Yesterday the world changed. It was a tiny shift. A momentary slide. Barely a bubble in the wake of a wave.
Small but powerful, I’ve been knocked off my feet.
Yesterday the National Autistic Society (NAS) ran a course for Autistic people who want to do Public Speaking about Autism to help the world understand.
Sarah Hendrickx, long time Public-Speaking sufferer and blessed with autism, led the day with her hilarious and honest descriptions of the difficulties and practicalities of doing it for a living.
We laughed, we cried. Oh yes, all emotions were free to be expressed. We have those; emotions. We have lots of them.
The group of 30ish was made up mostly of autistic women, which was a first for me. Everyone brought their own experiences and knowledge.
In the breaks we gathered – if we wanted to – we laughed about how unexceptional anyone openly stimming was in this space (I hadn’t even noted any behaviours as odd, they were all just… humdrum), we laughed about the ways some people change their intonation and mannerisms when they find out we’re autistic. Laughter is power. Laughter is healing. We shared experiences that might be painful, but were instead ridiculous.
It was so easy. Everyone was lovely. Everyone was there because they wanted to do a kind thing, and help the world be a better place. Everyone was passionate. Many had excellent boots.
The secret wasn’t in them. It was in me. It was in the permission we all gave ourselves to be honest about who we are. It was the safety of knowing that you didn’t have to explain anything, or justify anything. You need time alone for a bit? No excuses, this is your need, we respect that.
Sarah told us honestly the difficulties of public-speaking. There was no sugar-coating, there were no lies. The whole day was that of trust in people telling me the truth.
I have never left such a social day so positive and hopeful and light. Today, I am not going over all the words that were said to check and double check and triple check for hidden meaning. I am tired from traveling, but rested in my soul. I am validated.
My expectations for everyone were high, and they were surpassed.
At the end of the day we were given the opportunity to do a five minute talk of our choice in smaller groups. No obligation. There was an escape route.
I told myself I didn’t need to do it, but I knew I would never have such a safe space to throw my words into ever again. Our excellent NAS speaker took us through some more techniques and tricks of the trade and gave us space to brace ourselves, and then off we went.
What can I say? I was blown away by the talent and the knowledge. Everyone in my group had their own angle, their own message. Everyone had something to say that was so important, so valuable. Things were explained clearly and beautifully, and once again I was overcome by how valuable this course was. How many voices were waiting to be heard, how many new and positive ways there are to see autistic people.
Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make the day a success. You succeeded. It was wonderful. I am better for having been there. I am more a part of the world than I was before.
Two days ago, the dawn chorus grated, today the birds are singing in harmony. We are here, and we are ready to gently, but firmly, take our space in the world. I’ve always said I’m a writer not a speaker, perhaps I’ve found my voice at last. Perhaps it’s time to start singing.