One radio show and two workshops later...
I hope this summer heat is treating you O.K. It's been over 30 degrees Celsius here where I am based and has been the hottest June day since 1976 today apparently. I've been sat in our uni air conditioned library for the last few hours which was lovely however now being back home without air con is not so nice. It's been a while since I updated and I've done one radio show and 2 workshops, one for a youth group and one for a mental health group about 40 minutes away, so thought I'd do an update on the work I've been up to before the heatwave.
Both workshops I did this month were church based but with two different age groups and requirements. Filling a small 'God slot' on autism is something I had never considered doing until a my friend Krys (confusing, eh? Thank you Krys!) suggested that it might be a good idea for a bitesize session for our youth group. By making the session 'hands on' it brought the young people into potential situations and brought the autistic experience and perception closer to home for them. The most encouraging thing I found from this short session was the openness of the young people - sometimes when I run a workshop people will regurgitate things they have learnt from books or facts but the words were from their heart. They were curious and had their eyes opened.
Correct and accessible knowledge for young people is vital: they are the future generations and it will be them pushing forward new priorities. In regards to autism this is even more important: with the internet being full of information and misinformation, being able to navigate the correct information from the source is crucial. I believe autism will become less of a taboo over the coming years. For me, autism is not a taboo. It is important to speak up about concepts which may seem 'scary' or 'frightening' to some, maybe due to the unknown nature, misunderstanding and change in knowledge and beliefs, but knowledge helps reduce the spike of stigma, one person at a time.
This also goes through into the next workshop I ran on Saturday. One of the ladies who came up to me in the break for a chat explained that she had been told off when she worked in a nursery and shouted at because autism is a 'rude word'. This was some years ago from what I understand. It is hearing stories like this that make me desire for change and stand up against taboos. Autism should not be a taboo, merely a difference in perception. Why should that be taboo? Aren't we all unique and not all robots and clones? Why should we impose a hierarchy?
Finally on local BBC Radio I am very fortunate to be able to talk about these sort of things on air, but also from a faith perspective. Anyone who is aware of what has been going on in the U.K. in recent weeks (we have had a lot of breaking news over the last month, much of it heartbreaking and very sad) would be aware that we have had a snap general election, trending on the internet as #GE2017. One of the major parties has started a 'neurodiversity manifesto', something I only came across during the run up to the most recent election. The draft of the online manifesto was only dated December 2016 so this is a very recent development. Obviously this is very early days in terms of this going on, but it is great to see tentative steps forward. Many steps do need to happen further, I add. I think education of the correct information from the right people and good allyship is going to be something that will help propel this forward.
I'm fortunate in that I do have a relatively thick skin in regards to autism (I must add I am very sensitive in regards to many things but autism is something in which insults, misconceptions and misinformation doesn't upset me so much). I think this is partly due to the fact I know I am loved and valued the way I am, most of all by Jesus, and also that I have become comfortable in myself and in my knowledge. I see this autism work as part of my own growth as well as an opportunity presented to me. The autism world is constantly growing and reacting (in a positive way) to the world too. The second roundtable date is also being set very soon too, so also looking forward to that!
I look forward to having more time to blog again,