This month we’re asking our autistic community members What Do You Want? What Do You Need? We’ll be featuring their answers all month long, right here. Today we’re having a conversation with Lydia Wayman. Please read, listen, and share.

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

I’m a busy girl! I’m a full-time, online grad student in my fourth semester out of six, so, I should have my M.F.A. in English and Creative Writing (nonfiction) in November of this year. I’ve self-published one book and have another coming out with AAPC. I’ve written for Autism Asperger Digest, Autism Asperger Network magazine, Squag blog, and I have a piece coming out in Wild Sister magazine in May.  I have a lot of intense health issues but they don’t stop me from living and loving my life. I’m totally cat-obsessed, proud aunt of the cutest baby in the world, and pretty opinionated about my favorites (drink: Diet Mountain Dew, color: pink, shoes: sparkly TOMS).

What are some things you avoid whenever possible? Why? 

Loud noises, judgmental or confusing people, and early mornings

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

I’ve been in a nursing home for a year now, and since I’m in a very small space almost all the time, I find it really important to have busy, ever-changing walls so I don’t get bored and my mind is stimulated and aimed toward the positive. I plaster my walls with words of encouraging and inspiration … things like quotes, and cards, and right now, I’m adding a paper butterfly with something I’m thankful for to my wall each day. I’m sort of at a place where my health is as stable as it will be, and I’m looking into moving into an apartment again, hopefully … it’s almost overwhelming to imagine having actual living space! I won’t have any idea what to do with so much space, all my own!

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

I often say, as an autistic person, that even though I’m actually 26, I’m simultaneously 14 and 64. My entertainment preferences really illustrate this: I really don’t watch any TV, but I do love Disney movies! But, then, for books, I like the classics, theology, and right now, biographies, because I think I have a lot to learn from those who have gone before me.

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

The more autistic voices we can get out there, the more we can show the world that autism is a spectrum. I don’t mean “spectrum” as in mild to severe, but I mean it to say that we express a range of interests, talents, weaknesses, preferences, and experiences … a true spectrum in every sense of the word.

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

I don’t like when reports automatically go to verbs like “suffers” and “struggles.” If an individual uses that word about his own situation, then it’s okay to use in reports and journalism, but I find that the media jumps to that word even when someone is obviously totally rocking it and living life to the fullest. I think we need to focus on changing attitudes, and, hopefully, the language choices will follow suit.

Also, the empathy thing. Come on, already. We’ve been over that so many times, and it’s just not true that we lack empathy. I’d be happy to introduce anyone who still believes that myth to any number of my amazing autistic friends in order to prove it, yet again, if need be!

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

I want to reach people within the medical field; I’ve had some horrible experiences in that arena because of my own version of autism, issues with doctors totally not “getting” me and jumping to really bad conclusions. Every single doctor will come into contact with autistic people, so it’s really important that these professionals know what they’re seeing and how best to handle people like me. We’re not going anywhere, and failing to treat our medical needs isn’t a viable option.