Updated: May 3
April is National Autism Acceptance Month. This month we had the opportunity to talk with Stephanie J. Monis, an Autistic Creative. She shared with us about being autistic, her journey in the theatrical and fine arts, and her goals for the future.
LFL: Welcome Stephanie. Thanks for Joining us. I don’t know if you know, but it is Autism Acceptance Month. Would you like to chat a bit about that?
Stephanie: It’s this month?
LFL: Yes, it’s this month.
LFL: I know. April is here so soon. Would you like to introduce yourself and say who you are and what you like?
Stephanie: Yeah. My name is Stephanie J. Monis. I am almost 33. I have about a month until I’m 33. I like to do my iPad. I like to do the computer. I love to do jewelry. I have my own jewelry business.
LFL: That’s cool!
Stephanie: Yeah. What I do is I… with the jewelry business I have my own office. So, what I do is I pick the beads, pick the designs, and then I bead and I just go to work.
LFL: Cool! How did you get into the jewelry making? Why did you start doing that?
Stephanie: I just like beading. There’s just a part about beading that I just really like.
LFL: Is it very calming?
LFL: So how did you start getting into it as a business?
Stephanie: I just thought to myself: “What if I had my own business – beading business?” because I like beading.
LFL: And then you just started doing it, right?
LFL: Cool. I know that you are a very creative person. Are there other types of creative things that you do too?
Stephanie: I like to color.
LFL: You like to color. What do you like to color?
Stephanie: I have a Troll Hunter book that I like to color.
LFL: Okay. I know you also are very involved in theatre and drama.
LFL: Do you want to tell me a little bit about your theatre and drama?
Stephanie: Well, I used to go to a program called “Arms Wide Open”, and I no longer do that. I go to a program called “New Village Arts” now.
LFL: And so, what do you like about theatre.
Stephanie: It’s just, well, I like acting.
LFL: Yeah, why?
Stephanie: I just love it.
LFL: You just love it? It’s just a lot of fun to act?
LFL: Do you ever write your own plays?
Stephanie: I actually wrote one.
LFL: You did. What was it about?
Stephanie: It’s about Oliver Twist and Annie.
LFL: Okay, so you combined the concepts?
Stephanie: It’s called “Come Away with Me, Annie Twist: The Musical”.
LFL: That sounds like a lot of fun!
Stephanie: Yeah, it’s a lot of fun.
LFL: Has it been performed?
Stephanie: Not yet.
LFL: It’s still coming out? A Stephanie Monis Original. That sounds really neat. So, you’re going to keep working on building your beading business and keep working on your theatre?
LFL: Do you have a favorite performance that you have been in so far?
Stephanie: My first one with “Arms Wide Open” would have to be Wizard of Oz.
LFL: Wizard of Oz? Which role were you?
Stephanie: I played Store-man’s Wife, Apple Tree Dancer, and Glenda. I had three parts.
LFL: Wow! That’s a lot. Some really good roles that you held!
LFL: That sounds really fun. Are you working on anything at the moment? Any current projects?
Stephanie: I’m working on… I think I’m working on a.. Well, there’s a person named Ms. Aleta and she gave me an assignment and we had a meeting and my goal is to get into the conference.
Stephanie: There’s some kind of conference and it’s a two-week conference. If I get in. If I get my work in and it’s approved and if it’s really doable, then I have to go to Connecticut for two weeks.
LFL: Is that for acting?
Stephanie: That’s for playwriting.
LFL: Oh, that’s really neat! So, you’ve got to submit a proposal?
Stephanie: Yeah, if I… if my play is doable and if I get in, then yes.
LFL: Sounds like a lot of fun. That’s very exciting!
LFL: Yeah. So it sounds like you’ve got a lot of interesting things coming along. And I know you just started at Able ARTS Work too. Have you started any projects?
Stephanie: Yeah, we had an open house last month.
LFL: You did? That’s exciting.
Stephanie: That Friday was an open house last month.
LFL: Did you enjoy it?
Stephanie: Yeah, I enjoyed it. It was really nice.
LFL: And you’re looking forward to being there in person?
LFL: That’s good. I’m glad. What are some of your favorite things that you still want to learn about when it comes to arts or jewelry or theatre or music…? What are some of your goals?
Stephanie: I have about five goals that I’m working on. My first one is to be a pastor with Jesus. Second is to be a translator with ASL. Third is to be a person, a playwright, that has an office and does that kind of thing. My fourth one is to… well I have a few goals, but I’m only working on one at a time. My goal that I’m working on right now is jewelry.
LFL: Your jewelry goal? So what are your steps? What’s your ultimate Jewelry goal?
Stephanie: My ultimate jewelry goal is to have a business, my own office, and just go to work.
LFL: Yeah, just go to work everyday in your own office. That sounds great! Do you have a name for your business?
LFL: Embracelets. I love that. How did you come up with that name?
Stephanie: I just thought about it.
LFL: You just thought of it? It just came to you and you were like “This is a great jewelry name”? That’s pretty cool. I love that you’ve got goals and have recognized that these are the parts of your life you want to move forward in.
Stephanie: I also want to be an author.
LFL: An author? Yeah, that goes kind of hand in hand with playwriting, right? Its another type of writing. What type of books do you want to write?
Stephanie: I want to write a biography about me.
LFL: About you? What would be in the biography? What would be the most important things to include?
Stephanie: Well, it will start with.. it’s about me and I was supposed to be due in June, but I was two weeks early. And it talks about that. And it talks about me and how old I am. Just stuff about me.
LFL: Stuff about you and your experience? A part of your life experience that you have shared before is that you are very proud to be autistic. Is this still how you feel and something you would include in your book?
Stephanie: Yeah! I'm Autistic and proud!
LFL: Would you be open to telling me a little about what autism and being autistic means to you?
Stephanie: Autism means that even though I have autism, I like to be able to be like everybody else.
LFL: What would that mean?
Stephanie: If I was to… I am like everyone else, even though I have autism.
LFL: So basically, you are saying there’s no reason you can’t run your own business or write a book or be a playwright or go to a conference, right? Is that what you mean?
LFL: So what do you wish people knew about autism?
Stephanie: That’s a great question. Autism is a… I don’t know. It’s a hard question.
LFL: It is a hard question. Maybe if I change it. Is there anything people often assume about you because you are autistic and you wish they didn’t?
Stephanie: Yeah, that’s another hard one.
LFL: It’s another hard one? Too many hard questions? You don’t have to answer any questions that you don’t want to. Maybe a easier question: What’s your favorite thing about being autistic?
Stephanie: How talented I am.
LFL: Do you feel like because of your autism you got special talents?
LFL: Yeah? I could definitely see that.
Stephanie: *Giggles* Yeah… I’m very talented.
LFL: Yes. You have so many different skills. I agree with that. On the otherside, is there something that can be really hard about having autism at times?
Stephanie: Something hard about autism is there’s parts of things or parts of my life… you know… If I don’t understand something, like if I don’t understand how to read it or the status, it’s very frustrating.
LFL: Is that something maybe you wish people knew or were more patient about?
Stephanie: Yeah, because sometimes when I talk too fast, I stutter a little bit. Its kinda frustrating when I’m trying to get something out and I stutter.
LFL: It’s like your brain is going faster than your mouth can move, right?
Stephanie: *giggles and nods*
LFL: Your mouth is trying to keep up with what your brain is trying to say.
Stephanie: It’s like “bla-le-blah-bla-ly-leh” *giggles and makes funny sounds* .
LFL: Yeah, something like that.
Stephanie: When I talk slower people understand me. When I take my time people are like: “Oh, okay, I get it.”. When I try to talk fast, I stutter.
LFL: Yeah. I can see how that could be frustrating for you at times. Are people generally understanding when you stutter?
Stephanie: I do get frustrated.
LFL: And that’s completely understandable. It’s okay to get frustrated sometimes, right?
LFL: Does your autism tie into your artwork, or your theatre and such? Does it influence all of your creative work?
Stephanie: It does.
LFL: How does it do that? What are some examples?
Stephanie: I know I have autism. I can act. I can do lots of stuff even though I have autism.
LFL: Do you think it makes you a better actor?
Stephanie: Yeah. I just think that… The way I am, because I have autism. I mean, if everyone was the same in the world, it would be pretty boring.
LFL: It would be pretty boring, I agree. Everyone has those things that make them unique and I love that you embrace yours. Through everything we have discussed, is there anything we haven’t touched on that you’re like: “Sydney , you’re missing this important part of me or my journey.”?
LFL: You mentioned ASL before. Do you want to explain how you got into that and a little about your ASL journey.
Stephanie: So, I had a program that provided ASL. I took a couple years at program. Then I went to college for a few years for ASL. Then apparently I had to drop my third class because the status was really hard.
LFL: Oh, I’m sorry, but you learned enough to be fluent, right?
Stephanie: I’m not quite fluent yet, and I need to be actually studying because I’m not caught up with it now since I’m focusing on my jewelry business, but once that’s out of the way, I’m going to start back on it, you know?
LFL: Yeah, It’s on your goal list. It’s a skill you have that you can continue with.
Stephanie: I’ve got to continue with it. I’m so good.
LFL: Yeah, you’re good? Why is it that you love ASL so much?
Stephanie: It’s a visual language. I love it. There’s no actual… Well I have friends who are deaf.
LFL: So it gives you a way to communicate with your friends, right?
Stephanie: Yeah. My goal is to be a translator with my social studies degree and I can communicate.
LFL: I think that’s great. There’s not enough people who know how to communicate through sign language.
Stephanie: But as a translator, if someone is trying to say, trying to talk, I’ll say something like: “Lauren said this…”. And I’ll do something like that and I’ll sign back. And it’s pretty cool.
LFL: It is pretty cool. It’s a very necessary role. I know there’s translators in so many different areas: schools, hospitals, doctor’s offices, the court of law, churches…. That’s a neat field to want to work in. So it sounds like you have a lot of good goals in your life.
Stephanie: Right now it’s jewelry.
LFL: So, are you selling your jewelry at the moment?
Stephanie: So far my business is really busy. There’s a lot of orders that have come in.
LFL: Oh yeah? How do people order from you?
Stephanie: I have a business card that I give out that has my information.
LFL: Okay, so they send you an email or they order from you online? How would someone order a bracelet from you?
Stephanie: They either call me, email me, or text me.
LFL: Is it all custom ordered?
Stephanie: Yeah. This week I did… I had lots of orders. I had thirteen orders this week plus more orders. It was a lot.
LFL: That sounds like a lot. It’s impressive that you are able to do so much. And I bet you are making a good amount for yourself as well.
Stephanie: I am so skilled at it, my mom is trying to keep up with me. I am so fast. I am actually focused. I am very fast.
LFL: Are you proud that you are very focused on this task?
LFL: Is it hard to focus normally?
Stephanie: Yeah, I talk or if I don’t concentrate or put a different pattern on I’m like “oh no!”.
LFL: You’ve got to start again then.
Stephanie: I got to concentrate.
LFL: I love how you’ve got this business going. It’s pretty cool, Stephanie. Any last thoughts or comments?
Stephanie: No. This is all of who I am.
LFL: Thank you for joining me today and talking openly about your goals, your art, and being autistic.
Stephanie: You’re welcome. Thank you!
Stephanie recently joined ArtBeat Radio to give a sneakpeak of her original play “Come Away with Me, Annie Twist: The Musical”. You can also listen to her in their podcast discussion about person-first and identity-first language.
Stephanie J. Monis is an Autistic Jewelry-Maker from San Diego, CA. She has also performed in several local theatre productions and is a playwright herself. She currently attends the Able ARTS Work day program in San Diego, CA.