In this week’s insightful and enlightening episode, Brigitte interviews Siena, an 18-year-old multi-award-winning neurodiversity advocate, bestselling author, and UN Young Leader for the SDGs, to talk about bullying and how to grow up awesome and autistic.
Siena recalls being different at a young age and how she struggled to make friends. She was constantly bullied and had to change schools 11 times over the course of her secondary school career. She was beaten with sticks, shoved in lockers, held out a window, called robotic, cold, freaky, weird, and psycho in every school she went to.
When she was diagnosed with autism at 12, everything made sense to her and she realized all of the bullying she experienced wasn’t her fault but it was the prejudices and stereotypes that people had and it was the problems people had in their own lives that they were taking out on her.
She says that the biggest thing we have to do is to hold bullies accountable. Although all the schools had a zero-tolerance policy, none of the bullies were held accountable even when the bullies admitted to it.
Siena doesn't see being autistic as having deficits and instead, she sees it as a strength. “My autism is a difference, not a disability," she says.
Siena says that the biggest misconception people have about autism is that they are all are alike. A lot of people don’t see autistic people as leaders and see them as people who have communication struggles or who would be quiet in the corner. She hears of a lot of people who don’t get job promotions or don’t get the leadership roles they deserve because of the misconception.
She says that another misconception is that more males have autism. She explains that autism presents differently for girls and women and they are great at masking and pretending to be neurotypical.
Siena started Quantum Leap Mentoring when she was 13 because there was a lack of resources for neurodiverse individuals who are going through school. This website offers many articles on autism and how to thrive in school.
She talks about her book The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide: How To Grow Up Awesome and Autistic which offers resources and practical advice for autistic girls. She almost didn’t write this book due to her busy schedule but she knew she had to write it when she realized that there wasn’t any book available for autistic girls that was written by an autistic girl.
Siena offers this advice to autistic individuals: Learn as much about yourself as possible and see your autism as a strength and focus on the positive areas and learn how autism really affects you.
Her advice to mothers of kids with autism: Broaden your idea of what happiness is. Know that your child might have different preferences and ways they can be happy.
Enjoy this episode!
Quantum Leap Mentoring
The Spectrum Girl's Survival Guide
Mother's Guide Through Autism Private FB Group