I had an amazing experience today. I gave an Autism talk at an autism awareness event!
I traveled to Randolph, NY with a dear friend who invited me to give the talk. She's the Superintendent of the school I was working for last year. I received a call from her last month, saying that someone had asked her if she knew of an autistic adult and advocate, who would be willing to speak at an event. She said that she thought of me right away! So we met halfway, as Randolph is a good almost 2 hours from me in Lancaster. Once we met up, she drove the test of the way to a beautiful church, where the event was to be held.
Once there, I was introduced to the facilitator of the event, who has an autistic son. She was very welcoming! I was introduced to the pastor of the church, as well as a couple of members of the school board. We ate a delicious lunch of pulled pork, egg salad, fruit salad, ambrosia, chips, and a dessert bake (not sure what it was called, lol). The Superintendent had made most of the food, which we all enjoyed!
The first speaker was a therapist who works with the facilitator of the event's son. She talked about the therapy, as well as the traits of autism. Then, the facilitator and her husband talked about the story of their son and his diagnosis. More parents spoke and shared their stories, which were different from each other, but stories that showed how much getting a diagnosis helped make things better for their child. Next, the Superintendent and I were asked to come up. She talked a little bit about her sons who are autistic, and how the identity has been a positive one for them. She went into how support is very important for an autistic person. Then came my turn.
I started by talking about how I had always been a little different. How I did pretty much whatever I wanted to do in preschool, while the rest of the class was doing as they were told. I talked about how school went relatively well and I graduated with a Bachelor's in Social Work. I stated that it wasn't until I was 26 and had already been working in the field that I discovered I may be autistic. I mentioned the blog that started it all, as well as research, and finally, my diagnosis. I wrapped it up by describing my special interests, and the importance of identity-first language.
My speech was well-received! It was completely off the cuff, and came from the heart. I was approached by parents who told me my story gave them hope. People told me that they thought it was awesome that I came to share my story. It was truly an honor to be invited, and I thanked everyone for having me. I met some amazing people with whom I will be keeping in touch! I must say, in the words of Ice Cube, it was a good day :)