An Autistic Culture Shift

Below is a transcript of a speech I gave at a recent charity event. For context, the project being referred to in this talk is an Autistic-led training programme I developed alongside two other Autistic people. It was where I was offered my first opportunity to become an Autistic trainer and speaker, something which has been practically non-existent in my area in Scotland. This project began last November and this was the closing speech I gave during our presentation at the event where we shared our progress from the past 12 months.

I’m happy to say there were several Autistic people in the audience who were really inspired by this and related to what I said. There were also funders and people in positions of influence who I hope will take a lot from my talk and start to implement actions towards the things I addressed here. Hopefully moments like this will spark the rise of more Autistic voices where I live and for neurotypical people to provide platforms and opportunities for all Autistic people.

The term “Autistic Culture Shift” I said during my speech was coined by Jon Adams, who deserves credit for this.

My Speech

A big challenge for me with taking on this project was learning to be vulnerable. Over the years I have felt a lot of shame about myself. Most of that shame comes from the stigma and anti-Autistic bigotry that is deeply rooted in society. Many of us from a young age learn to suppress our natural ways of being & internalise those messages that tell us we are broken, unlovable or worthless.

Millions of Autistic people go unidentified because professionals still focus on an extremely narrow criteria that includes so many people. Yet they call us the rigid ones. So many go throughout their lives disconnected from their own identity and culture, which causes so much trauma. Those with the power to decide who is Autistic and who isn’t usually lack real insight into Autistic experience. It’s part of the power and control that society has over Autistic people. Most non-autistic led charities, including this one, have zero board members who are Autistic. The narratives are still dominated by non-autistic people.

And it’s among those reasons that have inspired me to put myself out there on a project like this. Everytime an Autistic person speaks out or we are given platforms, we are reaching out to those who have been forced to suppress themselves and denied their right to know and be who they are, much like you saw with the quote by an Autistic person we shared earlier who attended our training sessions. Being openly Autistic is an act of rebellion in a society that dehumanises and devalues us. The more of us that speak out and stand up, the more Autistic-led organisations and projects we have, the more that we take our power back. The world is in need of an Autistic Culture shift towards accepting and including us, because the world needs Autistic people. Except for Elon Musk, we don’t need him.

Now it can’t just be the three of us going out here across Lanarkshire and beyond delivering training. That would be tokenistic. There are so many Autistic people out there who are further marginalised than we are such as black and ethnic minority groups and Autistic trans and non-binary people, many for whom it is more dangerous to be openly Autistic. Going forward we need to amplify the voices of these often forgotten or ignored Autistic groups. I would like to see people from these groups to be recruited to our training team or for them to be given their own projects to create and deliver. So, it would be great if anyone could provide us with the money and funding that would allow us to do those things. Wink wink.

Overall this project has connected more to my Autistic identity and Culture. It has helped me overcome a lot of shame I previously had about myself. Part of that shame used to make me believe that I wasn’t defined by being Autistic, but I know now being Autistic does define me. It is my essence and makes me who I am. So I’ve allowed myself to embrace more of who I am and to embrace my Autistic identity. Now I go out there and describe to people the way I experience life, the way I express myself and talk about all those things I was made to feel shame about myself for. Sometimes when I’m describing those things, people on our training sessions will look at me like I’m fucking crazy, but I’ve learned to take pride in that and to really take pride in my authentic Autistic expression.

I want all Autistic people to know they have inherent worth and value. To be able to embrace and love themselves for who they are and live in a world that values and accepts them. I hope that us doing this project will open doors for more Autistic people to be given opportunities like we were. That we start to amplify the voices of the wider Autistic community and meet their human rights.

4 responses to “An Autistic Culture Shift”

  1. Love this so much! Takes a lot of courage to get up and say it how it is. Well done for advocating for the Autistic community 👏🏼 I hope you get your funding! Would you mind if I shared this speech with young people I am working with please?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much Megan! Yes absolutely of course, feel free to share this with them. 🙂


  2. Powerful line, “being openly Autistic is an act of rebellion” ❤


    1. Thank you! I wish it wasn’t but hopefully someday it won’t be that and it can be free to express.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: