HONORING AUTISM AWARENESS DAY
The Gen Z creators helping change perceptions
Leading up to Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd - which recognizes and spreads awareness for the rights of people with autism, there is no better way to honor the day than by becoming more aware of the characteristics of people with this condition and what we can all do to increase our understanding and promote kindness. The CDC reports that about 1 in 54 U.S. children have an autism diagnosis. Although in recent years we have seen an increasing amount of representation of neurodiversity, specifically autism, in everyday culture such as Pixar’s 2020 short film Loop and Julia from Sesame Street, there is also a growing cohort of neurodiverse creators using TikTok to redefine typical narratives about autism spectrum disorder and other diagnoses. Ahead we spotlight three first-person accounts sharing their lived experiences while on a mission to redefine societal perceptions.
Kayla Smith, better known as blackautistickayla, is an autistic disability rights advocate who wants to eliminate the stereotypes and stigma around autism and disability in general. Through her YouTube and TikTok channels, Kayla wants to make a difference in the world by bringing awareness about the lack of representation of autistic people of color in the autistic community. Kayla is also the creator of #AutisticBlackPride/#BlackAutisticPride to celebrate intersectionality to spread that it is ok to talk about experiences and embrace two identities.
— Joshua, 18, OH (Cassandra Collective)
As featured in Cassandra’s The Tik-Tokification of Global Youth report, Chloé Hayden is a popular TikTok creator and actress who shares humorous takes on having both autism and ADHD. Her content mainly focuses on how those parts of her identity impact her life. Hayden is hopeful that the most racially diverse and socially progressive generation in history will help expand the representation of neurodiverse people across social platforms and uplift them offline too.
Paige Hennekam, who goes by the name Paige Layle on social media, is a Canadian Autism and ADHD acceptance activist, YouTuber, and TikToker. Layle decided to educate people about the prevalence of autism and the different ways it presents in girls after audio circulated on TikTok that made fun of autistic people. She did a four-part video series that went viral. Each part focuses on particular aspects of autism. Paige has since amassed an audience of over 2.6M followers who tune in as she addresses common misconceptions about the disorder.