27 September 2023

Representation matters: Women face accusations of faking ASD

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Brianna Boecker* shares Em Rusciano’s story about being falsely accused of faking her autism diagnosis.

Comedian and media presenter Em Rusciano has spoken out after being accused of faking her autism diagnosis, saying “This is why representation matters. Women present differently”.

The false accusation came from Australian podcaster and comedian Meshel Laurie after Rusciano (pictured) posted to her Instagram stories praising Marvel Stadium’s sensory rooms for being inclusive to people with sensory needs.

“I’m going to see Harry Styles at Marvel Stadium in a week and as you can imagine– live shows, sensory issues, autistic person– it’s pretty stressful,” said Rusciano on Instagram.

“But Marvel has a sensory room, with bean bags and noise cancelling headphones.”

“Well done, Marvel.

“This is amazing and inclusive and I feel so much less anxious about this live show,” she said, adding “there’s a whole area I can go to when it’s too much.”

Marvel Stadium has said the development of the stadium sensory room is a first for Melbourne and is part of the stadium’s vision to create an accessible and inclusive environment for all its fans.

As a strong advocate for women and girls with autism and ADHD since being diagnosed with the two conditions herself, Rusciano is well-known for spotlighting the fact that symptoms sometimes present differently in females compared to males and that better understanding and acceptance of neurodivergent people is needed.

Following Rusciano’s post about Marvel’s sensory rooms, Laurie accused Rusciano of faking her autism diagnosis in a since deleted Instagram post that contained foul language.

Laurie received backlash for these false accusations, and Rusciano voiced her hurt and frustration in a twitter thread, saying that “[being] accused of faking autism was not how I imagined today would end but here we are!”

“Being accused of lying about my Autism diagnosis is just FKN wild.

“I have a detailed report, my friends and family were interviewed, I even recorded the assessment so I could remember it- because I don’t meet some people’s preconceived idea of an autistic person I must be lying?,” tweeted Rusciano.

In her tweets, Rusciano touches on why the comments prove representation matters, noting that most portrayals of autism are of the male version and women’s experiences are often underrepresented.

And she talked about her need to navigate as “an adhd/ asd mother of a level 2 asd four-year-old” and how she’s just trying to do her best in a “loud and overwhelming” world.

Since posting the powerful thread, Rusciano has received an outpouring of supportive messages.

In a recent Instagram post, Rusciano again expressed her shock at having to navigate this chaos after simply stating she was grateful for a stadium having a sensory room.

At the end of the post, Rusciano also gracefully asked her followers to resist going after Laurie in the comment section.

“No point in pilling on Meshel Laurie, it seems like she’s doing it tough at the moment and I’ve been there,” wrote Rusciano.

“Don’t get me wrong what she wrote was plain wrong and FKN hurt my feelings and I’ve had to regroup several times today but I’m ok now.”

“I just don’t want the comments to turn into a stacks on Meshel.

“It’s not a nice feeling, trust me.”

*Brianna Boecker is an Associate Publisher with Women’s Agenda.

This article first appeared at womensagenda.com.au

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