Autism Acceptance Month: Nicolas Allion

April 9, 2024

Nicolas Allion is an Eligibility Specialist at Firefly Children and Family Alliance, where he helps low-income households apply for childcare vouchers and navigate the CCDF policy manual: a job that requires quite a bit of juggling.

On top of managing his work at Firefly, Nick is also working through distinct feelings of discomfort, living in a societal setting not built in a way that’s conducive for him to thrive. Neurodivergent people experience many misunderstandings or blocks to communication.

“My experience with autism has primarily been as someone who masks well enough that I can and have passed as neurotypical for most of my life,” Nick says about the relationship he has with his neurodivergence.

“I went through so many years of being angry at everybody for not recognizing the signs. Because they were right there. But I did well in school, and I didn’t present with any obvious learning disabilities. So, I was good to go.”

More recently, ‘neurotypical’ and ‘neurodivergent’ have been buzz words used frequently in various media. Learning the difference is integral to understanding each other:

Neurodiversity recognizes that differences in brain function, such as autism and ADHD, have always existed in the population and are not indicative of faulty neural circuitry. Instead of stigmatizing these differences, neurodiversity celebrates them as unique ways of thinking and behaving. 

“I think there is a bit of debate right now about the acceptance of these two terms, along with a debate about the validity of person-first language, outdated diagnostic terms like Asperger’s, and about self-diagnosis,” Nick explains.  

 Nick was not recognized as having autism in childhood or enrolled in any specialized education settings 

“In many ways my privilege as a white man has kept me from experiencing the harsher realities of living as an autistic person, and in other ways I must still put so much more effort into seemingly trivial daily tasks and interactions that have exhausted me my whole life.”  

Nick reflects on how his ADHD and autism are intrinsically wrapped together. They both affect his neurology and identity at the same time, all the time.  

During Autism Acceptance Month, we are proud to elevate Nick’s voice. The ways in which the world is subtly and unintentionally made more difficult for individuals with Autism can be difficult to notice at first glance. Becoming aware is the first step into understanding and acceptance.