Last week, I posted tips for supporting nonspeaking autistic advocates. Today I want to share lessons from my still-young experience as an advocate so that other nonspeaking autistics can learn from it! And I am so eager to hear other tips, too.
An assortment of tips for aspiring nonspeaking autistic advocates:
- Find a community to work with and learn from! The networks of Spellers are growing quickly, and with many meeting virtually, you can find connections even if there is not much of a community in your town. Ask your practitioners and your Speller friends, or contact I-ASC, or contact me!
- If you are over 18, you can join I-ASC’s Spellers and Allies Advocacy Network! We are a fun, kind, and super dedicated group of advocates with ongoing campaigns. You can learn more about us at the website https://i-asc.org/spellers-allies-advocacy/
- People are eager to hear and learn from us! You can make a difference even among family and friends, through an email list or a blog or posts on social media. Starting with the people who already know and care about you is a great way to enter into advocacy.
- Some may be skeptical about your mode of communication. That is an ugly truth. It takes so much energy to respond to them, and from my perspective, it is not worthwhile. Skeptics will be skeptical, and there are others who are working hard on research to disprove them. It is ultimately up to you how you deal with this, but I personally choose not to distract from my work by dignifying them with my energy.
- There are many ways to advocate! I love writing and building connections, so I enjoy social media and publishing my words. Others I know are amazing strategists for targeted policy change who develop plans for their advocacy groups. Others are talented visual artists who show what nonspeaking autistic talents are capable of. Others advocate through their work as students and volunteers, while others work to spread awareness through film and books. Find something that resonates with you!
- Think about your audience. I am so mixed in who I want to reach: other nonspeaking autistic folks, their loved ones and support teams, other disability justice advocates, and the broader public. When I want to reach a specific group on that list, I try to think about what would be interesting and important to them. Most of my efforts so far have been toward a general audience and loved ones, so I targeted platforms and topics that are outside the disability justice core. For example, Bon Appetit Magazine and my ocean conservation podcast.
- Trust your voice. No one is more of an expert on your experience than you. There are many inspiring advocates out there, but there is so much need for more. And it is your right to share your words.
- This is a lot of work, and requires considerable support. Please don’t put too much pressure on yourself! Being kind and patient with yourself is the most important step to being a strong and resilient advocate.