Friday, November 1, 2013

Autistics Speaking Day: My Pathway

Leeanne Marshall at oneautisticperson posts Autistics Speaking Day: My Pathway

This will probably make more sense if you have read my blog post from last year, located here:
Well it is the 1st of November here in Australia as I am writing this message. For anyone who does not know - that means today is Autistics Speaking Day, a day that some Autistic individuals submit blog entries, youtube videos and more that involve autism spectrum disorder in some form. Further explanation of this day is written in my blog post from last year.
Given my post from last year and my complete lack of a blog entry since, time for me to share what I have been up to the past year. Since last November I have become a Board Member of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network of Australia and New Zealand, continued giving guest talks at TAFE SA (college, sort of) to autism classes, joined a reference group for a project looking at autism professional development for teachers in South Australia, spoke to some international guests about my experiences being autistic going through the education system at the request of one of my University lecturers and had several commitments at the Asia-Pacific Autism Conference. These commitments included speaking at a concurrent session panel about my experiences through the education system, performing in ‘History of Autism’ as a cast member of company @ (Autistic Theatre) and being a participant in the future leaders program. It is clear that I have taken opportunities to make a difference through these commitments.
That stated though, I still do not always immediately communicate my thoughts when I should do so. I have a clear example of a case like this in my head but the whole situation is not an event to be shared with the world for professional reasons. Suffice to say, I still need to work on advocating for myself.
I guess a significant part of my life for me this year was the Asia-Pacific Autism Conference. Many Autistic people presented at the conference including Ari Ne’eman, Dr Stephen Shore and John Elder Robison, who are all from the United States of America. The future leaders had further sessions with these three guest speakers though I did miss some of these sessions due to other commitments. What was particularly meaningful to me was the different viewpoints that Ari and John had regarding education and employment. John was advocating for Autistic people to create their own jobs and participate in unique education opportunities because quite a few Autistic people can not seem to fit in to typical jobs that neurotypical people do even if they have a University qualification. In contrast, Ari stated that for Autistic people to be accepted into the largely neurotypical workforce, Autistic people must first be accepted and included more in general education classrooms and be seen by neurotypical students. This largely seems to be happening at the Australian primary school level but not so much at the high school level (though every school is different). Basically John and Ari gave me a lot to think about regarding my current involvement in education and my desire to become a teacher.
So why am I bringing up the conference? And why am I focusing on what John and Ari said?
The answer to the first question is because the conference gave many Autistic people a chance to share their views and opinions and many Autistic individuals took the opportunity. This was what I wrote about last year. The answer to the second question is because John and Ari highlighted two very different paths for Autistic individuals to go down. For me, John and Ari gave me a lot to think about regarding my current involvement in education and my desire to become a teacher.
I do not yet know if I can succeed in holding down a job typically for neurotypicals (a teacher). I am sure however, that whatever my career ends up being, it will be related to education in some way and will hopefully be around including Autistic individuals in general education settings.
…..Because I believe in Ari’s vision. I believe that Autistic individuals should be included in the largely neurotypical workplace and that Autistic individuals have value in such workplaces. I am aware however, that a lot of changes need to occur before this happens, that the employment rate for Autistic individuals is very low and that often the general public are amazed at Autistic individuals who are just University students.
I had a University class today and for the first time, I chose to wear my Autistic Self Advocacy Network of Australia and New Zealand t-shirt to University. Though I got no reaction to the t-shirt, the reason I chose to wear the t-shirt is because the attitude of the general public of being amazed at Autistics going to University is not going to change unless they start realising that more Autistic individuals are University students then they realise ….. and hopefully from here we can work on the workplace.

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