Autistics Speaking Day 2012: Community Engagement

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It has been quite some time since I last posted a blog. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure I was going to post something today, despite it being Autistics Speaking Day. Why? Because, for me, every day is Autistics Speaking Day at this point. I don’t think that’s a bad thing either. In fact, I think it’s a good thing… a great thing even.

For those that don’t know, my job title for ASAN is “Director of Community Engagement.” It’s where my blog name comes from today. But what do I mean? Over the past year, I’ve gone to just one person doing her best to help an organization along to being connected. I have watched this past year and seen more Autistics getting jobs. More adults being diagnosed. More people wanting to build Autistic culture and communities in the towns, cities, communities and states they live in. I’ve met the next generation of Autistics growing up and going to college. And let me tell you, this community is GROWING… By leaps and bounds. It’s amazing to see from where I sit.

I’ve seen more and more parents listen to what we are saying. I’ve heard more professionals listen to what we are saying. I’ve seen more Autistics from every walk of life, every level and stage of strength and weakness speak out! I’ve watched as we are included in national conferences about us!

There’s a lot more to do and many more of us to save.. But I want to express today what I’ve learned and maybe you can replicate it.

  1. Autistics are finally feeling proud enough of who they are to speak up about who they are. Why do I say this? Well, I’ve met people this year who didn’t know whether or not to come out.. Those who are doing it slow and steadily.. Those who are out and proud.. and you know what? More people are listening to them… Less people are telling them there’s “no way” they can be or that they “must be high functioning.” This means that the idea of this being a part of human variation is taking hold at least somewhat in society.
  2. Autistics are being included in the conversation about us! Two years ago, the most we had to hope for was AutCom and Autreat as place to speak as “regular” Autistics. (Not big name speakers like Robison or Grandin or even Ne’eman.) This year, there’s UNH’s IOD conference that Autistic Self Advocates took part in.. TASH has a larger presence.. Even Neurodiversity gets a whole day of the ICDL (floortime/DIR) conference! Universities like Georgetown, with the help of great new upcoming young adults like Lydia Brown, are helping to set up  and fund panels to have Autistics speak, such as the one coming up in two weeks where Ibby Grace and Kassiane Sibley will be speaking.
  3. Autistics are building their own communities! Okay.. This is just very personally exciting for me.. We’re getting ready to protest Autism Speaks this coming weekend in DC.. GUESS WHAT! There’s another Autistic group that is ALSO protesting.. We have separate permits (albeit beside each other by pure chance) to protest. The fact that there’s enough people to band together twice over shows that our community and culture is growing strong.The other group is a social group in the area. ASAN is obviously an advocacy group… But both can sustain gatherings such as these (on top of a support group in the area as well). This isn’t just the case here in DC either.. It is amazing what we as a culture and community are doing.. And I’m so happy I’m part of this ride.

There’s now so many places to turn to get advice and support and camaraderie…. But it’s time to come together and engage each other and push each other up… Because we have built this wonderful community, but now it’s time to get out there and engage outside of the Autism and Autistic community. Make people see that we are good and useful and one of a kind and have things to say.

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