“Because children with autism will one day be adults with autism and, regardless of what age you are, everyone deserves supports to live the best quality of life possible.”
This is a quote I shared in one of my first TED Talks I ever gave about my journey growing up on the autism spectrum. Today I would consider myself an autism advocate with a focus on helping families across the lifespan. As we gear up for April and World Autism Month, this is a message I’d like to spread to the masses in our society.
This wasn’t always the case however in terms of how I thought our society looked at autism. Early on in my career as a professional speaker I saw that I was really only receiving speaking engagements to talk about early intervention supports. While I agree early intervention is the key, time and time again I would think to myself, ‘what about our adult population?’ It felt like there wasn’t being enough done for adults in my local community.
As years would go by, this made me passionate about using ‘lifespan’ as a theme in my presentations. Through this I kept bringing up the topic of adults with autism when it came to topics like employment, post-secondary, housing, guardianship, etc. and slowly I’d have the opportunity to speak in more areas about this topic.
Our society needs to truly understand that autism is a lifelong disorder and that regardless where someone may fall on the autism spectrum each individual has their own unique strengths and challenges.
We need to spread that awareness but then we need to advocate for our community too. I worked full-time for Autism Speaks for 4 years from 2014-2017 before moving on to fulfill one of my dreams of self-employment. During that time at AS though I was able to meet some incredible people who are truly fighting for our loved ones everyday. One way I’d encourage those reading this today to advocate for resources is by looking at Autism Speaks Advocacy Team. On their website you can learn more about legislation that is currently making an impact today.
Another resource I’d recommend for families who would like to advocate is Autism Speaks Resource Guide and their Autism Response Team who are trained to connect people with autism, their families, and caretakers to information, tools, and resources. They are excellent tools for those who are just getting started in the advocacy world!
In closing I hope that, not only in April, but throughout the months and years to come we will stand by this theme of looking at advocating for resources for those across the lifespan. Looking back now at my personal journey on the spectrum, from being nonverbal till 2.5 to now just passing my dissertation defense to become a Doctor, I can tell you it was a lot of hard work. The resources that were given to me from adolescence to adulthood are something I can only hope will be given to countless others in the future.