Growing up different I was a Navy brat; grew up everywhere, oldest of five. And growing up was a very different experience for me, and I didn’t know why I was different until age 16 when I …
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I was a Navy brat; grew up everywhere, oldest of five. And growing up was a very different experience for me, and I didn’t know why I was different until age 16 when I discovered that I was this thing called autistic.
All the social awkwardness, taking things literally, all the quirks, the insane recall I had, all of that had a name, had a diagnosis. And I thought, `Cool, that’s great — what’s for dinner?’ and moved on, got ready for school the next day.
From that point, I did my best to bury it. I was ashamed of the fact that I had a name for being different, that I was autistic, that I was somehow less of a person with a disability.
That was at 16. So, fast forward about 10 or so years after really making a decent life. I moved to the Denver area in 2008, got married, had kids, got a house, had a really decent, stable job. Did my best to live a normal life until I realized that I was not happy.
I felt like I mastered being a fake and learning later on that it was an elaborate masking of my attributes and dampening elements of my personality. I hit a depressive period and figured, ‘Why don’t I out myself and tell the world, hey, I’m Hunter Hansen, and the person you know is autistic and here’s what my life is really about.’
I started a blog that spiraled and kind of grew and really influenced and touched a lot of lives. And that kicked off into broader social media advocacy. I started a YouTube channel which has been growing steadily, done some things on Instagram and had a few reels pop here and there.
And it’s kind of brought people out of the woodwork, connected a lot of the greater autistic community that watches the content and somehow thinks `Wow, this is how I think too and I’m not alone.’
It’s led to a lot of podcast opportunities and speaking opportunities to just share my experience as an autistic professional adult, as an autistic parent.
Kind of a different voice in a conversation that has usually been dominated by parents of autistic children rather than autistic adults that are kind of waving and saying ‘Hello, here’s what happens when your autistic kids grow up — they become me, they turn into people like me who have these kids of struggles or need support in doing these things.’
I’m still autistic, I just have a different set of support needs that when they’re met, they’re great, but when they’re not, I crumble. So, just sharing the life autistic and what it’s like and helping to bring greater awareness and acceptance and ultimately appreciation.
I keep waiting for people to say they hate the blog, but they don’t. I think the most surprising element is people saying that it’s relatable, and this is coming from somebody who has felt alien for his entire life. The more open and vulnerable I become; the more people say it’s eye-opening because they feel like somebody else is sharing their experience.
I think what’s helped most is that my experience is my expertise. People don’t argue experience, they don’t invalidate it — they appreciate it because it lines up with their own experience, or if it contrasts, we’re talking about experience and not facts or a well-researched thing.
I just want to share my experience and what I’ve observed from it in the way I’ve been gifted to do, and people really seem to resonate with that and appreciate that I put into words and videos things that they have felt and harbored but haven’t had a way to share, and I’m glad they feel I’ve done a good job in sharing that for them.
I think raising the visibility of autism is a necessary step. I joke that it’s like this autistic Great Awakening to where there are so many adults who have either been undiagnosed, under-diagnosed, or they just missed and don’t know why they’re different — and I do.
I think it’s been a helpful thing to share more of that broadly and reclaim a bit of autism advocacy so that it’s not so much of our allies who are speaking about autism from their perspective, but autistic people sharing their perspective and for other autistic persons to feel emboldened to do that. You can share this too; your voice is valuable.
Hunter Hansen’s blog `The Life Autistic’ can be accessed online at thelifeautistic.com. His content can be found on YouTube at `Hunter Hansen - The Life Autistic’ and on Instagram @the_life_autistic.
If you know someone we should cover in My Name Is …, or if you would like to be featured in the segment, contact Ryan Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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