Neurotypical people usually not wanting to hear what I am passionate about.

  5. Do you enjoy finding mistakes/errors in the production of films and television...continuity, etc.? Eh not really honestly. I don't usually notice! I'm mostly just trying to focus on the story and the characters. I am also trying to make sure I am catching all of the dialogue due to my HOH right ear. However, when I do notice a problem with the storytelling, a problem with developing the characters on the shows/movies, being disrespectful to the source material I am passionate about, etc, then yep I enjoy calling out the errors. But that stuff usually gets me frustrated and can lead to me wanting to quit watching.

  6. What are the top 3 traits you look for in a friend? Honesty, Compassion, Passionate

  7. What are the top 3 traits you perceive as negative, but are willing to overlook in a friend? Perfectionist, Orderly, Stubborn

  8. What are the top traits you look for in a partner/traits your partner possesses? Someone I can trust, someone who is compassionate, and someone I can respect.

  9. What would you do with your life if you had unlimited funds? I would constantly give back to the people who need it. Seriously, if I could, I would keep giving back to my communities and even to communities I'm not a part of. Not through charities funded by massive organizations though cause they tend to not actually go to the members of the community. I would directly help fund restorative justice movements and fight to overturn the systematically unjust systems while using my funds along with helping decolonize the land. I would also let myself get taxed too!

  10. What freedom means for me is the freedom to be fully my Disabled Queer self! It means having the freedom to enjoy what I love. Freedom means that everyone is getting what they both equitably and equally deserve. It means freedom from an systematically racist, sexist, homophobic, Transphobic, ableist, etc systems. It means decolonizing the land. Freedom to have the time to do the things I'm passionate about. The freedom to not have to fear being myself. Freedom has many meanings for me.

  11. Success to me means being able to help people. Success means getting small things done like making a phone call or succeeding getting through a meeting. Success means having some form of stability and being able to take care of the people I love and care about. Success is being able to take care of myself.

  12. Are you happier/productive within the structure of a relationship...partner/good friend/long-term roommate? Actually, I prefer to be alone. I still would love to have a partner one day, but not now. I would love to fall in love with someone. I do have lifelong friends who I deeply love. But I don't need to live with them. I'm happy to have amazing relationships in my life like my friends and family. They all make living in this cruel world worthwhile. But I don't need those relationships to be more stable/productive/happier. I can do that for myself. Because I need to make sure I am making myself more healthy and stable for these very people in my life. While I can lean on the people in my life sometimes, I can stand on my own. Also, I can make myself happier too!

  13. Do you find it stressful to be around other parents at school functions? Eh not really, I'm not a parent. I find other parents interesting.

  14. How often do you prentend to not see people you know if you don't want to talk? Oh all of the time! Especially if I didn't like them! But sometimes it's literally because I'm not sure they recognized me and I'm not sure if I should bring attention to myself. Sometimes it's because I don't have the spoons to deal with people.

  15. In which areas do you identify the most with other autistic people? That's a long list! I couldn't even go through all of the areas I identity with other Autistic people. Some would be sensory stuff like sounds bothering me, experiencing meltdowns/shutdowns, struggling to communicate with Neurotypical people due to a communicate difference with facial and body language, struggling to read Neurotypical people's tones, struggling to read Neurotypical people, experiencing alexithymia, having a delayed response due to auditory processing issues or not knowing how to respond to the situation. Responding apparently by Neurotypical people's standards the wrong way to situations. Stimming in many different ways like jumping up and down, dancing, listening to the same song over and over, etc. Constantly getting bullied by people and not understanding why I was being bullied. Getting under stimulated and overstimulated. Needing to destim alone. Constantly experiencing ableism for being my Neurodivergent self. I could go on and on!

  16. What are the most stressful aspects of parenting an autistic child as an autistic caregiver? Not a parent nor a caregiver

  17. Top 5 things I would want my future children to know is: 1) Disability is a part of being human and it isn't something to be terrified of and doesn't make us less human. 2) Being Neurodivergent is normal and beautiful. Being Autistic is a Neurotype and shouldn't be cured. 3) This world is cruel and systematically oppressive. However, that doesn't mean all hope is lost. There are people fighting for a better world. 4) That resisting the ableist narratives and language thrown at us is super important for us all. Because to be truly free is to reject the narratives that we are constantly told that we are "broken." 5) I want my kids to know they can be themselves at home. That the home can be a safe place for them.

  18. Does living off the grid appeal to you and why/why not? Not really because I do crave connection and I love the comforts I have living on the grid. I like living comfortably.

  19. I don't honestly have a favorite style of architecture. But I guess castles because they are cool. Any historical buildings too! I love history too much and those buildings would be filled with history!

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