On Tuesday 1 May 2018, Inner West Mums hosted a Facebook Live discussion within the closed group, called Embracing Autism, shining a positive light on Autism.
The discussion panel featured four Inner West Mums – Melanie, Kristen, Sharon and Ginny – who are committed to shifting the way we all think about Autism from a traditional deficits-based focus towards a strengths-based view and a place of genuine acceptance.
The discussion was led by a prominent local advocate, Melanie, who has lived experience of being Autistic. ‘Neurodiversity is a fact,’ said Mel. ‘All neurodiversity asks us to think about is the fact that we have diversity of brains … We want the diversity of brains. That’s what makes cultures and societies rich and empowered and takes us forward … The neurodiversity paradigm talks about the fact that that is okay, that it’s a naturally occurring part of diversity that we all have different brains. There isn’t one right way of processing or thinking … and that’s vital.’
The conversation covered the neurodiversity paradigm, the diversity of the Autism spectrum, two families’ contrasting diagnosis and acceptance journeys, Autistic identity and the benefits of connecting and ways to connect with the Autistic community.
A theme which came up throughout the discussion was the importance of listening to and valuing Autistic individuals. In this vein, Kristen had this to say: ‘Add Autistic voices to your life … There’s so much you can learn from people who actually have that lived experience.’
In her concluding remarks Melanie had a powerful message for the audience: ‘Don’t be afraid of Autism; it’s not something to be afraid of. Embrace it as a vital difference that we need to make our society diverse and wonderful and rich … We see the world in different ways, but they are different and exciting ways … I have a vision of a world in which Autistics are valued and empowered because of their Autism and not despite it. I would love it if other people were to join me in the movement to create that.’
Kristen added: ‘Our children are listening to how we talk about them and how we talk about Autism and being Autistic … They internalise that. So use your words and mindsets powerfully.’
The discussion received a warm response from the audience, with several commenting that it was very informative. We very much hope that it goes some way to changing the way in which our community perceives Autism.
Embracing Autism: A Few Resources to Help You Learn More
Panel member Kristen has kindly provided the following extensive list of resources for anyone wishing to learn more about Autism acceptance. Unless otherwise indicated, all resources were authored/produced by Autistic people.
Overviews of Autism
‘What Is Autism?’ by Amythest Schaber (from the wonderful YouTube series ‘Ask An Autistic’)
‘What Is Autism?’ by Nick Walker
‘How My Unstoppable Mother Proved the Experts Wrong’, by Chris Varney, founder and CEO of The I CAN Network
NeuroTribes: The History of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman. This critically acclaimed, best-selling, award-winning masterpiece is the result of five years of meticulous research, also earning its author the recognition of ‘Ally of the Year’ from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. Available online and in stores. (The audio version is quite good for busy mums.) For a preview, please see Steve Silberman’s 2015 TED presentation, ‘The Forgotten History of Autism’.
Resources for Parents (And Anyone Wanting to Learn More)
Specific Blogs for Parents of Newly Diagnosed Children
‘Do You Believe In Your Children?’ by Maxfield Sparrow (formally known as Sparrow Rose Jones) who blogs at Unstrange Mind. A breathtaking piece about acceptance and believing in the potential of children.
‘I See You. I Invite You to See Me’ by Briannon Lee of Respectfully Connected
‘Welcome to the Club’ by Jess Wilson (‘Diary Of A Mom’). ‘Diary’ is a very popular, powerful autism-related Facebook page run by a pro-acceptance mother. This particular piece has been translated into dozens of languages and viewed millions of times.
‘What I Wish I’d Been Made Aware of When My Daughter Was Diagnosed With Autism’ by Ariane Zurcher. Ariane is the mother of Emma, a non-speaking Autistic teen. Ariane began her parenting journey going down the rabbit hole of unproven and disproven ‘cures’ and has come full circle to a place of acceptance. Emma has written most of the site content herself, and there is a terrific resource list of non-speaking Autistics who blog.
Resources for Children
‘Welcome To The Autistic Community’ by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (this piece is geared toward Autistic adolescents, but the language can be easily adapted for younger children and/or non Autistic peers). There is a version for adults as well.
‘Autism Explained for Kids’ by Professor Puppet. A wonderful, short piece for very young children
Ed Wiley’s Autism Acceptance Lending Library (website, FB page and the best mascot ever, ‘The Neurodiversity Narwhals’)
The Real Experts, a collection of essays by Autistic adults. Edited by Michelle Sutton. Available online via major book providers.
What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew by the Autism Women’s Collective. Available online via major book providers.
The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism: a pro-science, pro-acceptance resource for Autistics, parents, professionals and anyone wanting to learn more (website and FB page), with a very active FB page and excellent resource section on its website.
The I CAN Network: Australia’s first Autistic-founded, Autistic-led social network (not-for-profit) that is devoted to providing mentoring for Autistic young people via school-based programs, camps, online mentoring and community events (website and FB page). There is also a closed group for those keen to get involved with I CAN.
Jeanette Purkis Autism Books and Things (FB page linked to website). One of the best known Autistic authors and public speakers in Australia, Jeanette has co-authored several books with an Autistic doctor on Autism & Mental Health and building resilience in Autistic children.
Respectfully Connected: Journeys In Parenting and Neurodivergence (website and FB page)
Parenting Autistic Children with Love and Acceptance (website and FB page)
Support/Information Groups (Not Exhaustive)
Autism Inclusivity: Closed FB group that offers a safe place for parents of Autistic kids to connect with and get advice from Autistic adults (many of whom are parents themselves)
Autistic Allies: International community of people working together to promote Autism acceptance. Once you join Autistic Allies, you can access the closed parent support group and/or the closed group for educators.
Yellow Ladybugs, Connecting Girls with Autism: A group that provides social activities and advocacy for Autistic girls, along with very valuable information for the community (website and FB page). There is a NSW branch of YLBs that organises inclusive social activities for school-aged Autistic girls.
You might also like: