What Does a Can of Tomatoes Have to Do with Autism?

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People are incredibly complex. From the way our cells and organs work tirelessly to keep everything going to the intricate ways our minds and personalities function, not a single one of us can be defined with just one word. Take me, for example: I’ve been described as sweet, but there’s a lot more to me than that, good and bad. I’m also compassionate, smart, scatterbrained, anxious, creative, perfectionistic, quiet, quirky, and introspective, to name just a few of my traits. I’m sure all of you could come up with a number of words to describe yourselves, too!

But if we’re all so complex, why do some consciously or unconsciously think of autism as a label that defines who a person is?

Girl running on field with balloons at sunset. Happy woman retro

You may remember Cadence, a little girl on the spectrum who is incredibly intelligent and wise beyond her years. In the fall of 2015, she wrote a note to her mom, asking if autism made her bad. She finally concluded, “I was born autism but that doesn’t mean I was born bad.”

This beautiful soul is back. And this time, she’s explaining why autism does not define her with a helpful illustration.

To make her point, Cadence directs us to the humble can of tomatoes. A can of tomatoes is not just made up of tomatoes. There’s also basil, oregano, and acid regulators sealed within it.

Cadence is the same way. “My [label] is Cadence. One of my ingredients is autism.” In addition to her ASD, she’s also made up of “caring cells,” “clever cells,” bones, blood, and organs.

She sums up her illustration by concluding, “I have more ingredients [than] tomatoes.” And if that’s the case, autism can hardly be a label that defines who she is.

Cadence, you are truly an inspiration—thank you for your words of wisdom!

Read more about this clever girl!

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A. Stout received a Bachelor of Arts in Writing through Grand Valley State University, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2015. In addition to being a passionate autism advocate, she is a member of various fandoms, a study abroad alumna, and an animal lover. She dreams of publishing novels and traveling all over the world someday.