Woman’s quest for autism acceptance in community
A Gladstone woman is determined to remove the stigma around autism in the community.
Last Friday, Unique Quality Care hosted its first ever drive-by morning tea in support of World Autism Awareness Day 2021.
Supporters dressed in red and cheered as cars drove past the Roseberry St precinct on the day.
Unique Quality Care owner Tink McMullen said the day was about acceptance and pride in the autism community.
“We see a lot of blue around and a lot of puzzle pieces but it’s not really what the wider autism community accepts,” Ms McMullen said.
“We want acceptance and we want some pride in our autism so we wanted to wear red instead.”
Ms McMullen, who lives with autism, said she didn’t want her children and grandchildren to go through what she felt when she was first diagnosed at 22.
“I am autistic, I have autistic children and my grandchildren will also have autism,” she said.
“I want them not to feel what I felt when I was first diagnosed … I didn’t tell anyone in the first 10 years.”
Ms McMullen said a lot of her underlying health issues were a result of autistic burnout.
“I’ve been in hospital a lot of times in my life for what turned out to be autistic burnout,” she said.
“Women are often considered the chameleons of the autism world as we often get diagnosed with all these other things such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, borderline personality disorder and all these other mental health issues.
“But the autism often goes undiagnosed as we are very good at blending.”
Ms McMullen said there was still a stigma surrounding autism especially in professional environments.
“One of the comments I get is ‘you don’t look autistic’,” she said.
“That’s the main reason we did this as that is a really damaging comment as autism looks so different for everyone.
“A lot of the therapy out there is all about changing the autism out of you and they just teach people to suppress the autism which ends up being damaging.
“It needs to change a lot more but it is getting a lot better.”
Ms McMullen said people with autism were not limited with what they could do.
“People with autism can do anything,” she said.
“Any parents that have just got the diagnosis for their child, come and talk to us.
“Just so they can see what people with autism can do and it's not this awful thing where their life is now ruined.
“Autism is different but it does not make someone less.”
Unique Quality Care is located on 33 Roseberry St, Gladstone Central QLD 4680.