Dozens of students filled a Berkeley Forum event at Wurster Hall on Thursday night to hear Podium app creator Alix Generous speak about her experience with Asperger’s syndrome and the importance of mental health.
Generous gave a 15 minute talk entitled “But I Read It on the Internet,” which emphasized maintaining your mental health and relationships with others and also addressed the controversy surrounding vaccinations and autism.
“Be careful who you surround yourself with,” Generous said. “It doesn’t matter … on Facebook, Twitter, they will eat you alive the moment that they see you’re a fraud. They will pick you apart because they want to be you and don’t give into it.”
Berkeley Forum head of press Courtney Brousseau said they invited Generous to come speak on campus because they wanted to give students the chance to hear about autism from the perspective of someone who has the disorder.
Berkeley Forum member and campus sophomore Haley Keglovits said she first heard of Generous through her TED Talks on life with Aspergers.
“(It is a) really important thing to talk about mental diversity.” Keglovits said.
In order to maintain healthy relationships and personal mental health, according to Generous, we need to maintain a respectful online presence as our comments and words have a significant impact on other people.
“As with anything, especially what you read on the Internet, evil comes in many forms, and one of these forms is words,” Generous said. “People do not have your best intentions at heart.“
Generous shared the abuse she received online and in-person because she was autistic. She added that the bullying had such an effect on her that she developed post-traumatic stress disorder.
During the question and answer portion of the event, Generous addressed various stigmas surrounding the autistic community and the controversy over its link with vaccinations. She said this supposed relationship is not substantiated at all scientifically and that often people cling to this explanation out of desperation when their child is diagnosed with the disorder.
“People want to believe that things are simple … they aren’t,” Generous said. “Whether you know it or not … you’re here at this moment in time because of so many things that are out of your control.”
Generous also spoke about the shift in medical perspectives on autism from one that views it as a neurological deficit to one that treats it as a neurological complexity. She claimed that each person is unique and shaped by a variety of factors, rather than simply being a “nature versus nurture” human being.
“It’s kind of a chain of events that’s shaped by time, space and where you are,” Generous said.