Sometimes I hear the classic “you’re not THAT autistic” line. It’s annoying, It makes me want to show how bad I stim, publicly, and also throw a cross so they can eat both their words, and their teeth as a bonus.
Mixed Martial Arts makes me more balanced to deal with life on life's terms.
I was that little girl who stumbled because my motor skills were so horrible that I couldn’t play sports well with the other kids, no matter how hard others tried to push me.
I was that little girl who had jokes and certain emotions fly right over my head, and it lead to me being bullied, because I didn’t understand social skills.
I was that little girl who had to learn to defend myself, and constantly landed in the principal’s office still covered in bruises, scraps, and the occasional bloody nose.
I was also the girl with constant good grades and stubbornly kept going to Occupational Therapy to help with my motor skills.
I was also the girl who had a case manager until she was 20 and was on Dean’s List in college every semester.
Now, I’m that woman in a brave new world of combat sports. I’ve been doing this for going on seven years, without services related to my disability. MMA IS my therapy. It helps me with my frustrations with the way my mind and body function. I work out a lot of my issues on the mat, or in the cage. What it doesn’t fix, it still helps, because MMA makes me more balanced to deal with life on life’s terms.
I’m a woman who found her calling, friends, a home away from home, where my family also comes to train themselves and support me.
Support the neurodivergent people in your life who have found their niche.
So to others who say I’m not “autistic enough” because I fight, and act neurotypical, go take your nonsense somewhere else. Not every autistic story has to be a sob story.
Go out and SUPPORT the neurodivergent people in your life and support the ones you see who have found their niche, who are doing their thing.
Serena DeJesus is the First Female Professional Mixed Martial Artist with Autism. She's 5-2 in her MMA career, has the Tuff-n-uff Bantamweight Champion Belt, and is an active autism ambassador for the non-profit Fighting For Autism. When she isn't training or fighting you can find her nose buried in philosophy books or video games. To read more from Serena, check out her blog.