It is so important for autistic voices to be heard.
For autistic lived experience to be known.
In the past, I found that I needed space and time away from speaking and presenting for organisations that weren't aligned with my message of positive autistic identity.
This meant saying No..a lot.
Where there was a puzzle piece representing autism, where there was deficit based language, where there were others presenting on and supporting topics I fiercely oppose,
I said No.
But I also said No because of the anxiety and fear associated with being in the company of others who dismiss, invalidate and both contribute to and influence autistic masking, even if indirectly.
I needed the freedom and space to explore my own autistic identity as it is always evolving, changing and growing.
I needed to explore what felt right for me in terms of boundaries, limits and energy.
Whilst I have made mistakes in the past in terms of organisations and events I have been a part of, I believe wholeheartedly that where an autistic person feels they are able to,
Our voices MUST BE HEARD amongst the non autistic doom and gloom, pathology laden, disordered messaging.
Should we stand back and say NO to sharing our stories, our messages, our experience, because the other speakers aren't aligned with us, then that poses a greater problem in itself.
That's an entire audience of families, autistic people, allied health, carers, educators and other professionals that don't have the opportunity to hear our truth.
That then filters out into the community.
So in reality, we are adding to the consistent perpetuating of the myths and mistruths around autism that already exist by not breaking the cycle.
Autistic speakers are often given a hard time based on where we speak, who speaks at the same event, along with a myriad of other judgements.
But if we only spoke with and to those who are already aligned with our message, what's the point?
Where will we find the people who need this message the most?
In those audiences. At those events. The one's we're expected to avoid.
We have our critics, we have our trolls.
Nay sayers are abundant, but here's the irony..
Sometimes, there is more pressure and bullying from inside the very communities that expect us to support them and speak on their behalf.
Criticism for the things we DON'T say, the things we DON'T write about, the lines we DIDN'T read between, the issues we AREN'T addressing, the people we AREN'T mentioning, the way we AREN'T structuring our sentences, how we AREN'T pronouncing words correctly, that we are requesting a fee exchange for the hours we put into our valuable work.
If you have a message you want to share with the world, please, share it.
If that means through writing, art, speaking, music, then share it.
Please, share your thoughts, feelings, experience with the world.
But also, please be mindful of avoiding criticising those of us who are doing this.
Picking apart our language, our grammar, what our content is missing, where we present, all the ways in which we're failing or missing the mark.
I consider myself so extremely fortunate to be so well held and supported by my community.
You all offer me such an abundance of love, compassion and encouragement and I am forever grateful.
There are other members of the neurodivergent community who are advocating, presenting, creating content around building positive identity, supporting families and putting themselves out there every day.
And I see them being picked apart.
And over time, that chips away at people.
At their self esteem, their sense of self, their connections with others and their relationship with the world.
We all need support, love, empathy and a soft place to fall.
I'd love to see us unite in taking a pause before commenting on the posts of others and asking ourselves "Is this actually helpful, or harmful? Does this support the cause or fracture a person's confidence in moving forward?"
Love to all.
Image: Photography Rylan