Letter to the editor,
My Formal Response to the TikTok #AutismChallenge
I am a teenager with autism, and am also an avid TikTok user. You might be wondering what TikTok is. TikTok is a social media platform that has exploded in the past year and especially during the pandemic. The content that is created on the app is mostly dancing videos that can range from 15 to 60 seconds. It’s very entertaining and sometimes addictive, and is also [believed to be] the most downloaded app in the world. As much as I appreciate who I am as a person with autism, I also appreciate TikTok being a huge part of my social media life. It is a place where I can watch funny content all the time, as well as express myself through dance trends and storytelling.
However, I recently stumbled across a TikTok challenge called the #AutismChallenge. Sadly, it was not started by people on the spectrum or promoted to spread acceptance or understanding. In fact, it was started and promoted by neurotypical people to make fun of autistic people.
The actions that were shown in the #AutismChallenge videos assumed what all autistic people look and act like. Even more offensive, a lot of these videos were being used with the “Let’s Get Retarded” parody song. As someone who has autism, I was completely hurt when I learned about this.
First, not all autistic people look and act like the way users that participated in the challenge depicted. Second, I would not be where I am today without my family, friends, teachers, therapists, doctors, and anyone who helped me make it this far.
Thanks to dedicated disability advocates, TikTok removed the #AutismChallenge from their platform. I personally want to thank TikTok for taking action and supporting people with disabilities.
For participants of the challenge to be depicting autism in the way they did was not acceptable. Not only does it impact me and the autistic community to see that, but the entire disability community itself.
Every day I am grateful for who I am as a person. I celebrate disability diversity and acceptance every single day. I will keep fighting to make sure people with disabilities are more represented and included in this world along with everyone else.
I personally want to thank every single person who has been by my side and has made an impact on me. Family, friends, teachers, you know who you are! So thank you!
Perri Schwartz, 17, The Cottage School