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Our mission is to provide autistic individuals with a space to moderate discussions, share, and write about the autistic community.

Voices of the Spectrum: Conversations with TAP's Autistic Adults #3

This is my third interview in a series where I speak with autistic individuals within the TAP Community! My questions will appear in bold, and Mary’s response will follow in the regular format.

Can you introduce yourself and share interests?

My name is Mary Weakley, and I am middle-aged. I was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and I just recently started coming to The Autism Project this past year.

How did you find out about The Autism Project?

I called; I did it all by myself. I searched for something that I wanted to do, and this was it!

What were you first expecting when you walked through the front doors of The Autism Project?

I did not know if I would be staying because members in group were younger than I was. There were no middle-aged people there like myself, so I did not know if I was going to fit in. But I did fit in, everyone does, and I love it!

I was a little nervous and I did not know what I was getting into, but meeting the group facilitators Lore Gray and Lisa McKay eased my nerves. Whenever you try something new, you must give it your best chance. It is worth it!

What do you love about your group?

That you can be any age! I love talking to everyone in my group. They experience the same things that I experience, so it is nice to have someone to relate to. It showed me to have understanding and compassion for the other people in my group.

I wish I was able to come more than once a week because I love everyone at The Autism Project. Coming here is especially important to me; it is a big help and provides me with encouragement.

What are some personal achievements that you are proud of?

I am proud of being able to travel alone. I can travel without my family or friends. I am not afraid, and I also plan my trips by myself.

What kind of work do you do?

I have done a lot. When I was a little girl, I had a paper route that was shared by my older brother. We did that for at least 10 years. Every day we delivered rain, or shine, even in the Blizzard of ’78.

I spent 5 years working in different nursing homes as an activity assistant, working with the Alzheimer’s patients.

I spent another 5 years working in group homes with the semi-independent living skills programs working with neurodivergent individuals.

Lastly, I spent 21 years working as a teacher’s assistant for the Providence school department.

What did you learn from all this work?

Well, I have autism and I spent my whole life working with special needs people. I loved it!

But for me I could not accept myself as an autistic person, I did not like my voice, I could not stand it. Growing up, I had a speech impediment. So, to go through that and help others that went through the same thing as me, I had a better understanding of what people like me went through.

Around three years ago, I started to videotape myself speaking. I never would have had the courage or confidence to do that for myself, but my friends encouraged me. It helped me learn how to love myself because I did not believe that I could do that.

What about Autism do you want people to know?

I want people to know not to give up on individuals diagnosed with Autism. They are as valuable and worthy of the highest respect and honor, just like anyone else. We should be treated just like the next person, as equals.

What is it that you wish people understood more about Autism?

I wish people had more of an understanding about Autism. It is hard to know what a person diagnosed with Autism goes through.

What is something that you love about Autism?

I love being young at heart even though I am an adult.

I like Eeyore from Winnie-the-Pooh and Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Do you have any future goals?

I would like to get my own apartment one day! I would like to be able to independently do my own things. It is a hard and difficult process, but I am not going to quit until I succeed.

If you had one message that you want to give to the people who work at The Autism Project, what would it be?

I love them to pieces. Do not give up on the possibilities that are presented to you at The Autism Project.

The people here are very understanding and compassionate. They understand Autism, and it is a judgment-free zone.

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to learn about Mary. I eagerly anticipate her visits, as her infectious smile undoubtedly promises to have a positive influence on The Autism Project.

Gianna Cambria

Marketing & Communications Officer