Influencers
Learn about autism from those who are actually autistic, like Paige Layle. (Image via Instagram)
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Influencers

April is Autism Awareness Month, but these Instagram accounts are educating people about autism all year round.

Autism Awareness Month might be in April, but for those who are on the spectrum, Autism Awareness Month is every single month, and the following autistic influencers have overcome so much in order to get to where they are today. We can learn something from them every day.

These influencers have inspired me in so many ways, and I have often turned to their accounts when I was feeling stressed or having a bad day. Some of these accounts don’t have as many followers as other Instagram influencers; however, I feel like they should have many more: They lead regular lives like everyone else, and they are using their platforms as influencers to help others understand what autism is.

1. Paige Layle

Layle first went viral on TikTok for talking about autism in girls. Layle is an eyelash technician living in Canada. She has autism, but there are many people that don’t believe that she does because she is described as “too good looking” and a “social butterfly,” resulting in some saying “there is no way she is autistic.”

Layle shows that autism doesn’t have a specific face or look. She shows that you can be the most beautiful person in the world and still have autism. She even made an interesting analogy about snowflakes when describing how autistic people are all unique and how they are not all the same, as many people think.

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sometimes, the analogy of snowflakes is used to describe autistic people. not the way boomers use it, but that we are all individuals. we are all different. you will never find two that are exactly alike. experiences, traits, special interests, opportunities and physical skills are all things that differ, but one thing bonds us together; they way we process information is different. some things we have a very difficult time processing or getting grips of, while some we grasp faster. things that are abstract, philosophical, social, moral or non-literal are some examples of topics of difficulty. these things are not seen by having a simple conversation with the person, and definitely not by looking at their face. autism is a spectrum that does NOT act linearly, with more autistic on one side, and less on the other. you don’t have a teaspoon of autism while others have a cup of autism. it doesn’t work like that. the traits that make up an autistic person can be expressed heavily, or only expressed to a certain degree. some can be expressed more than other traits, and some traits may be expressed more in one autie than the next. i may not be like your son, daughter, cousin, classmate, friend, parent, neighbour with autism- and that’s because no one is like them. they are them. i am me. this is my story. MY autism. What’s yours? #actuallyautistic #happy

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Layle made a couple of videos talking about autism in girls. She did not get diagnosed until she was a teenager because girls with autism are often overlooked.

She also talks about masking, which leads to a late diagnosis for many girls because they are so good at it. That’s how I was growing up; I was practically an expert at masking.

Layle is very knowledgeable when it comes to these topics, and what better way to learn about autism than from someone who has it?

Profiles: Instagram, Twitter, TikTok

2. Hoping for Happy

Hoping for Happy, also known as Anna Zoe, who uses she/they pronouns, not only inspires those who have autism, but they also inspire those who are in the LGBTQ+ community, the mental health community and they promote body positivity as well.

Anna posts about a lot of educational topics, with many of their posts showing a sign with the message they are trying to convey. They talk about emotions, the harm of glow-ups and how you should never judge a book by its cover, plus Anna has strong opinions on many other matters.

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• Recently a much larger page shared one of my posts about autism and the comments sections was a nightmare. • I received comments and messages about how I should have used person first language (people with autism rather than autistic people etc.) from people who weren't autistic themselves and, how I didn't look autistic and how I must be 'high-functioning' or even not autistic at all because I spoke so eloquently. • All of the comments spoke to a much larger issue facing the autistic community – the constant erasing, censorship and silencing of actual autistic voices. • If you don't appear to outwardly struggle much then you're termed 'high-functioning' (an outdated and inaccurate label) and therefore can't speak for those who are 'lower functioning', and you are deemed 'low-functioning' you're deemed to not have the resources to speak for yourself and so have to have others advocate for you. • Whatever way you look at it, we're constantly being told we can't speak for ourselves or for our fellow autistics, which leaves it to neurotypical people who, while most are well-intentioned, just can't comprehend the reality of living as an autistic person because they're not autistic. • When we say that autism is a spectrum, that DOES NOT mean that at one end there are 'more autistic' people and 'less autistic' people. It means that there is a spectrum of different traits and each autistic person may experience. Every autistic voice is valid, and every autistic voice should be valued and allowed to speak for itself if that person so chooses. • Listen to us please, don't speak over us. Love, Anna x

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You will feel inspired if you go on Anna’s profile. I often share their quotes. You can also ask them questions on any topic, and they will give you honest and thoughtful answers. They are constantly teaching people about topics that many people don’t want to talk about.

Profiles: Instagram, Twitter, YouTube

3. Nala

Nala may be a dog, but she and her handler, Megan, are teaching people every day about what it’s like to be an autism service dog. Named after the popular “Lion King” character, Nala posts about a wide variety of topics.

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👩🏻‍💻Food for THOUGHT: Disabled people are not *entirely* disabled by what they can’t do outside of their own home, but by what the world defines as normal, usual, & typical. Neurotypical, defined, is: “not displaying or characterized by autistic or other neurologically atypical patterns of thought or behavior.” But from a worldly standpoint, if you have any disability at all, you’re not the norm, AKA at a disadvantage, because the rest of the world has an unspoken standard. The majority of the world is built for the average human. What may be considered accessible, whether complying with the ADA checklist or not, may not be accessible at all to many disabled people. To establish a similar understanding, the ADA checklist says that door knobs & buttons are to be placed 34-48 inches off the ground. Not every person will be able to find that accessible, as that doesn’t cover all of the reasons someone might not be able to use a standard door, even with a button, chair, or both. Often times, they don’t work anyways. You might think it’s rather extreme to be completely accessible to everyone entering a building. Automatic doors are at the entrance to many hospitals, ironically. Is it a stretch for all public places to be accessible? After all, what use is something if it doesn’t serve the function it was made? You can’t put a price on disabled people by determining who is worth the cost of accessibility and who isn’t. Funding only projects that are deemed worth it in the eyes of an able bodied person isn’t how accessibility should work. So we get it, a disability is a disadvantage in public specifically when we live in a world that is only built to accommodate the average human, even with few efforts in place for some physical disabilities now. What should someone do if the public is inaccessible? Much and many of the disability population encompasses people with invisible disabilities, ones that get overlooked in public accommodation, at times making places completely inaccessible to groups of people. Food for thought.🤷🏻‍♀️

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One of the most popular things on Nala’s profile are her and Megan’s trips to Disney World, where she charms everyone with her adorable Mickey ears and is very popular with a lot of the Disney cast members, like Donald Duck.

But her profile isn’t just filled with colorful Disney photos. It also brings attention to the importance of service dogs and the training they receive. She also brings awareness to discrimination in the disability community.

I followed Nala not only because I am a Disney fan, but also because I love being educated about what service dogs do, and I am always open to learning new things about disabilities. Nala and Megan are making that possible with their Disney visits. They also do Q&As, so people can learn more about service dog training and autism.

Profiles: Instagram

4. PJ Au

PJ, which is the name that this influencer prefers to go by, is a model on the spectrum. She is known not only for her modeling pictures, but also for bringing attention to why Autism Speaks is not a good organization. She does not promote the typical puzzle pieces that are used for autism awareness. Instead, she promotes the infinity symbol.

PJ is also asexual, but she shows that being asexual does not mean you can’t be in a relationship. She is in a loving relationship with a neurotypical man who is also asexual. They both talk about what it’s like to be in that kind of relationship.

PJ, like Layle, shows that autism does not have a look, and that just because you have autism does not mean you are incapable of living a fulfilling life. PJ has a job, a relationship, she lives independently with her man and she is a model. She shows that people with autism can do anything they set their minds to.

Profiles: Instagram

5. The Chronic Couple

Brandy and Matt are a couple, and they are both on the autism spectrum. They run a podcast talking about what their daily lives are like and what it’s like to live on the spectrum.

These influencers are not shy about voicing their opinions, letting people know how they feel about labels and stereotypes, Autism Speaks and masking.

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They’re the most popular autism organization, but yet they’re harmful toward the autism community. Here’s a few examples why. Autism Speaks is Searching to “End Autism”- Autism Speaks has the goal of ending autism, by any means necessary. The majority of their funding goes towards autism “research”. Not research for improving therapies that help autistic people, but research for a “cure” for autism. For example a prenatal test for autism. There isn’t any Autistic people on their board.- Autism Speaks is one of the few charities that refuses to include individuals with the very thing they’re supporting on their board or in leadership positions. They are trying to make decisions regarding the future of autism without consulting any autistic people. Autism Speaks doesn’t help autistic people. – Autism Speaks is one of the largest autism organizations in the country. Yet only 4% of their huge budget goes toward actually helping autistic children and their families with grants. With Autism awareness month approaching in April, please do not support this organization. If you are looking for autism organizations to support, check out the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network. @autisticselfadvocacy . . . . . . #actuallyautistic #onthespectrum #autism #aspie #autistic #autismmeme #autisticadults #aspergersyndrome #asd #autismawareness #aspiesofinstagram #autismproud #autismspeaksdoesntspeakforme #autismcommunity #autisticmemes #notapuzzlepiece #autismacceptance #aspergers #autismspectrum #neurodiversity #autismadvocate #asperger #actuallyautisticmemes #nothingaboutuswithoutus

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It is a common myth that people with Autism can’t feel love, but Brandy and Matt have proven many people wrong, demonstrating that people on the spectrum can indeed find love.

They also show that people with autism can have fulfilling careers, and that they aren’t limited to a certain category of jobs. Brandy is a singer and Matt is an IT engineer,

Profiles: Main Instagram, Matt’s Instagram, Brandy’s Instagram and their podcast

6. 21 and Sensory

Emily, also know as 21 and Sensory, is a graphic designer and illustrator. She has both autism and sensory processing disorder.

Emily posts graphics that she creates, and the topics range from surviving holidays, tips on coping with the pandemic, daily things that might be hard to handle and how to deal with public transport. These graphics are really helpful for those who might need the advice.

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Coming back at you with another doodle about coping on public transport! 🚌 I’ve had 3 (day long) training courses in London throughout November (you might have seen some photos on my Instagram Stories which are now under my ‘London Trip’ highlight) 🇬🇧 Commuting is hard like generally (I don’t think anybody truly loves commuting especially not long distances) but commuting can be just that bit more difficult for those who have sensory issues and are autistic. It can be loud (like underground tubes seem to squeal on the tracks in London 24/7?!) add to that the change in smells, proximity to other people and just general rush everyone in it can be very overwhelming ✈️ . It’s disorientating at the best of times trying to find your way around train stations, bus stations, airports etc! So my doodle above includes some things that have helped me before. Of course (as always) I can’t include everything in one small drawing and these thing may not help everyone but I thought I’d share the sensory aids I use. Any top tips for using (or just generally surviving) public transport? 🚃 . #sensory #sensoryprocessingdisorder #SPD #sensorymeltdown #sensoryoverload #spdawareness #autism #autistic #asd #actuallyautistic #adhd #ocd #anxiety #sensorydiet #highlysensitiveperson #fightorflight #neurologicaldisorder #dyslexic #dyslexia #dyscalculia #publictransport #commuting #mentalhealth #selfcare #stimming #blog #introvert #anxiety #depression

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Aside from having autism, I also have a few sensory issues, and I feel like many of Emily’s posts relate to me, and they show that I am not alone. I like to fidget, and like Emily suggests, I have a large variety of fidget toys that I can switch out at any time.

Profiles: Instagram, Twitter, YouTube

These influencers are the kind of role models that I could have looked up to when I was younger. The kind of role models that I aspire to be. I always tell myself to be the role model I needed when you was younger, so I plan to be that to someone one day.

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