Finding a Voice

Yesterday the world changed. It was a tiny shift. A momentary slide. Barely a bubble in the wake of a wave.

Small but powerful, I’ve been knocked off my feet.

Yesterday the National Autistic Society (NAS) ran a course for Autistic people who want to do Public Speaking about Autism to help the world understand.

Sarah Hendrickx, long time Public-Speaking sufferer and blessed with autism, led the day with her hilarious and honest descriptions of the difficulties and practicalities of doing it for a living.

We laughed, we cried. Oh yes, all emotions were free to be expressed. We have those; emotions. We have lots of them.

The group of 30ish was made up mostly of autistic women, which was a first for me. Everyone brought their own experiences and knowledge.

In the breaks we gathered – if we wanted to – we laughed about how unexceptional anyone openly stimming was in this space (I hadn’t even noted any behaviours as odd, they were all just… humdrum), we laughed about the ways some people change their intonation and mannerisms when they find out we’re autistic. Laughter is power. Laughter is healing. We shared experiences that might be painful, but were instead ridiculous.

It was so easy. Everyone was lovely. Everyone was there because they wanted to do a kind thing, and help the world be a better place. Everyone was passionate. Many had excellent boots.

The secret wasn’t in them. It was in me. It was in the permission we all gave ourselves to be honest about who we are. It was the safety of knowing that you didn’t have to explain anything, or justify anything. You need time alone for a bit? No excuses, this is your need, we respect that.

Sarah told us honestly the difficulties of public-speaking. There was no sugar-coating, there were no lies. The whole day was that of trust in people telling me the truth.

I have never left such a social day so positive and hopeful and light. Today, I am not going over all the words that were said to check and double check and triple check for hidden meaning. I am tired from traveling, but rested in my soul. I am validated.

My expectations for everyone were high, and they were surpassed.

At the end of the day we were given the opportunity to do a five minute talk of our choice in smaller groups. No obligation. There was an escape route.

I told myself I didn’t need to do it, but I knew I would never have such a safe space to throw my words into ever again. Our excellent NAS speaker took us through some more techniques and tricks of the trade and gave us space to brace ourselves, and then off we went.

What can I say? I was blown away by the talent and the knowledge. Everyone in my group had their own angle, their own message. Everyone had something to say that was so important, so valuable. Things were explained clearly and beautifully, and once again I was overcome by how valuable this course was. How many voices were waiting to be heard, how many new and positive ways there are to see autistic people.

Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make the day a success. You succeeded. It was wonderful. I am better for having been there. I am more a part of the world than I was before.

Two days ago, the dawn chorus grated, today the birds are singing in harmony. We are here, and we are ready to gently, but firmly, take our space in the world. I’ve always said I’m a writer not a speaker, perhaps I’ve found my voice at last. Perhaps it’s time to start singing.

49 thoughts on “Finding a Voice

  1. Oh God, that sounds so like the best day ever! I am simultaneously massively envious and dead pleased for you that you got to do it. And now I’m really looking forward to the Rhi UK wide Speaking Tour. ๐Ÿ™‚ (No pressure, like)

    Liked by 5 people

    1. ๐Ÿ˜„ you may have a while to wait! It was so terrifying going, but so fantastic once there. Relaxed, friendly, so good. You’ll have to do the next one ๐Ÿ˜Š

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, I know! Maybe I can arrange to come over, sometime. Coordination, yes, but I’ve handled worse. Not sure if the training is open to non-UK folks, but it would be great to learn and watch everyone!

        Liked by 3 people

        1. That would be amazing! I’m hoping that even if more such courses don’t materialise, then we can still meet up as a group again. You would be more than welcome.

          Liked by 2 people

              1. And… autistic! Woot woot! Everybody stim, now! It’s so relaxing, to not have to constantly be on guard and manage your “traits” to avoid the looks of dismay by easily startled people.

                Liked by 3 people

  2. This is a first for me. Leaving a comment on a blog. But thank you so much for such a beautiful testimony for such as amazing day. I am so happy we managed to all finally come together, share and support each other. Happy tears for the rest of today I think ๐Ÿ’ž๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜

    Liked by 5 people

  3. The NAS were lucky to have you all there and well done them for giving you the platform. Stunning writing as always, and in this instance with such an uplifting message – I know others who were there who would echo your thoughts.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. You’re amazing, Rhi! Oh, how I wish I could have been with you all yesterday. It sounds like a truly synchronous event! I’m so happy for you that you all attended. Kudos to you! And the way you wrote about it feels like heaven ๐Ÿ˜˜
    Spectrum-friendly hugs to you!
    ~The Silent Wave/Laina, who was with you all day in spirit ๐ŸŒท๐Ÿ’ž

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It sounds wonderful Thanks for sharing. I was signed up for it but had to cancel at the last minute as my depression is bad at the moment and I’ve just started a new antidepressant that’s making me unwell ๐Ÿค’ I’m really glad it was such a positive event even though I can’t help feeling a twinge of regret I wasn’t there. Next time! โค

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It would have been lovely to meet you, but don’t beat yourself up. You should always put your health first, no matter what. One of the things Sarah really stressed, was to do what is right for you.

      I’m hoping there will be more opportunities (even if they’re just more social events) for us all to meet and create a real community.

      Next time! Definitely ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  6. This is why I am so grateful for working with the NAS. They truly care. I would loved to have known about this. I would love to attend a gathering of this sort. I really want to go to Autscape but need to find out more. I doubt I will be able to afford to go.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I very much hope to see you at something like this in the future. I know the NAS are fighting for more funding. There was much more interest than there were spaces.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sounds fabulous!

    I regularly give presentations about becoming a stem cell/blood/organ donor and have facilitated workshops and training in the past, but I’ve not combined my (very recently discovered) autism with presenting. I’m curious how allowing for and even celebrating the latter might enhance the former.

    Do they offer these workshops fairly regularly?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think it’s the first one of its kind the NAS have done. They’re very much hoping to do more in the future if they can get funding. Sounds like you wouldn’t need it for the practical issues, but the specifics of how to talk about autism inclusively and respect your audience’s experience were invaluable.

      I definitely recommend it if you see one available. This one was oversubscribed.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I deeply enjoy your blog for several reasons: the authenticity, how well you express yourself, and the mirror. It’s only in the last few years that I figured out that I’m spectrum (I’m 51). I’ve just always been ‘weird’, ‘odd’, ‘eccentric’, pick a similar adjective, and I’ve been called it. Reading your writing has offered me a mirror to separate out the specific qualities that are specific to me and what I share with others who are also spectrum. “Stimming”…oh, I’ve always been antsy and paid attention to tactile textures. Mind on replay too many times–no wonder! Not really able to tell if I’m being lied to (and I taught in prison for 8 years, and I’m still no good at it)–what a relief; I can surrender feeling like I’m supposed to know. Anxiety at having to call people or speak in public more than I’m familiar with. Trying to figure out the ‘right’ amount of eye contact–still a work in progress. Thank you Rhi for your insightful, intelligent, articulate expression!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for such a wonderful comment. Hearing your experiences helps me validate mine too. I’m always amazed anyone wants to read about my unremarkable potterings ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Rhi,
    So glad it was such a good day for you all, and even more happy you plan on going to speak publically about autism.

    Autistics, but almost even mรณre so the ‘outside’ world, would so benefit from your insights, honesty รกnd sense of humor.

    If your speaking out in public will be anything like your blogs, the world will also be – next to being educated about autism, the autistic community, plus about ways on how they รกnd we can help each other to make our diverse worlds meet on equal terms – a bรฉtter place.

    I may often come across as a wining reader of your blogs. (I know keeping my mouth shut would be the best option ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜› )

    But let me tell you: IF …. no wait, I mean: WHEN I’ll ever get my act together it’ll also be due to your blogs, รกnd to the replies you give all who comment on them, they sure give mรฉ hope for my future. (next to reminding me, time and time again, WHY it is I like your language so much. ๐Ÿ™‚ )
    So please don’t stop blogging?!!

    Have a good week.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are not, and have never been, a whining reader!

      It’s comments like this that carry me through the hard bits. I don’t know what I’d do without you all. When I reach out, you reach back. It’s a very beautiful thing.

      Thank you. Thank all of you! I am so grateful to everyone who responds to me. Never keep your mouth shut. Always share.

      I’m so glad my blogs help, and I’d love to take credit for every bit of good that comes out of them, but I can’t. I don’t have to do the hard work. I’m not the one arguing against all those well-practiced negative voices. I’m just a reflection. I’m here to tell you it’s ok to be you. It’s better than ok! The world needs more yous!

      If I do start the public speaking (which I would love to do) it will be a long, slow process. I’m not going anywhere ๐Ÿ˜Š



  10. You have found your voice for sure! It is refreshing… Writing is voice amplified from the heart… I am a special ed. teacher and often work with children with autism.

    Liked by 1 person

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