Saturday, 10 March 2018

...And the audience said 'No'. A pivotal moment in autistic history.

A major autism conference was held in the UK recently.  It was filled with professionals.  Various speakers were invited to the stage, and gave a variety of useful and informative talks.

Then, another speaker arrived on stage.  An eminent professional.  Very well connected.  They gave a speech which portrayed autism and parents of autistic children in various negative ways.

There was a stunned silence from the professional audience.  

One of the professionals in the audience asked for the roving microphone, and said what a lot of the others were thinking - that this was totally not OK.  Their interruption received applause and cheering.

The speaker left the stage, unapplauded.

The autistic communities had quite enough of being told all sorts of nonsense about autism a long time back.

But now, a huge and growing number of the non-autistic professionals are agreeing that it's not OK.  The non-autistic professionals are saying 'no' to theories that humiliate autistic people and their families.  They are wanting to listen.  They are wanting to learn directly from autistic people of all kinds and of all backgrounds.  They are seeing us as allies, rather than zoo exhibits or examples of broken things that need fixing.

It was a pivotal moment.  A moment where it became OK for such professionals to say a public, 'NO!' to their colleagues who want to speak about us and our families in ways that 'other',  humiliate, blame or shame.

The conference organisers put up an apology for the person's speech.  They said it did not represent their views.  

Think carefully about who you invite on a stage to talk about autism.  Not everyone with a list of qualification as long as your arm is a suitable person to stand up and speak.

Ask good autistic speakers, autistic professionals.  Organise the events with autistic 'voices' present, with equal power to the non-autistic ones.  Make sure you pay autistic people the same as you pay the non-autistic ones.   Ensure that the non-autistic speakers are allies.

And rejoice with us that the audience said, "No!"

The picture shows a hand holding a white sign, with the word NO! written on it in red.