I am going to be doing a Yenn’s A-Z – a series of mini blog posts featuring things of interest and importance to me starting with each of the the letters of the alphabet. Today is A and for me, A is for advocacy.
Advocacy is something I am expected to know something about, being an advocate and what not! Advocacy can mean a variety of things to different people. My own advocacy journey started in 2004 when I met the person who would become my mentor: Autistic author, advocate and legend Polly Samuel. Around the time I met Polly I had been encouraged to write my life story by lots of people. Why wouldn’t I? My history had prison, bullying and art! It was bound to be engaging and entertaining. I actually thought writing my life story would be just awful and I would be baring my soul to the world. Yuk! But Polly convinced me to write my life story, saying it would be for the parents of autistic young people who ended up in the criminal justice system. Of course this was my own parents so I wrote the book and never looked back!
The publication of my first book thrust me into the autism self-advocacy space. I was expected to have opinions on things related to autism. I felt like I didn’t know anything useful but did my best to answer questions and offer helpful advice.
Over the years I have become known as an autistic advocate. It is funny because my style of advocacy reminds me of Polly’s when she was mentoring me! I feel like my advocacy is about impacting individuals and about story-telling and narrative. There are so any different kinds of advocacy and they often complement each other. In Australia was have a large number of autistic advocates now which is fantastic. My contemporaries are people mike Dr Wenn Lawson and Dr Emma Goodall and Kristy Forbes to name a few. There are many younger advocates too – Summer Farrelly, Chloe Hayden, Sam Rose, Shadia Hancock and others. And there are people doing effective advocacy with little or no ‘profile’ as well. I think when it comes to advocates, the more the merrier. My own advocacy is all about sharing things I have discovered, promoting positive self-knowledge and pride for autistic people, being there to support others and working with other advocates, allies and organisations to try to make the world a better place.
I am very glad Poly convinced me to write my book and that this resulted in me becoming an advocate. I love my advocacy work but I am delighted that there are so many other advocates who can do similar work. I mean who knows, I might want to retire one day!
And if you want some practical advice on self-advocacy, Barb Cook and I have this book on the topic: