Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Autism Acceptance Month 2014: Nick Mediati

This month we're asking our autistic community members What Do You Want? What Do You Need? We're featuring their answers all April long, right here. Today we're having a conversation with technology journalist Nick Mediati. Please read, listen, and share.

What are some things you like people to know about you?

I’m a freelance editor and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, focused primarily on technology journalism.

I’m a fairly new member of the autism community, having received an official diagnosis last December, but my discovery process was years in the making. I first learned about Asperger Syndrome when I was in college, and it instantly resonated with me.But at the same time, I remember thinking, “That isn’t really me, is it?”

But as I learned more about autism beyond the Wikipedia entry, and learned about all the different ways it can manifest itself, the more I realized that it actually does fit, and that it accounts for so many of my struggles -- and my strengths.

Oh, and I generally find these sorts of introductions hard to write. So much to think about!

What are some things that make you happy? Why?

Baseball, for one. I’m a passionate fan of the Oakland Athletics; little beats spending a warm summer afternoon in the bleachers at the Oakland Coliseum. Of course, I’m awful at actually playing baseball -- thank you, awful coordination -- so I settle on watching it instead.

I also enjoy working in my garden. I grew up watching my mom work in her garden, so it’s something I’ve always been around. I particularly enjoy growing vegetables in my back yard. There’s something rewarding about growing your own food.

What are some things you avoid whenever possible? Why?

I’m not a big fan of tasks with high mental overhead, for lack of a better term. It’s why I put off making important phone calls -- or answering these questions, for that matter!

Unstructured social encounters are high on my list of things I avoid. I don’t always know how to act, what to say, or what to talk about. Give me a topic of mutual interest, and I’ll talk with almost anyone. But otherwise I’m lost.

I try to avoid uncertainty or circumstances where I don’t know what’s expected of me. I tend to freeze up in those sort of situations, and it’s gotten me into trouble in school and on the job.

Sensory-wise, I am fairly particular about the kind of clothes I wear. I avoid any clothing that I’ll actively notice, so mainly I stick to T-shirts and jeans.

What features does your ideal living space have, and why?

Light and airy with lots of natural light during the day, cozy-feeling at night. I don’t need a lot of living space, but I enjoy having a sizable garden. In a perfect world, my home would be organized and clutter-free, but in reality, I live in a state of organized chaos.

I don’t drive, so ideally I need a place that is within walking distance of a shopping area and has good public transportation. I like small cities (e.g. 50,000-75,000 residents) the best; you have everything you need, but it isn’t too crowded.

What are your favorite books, movies, and/or TV shows?

I don’t watch a whole lot of TV, so I have almost no idea of what’s popular these days, but I do enjoy watching cooking shows -- particularly America’s Test Kitchen. As for movies, I enjoyed The Lego Movie when I saw it recently. I also enjoy Moneyball -- both the book and the movie.

What autistic experiences would you like to see more of, when it comes to storytelling efforts like books, movies, and/or TV shows?

I’d love to see more women, more people of color, and better representation of how broad and how diverse the autism spectrum can be. There seems to be a tendency to stick to stereotypical Asperger’s characteristics or go the route of Rain Man, but I’d love to see more nuanced characters that defy stereotypes and functioning labels (e.g., “high-functioning,” whatever that means).

I’d also like to see more characters like Hank in Parenthood. On the show, Hank came to the realization that he might be autistic as a middle-aged man. And although he hasn’t received an official diagnosis on the show, I can relate very much to the character’s personality and experiences. Show me more adults who are making the realization that they may be on the spectrum.

What are some things you'd like the media and other people to stop saying about autistic people?

Words like “burden” and “epidemic” are the first things that come to mind. I’d also like to see the mass media learn a thing or two about what autism is -- and isn’t -- and stop perpetuating hurtful and harmful stereotypes.

If you could change one thing to make the world more friendly to autistic people, what would it be?

Better understanding and acceptance of others. Don’t try to “fix” autistic people; accept them and love them as they are.