As a relatively newly fluent communicator, I am pretty new to the disability justice scene. I am so inspired by the brilliant and dedicated activists in this realm, and I have a lot to learn. Yet I have also had the time to become involved in advocacy for nonspeaking autistic folks, and to dip a toe into the autistic advocacy world. From this, I have observed a bit about how voices are heard and reacted to, and I wanted to share some important considerations related to supporting nonspeaking autistic voices:
- Many of us have limited energy that we can spend on advocacy. We also often rely on a Communication and Regulation Partner to help us to post online. This means that it can be tough for us to be regularly active online. So we might not be able to reliably reply to all comments, etc.
- We are often still finding our ways in a speaking world. Many of us have been silent and unable to share our words for most of our lives. This means our voices are precious to us, and sometimes very vulnerable. Sensitivity to our journey and kindness even in disagreements can help us be more brave in raising our voices.
- Within our community of Spellers (those who spell or type to communicate), we are remarkably compassionate and kind to each other – when we disagree, it is with respect and understanding. We are so needing the same sort of way of engaging to feel welcomed in other advocacy circles.
- Spelling and typing are slow! In meetings and discussions, we often get left behind and our voices are crowded out. Be sure to check in with us throughout to ensure that we have the opportunity to be heard.
- This is touchy, but for many of us, we and our families often have very different experiences with autism than speaking autistic folks. We often were unable to let our loved ones know our realities, and they did not have much reliable information on our disability. We have not been represented in advocacy for very long, and our experiences have not been fully integrated into mainstream autistic advocacy. So it is understandable that families might not relate to messages of that advocacy! We could use more grace in guiding nonspeaking autistic folks’ families toward better understanding of autistic advocacy.
- It is so appreciated when other advocates amplify our voices. And it is so encouraging when other advocates raise their voices to support our concerns.
This is a quick overview, and many of these ideas will be touched upon for this month’s Leo in Bloom theme. Thank you for reading, and stay tuned for more!