Participating in Autism Awareness
As part of Autism Awareness Month, I recently had the pleasure of participating in two events which helped to recognize the presence of autistic people and bring awareness of the condition in and to my community. The first event was a speech I presented to the SEPTSA group that I have mentioned in several previous columns, and the other event was “Bubbles for Autism Awareness” at a local park where I met others with autism and their families.
I was surprised that the SEPTSA meeting was attended by more people than there had been at previous meetings. This distracted me for a few moments when I first walked into the meeting room. I knew that a few of my family members, former teachers, and friends would be there to hear me and two other presenters speak about our lives with autism, but there were many more people who came as well. I felt that the room was a bit packed, but when my parents found us seats off to the side so we would not be in the midst of all the people, I began to relax. The other two speakers went before me. The first speaker demonstrated how his autism affected the way he thought and acted by carrying on a conversation with his mother. The next speaker illustrated what she felt were key points in her life with what I thought was a very well done PowerPoint presentation.
Their stories were informative, interesting, and inspirational. I immediately identified with some of the challenges we all deal with in our lives such as certain sensory problems, struggling to adjust to major changes in our environments, and desiring a strong, well-defined structure in just about everything we do. Even though we were similar in many ways, we were also very different from each other. I truly believe this exemplifies the saying, “If you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.” I thought each of our speeches covered many different dimensions of autism and gave the audience a broader sense of just how wide-reaching autism is.
I presented my speech last. I felt comfortable during my time at the podium, probably due to the fact that I practiced my speech until I had perfected my style of delivery. I related to the group the things that I feel have been my biggest challenges, most helpful therapies, and greatest accomplishments. I do not think my autism has held me back even with the challenges I face daily, and I feel that was reflected in my speech. The audience reacted warmly to everything I had to say, and even laughed heartily at the few jokes I had put in to add a little more levity to the proceedings. In fact, each speaker was treated just as warmly, and many in the group complimented each of us at the end of the meeting. I was pleased to hear which parts of my speech each person most related to, and presenting my speech has assuredly been one of the highlights of my year so far. I have since been invited to give it again at another autism awareness event for a different organization, and I will be glad to do so if everything works out.
Attending the “Bubbles for Autism Awareness” event was something I have never done before. There was no fundraising involved in this event; it was just a fun way to bring autism awareness to the community. My mother saw the announcement and asked if wanted to participate, and I was glad to go. Blowing bubbles was part of many happy moments in my childhood, and even though I had not done it in many years, I was sure that it would be a fun way to bring autism awareness to people at the park where the event was being held. Despite the differing levels of communication abilities among the autistic members of our group, we were all still able to have a great time together. The park became a cascade of bubbles in no time with everyone’s collective participation. It was great event, and I enjoyed meeting and getting to know new people. I also had a really great time blowing bubbles again.
Both of these events were great ways to support autism awareness in my community. I was glad to participate, and I relish all opportunities to meet and speak with people about a condition that affects me so personally. We need to continue to shatter autism myths and stereotypes. These types of events are a great way to do just that!