I know I'm a bit late posting this, but I was processing my thoughts, as well as juggling many things. This morning is pretty much the first chance I've had to sit down and write it all out.
I remember when I first came online into the greater Autism communities, ASAN was one of the first groups I encountered. It's been a bit of a shock to realize that it's only been in existance for 5 years, when it feels like it has been around for so much longer. Five years is both a long time and a short time for non-profit organizations, and is one that is significant because it not only is a matter of surviving, but it shows that there is a need for ASAN to exist and to continue existing. The day in which we no longer need the ASAN will be bittersweet, since it will mean the end to ASAN, but it also means that ASAN and other disability rights groups has succeeded, and both Autistic people and disabled people are equally included in all matters concerning us.
Today, however, is not that day. On Wednesday, November 16th, I celebrated ASAN's 5-Year Anniversary, in Washington D.C.
I have to admit, I am honoured that I was invited to attend the event. I've always looked to ASAN for inspiration on the type of impact I'd like to make. However, for me to do the work that ASAN does is a bit daunting. Thinking that I don't have the expertise or knowledge to work on a governmental level (at least yet), I've decided a long time ago to do what I can, to work on a more individualized and community level, doing talks with my local organizations, talking with other Autistics, our parents and support workers, and blogging.
It is this decision that has led to this blog, as well as to my other contributions around the internet. This decision also led me to Autistics Speaking Day. Over the few years, I made contacts with other Autistic individuals and allies who shared the same views. I have never claimed to speak for everyone on the Autism spectrum, declaring that "I speak for me!", and yet I found myself surrounded by people who said "I agree with what you said." And at the same time, I encountered people who said "I hadn't thought it that in that way; you have changed my mind. Thank you."
I felt encouraged. Even though it might have been just a little difference for someone else, I feel like what I do has worth and that I am capable of making a difference. I felt empowered, that maybe all these little differences will add up and I'll be capable of reaching a lot of people one day and making a big difference. And so I continued. I read things, I responded and wrote things.
And then I came across Communication Shutdown. Because of the previous decision I had made, and the empowerment I had gained from that decision, it was an easy decision for me to come up with Autistics Speaking Day. I didn't even think about it, really, I just thought something needed to be done, grabbed a name at the top of my head, and put it on my blog.
I don't think I ever imagined the kind of effect that Autistics Speaking Day would have. I've kinda gotten used to working on a small-scale that the concept of Autistics and allies from all over the world would participate still stuns me. It was an accident, a very happy accident, from what I gather as I read all the wonderful things written about Autistics Speaking Day.
When I got the email from Kathryn about going to Washington for the award, at first I wasn't sure whether I could or whether I should. While I had dedicated my time to Autistics Speaking Day, and I acknowledge that it was my idea that started everything, I've been a little uneasy about taking much credit for it. Maybe it's lingering self-esteem issues, or my upbringing to be as modest as possible, but I don't really consider Autistics Speaking Day as mine. To me, it belongs to every person who contributed blogs, read posts, tweeted about and did anything to do with Autistics Speaking Day. To me, it belongs to the community, so it felt a bit wrong of me to take a substantial amount of credit for it. It felt like a mixture of egotism and a bit like super-crip-ism.
But then it dawned on me on where the award was coming from; this is the ASAN, an orgranization created by Autistics, run by Autistics, for Autistics and cross disability issues. These were people that I had been talking to, blogging with, signing petitions and protesting with since 2009. These are my people, saying that what Kathryn and I did, what I imagined and put forward to the community, has worth and made a significant impact to our community. It's that acknowledgement that means a lot to me.
So I went to Washington, all nervous and excited. I heard Ari speak live for the first time, passionately and powerfully about the need for Autistic people to be involved with matters that concern us. I felt myself inspired, recalling the motivation and determination that has kept me blogging these past amost-three years. I accepted the award, and thankfully didn't stumble over my little acceptance speech too much.
But you know what the best part of it all was? It was meeting my people, Kathryn, Savannah, Ari, Melody, Lydia, Stimey, Lori and Karen and all the others who are my community. It was the best time ever.