First of all, it feels weird to refer to myself as an advocate. I do this as an autistic though - I create specific associations with specific words. My associations are often difficult to articulate. It’s more of a feeling I have about the word. It’s usually due to a combination of experiences, judgments, and perceptions that are hard to tease out.
So when someone first referred to my work as advocacy work, I thought, “Nooooo. Uhhhhhh. No.”
Then I had the chance to have a conversation with a disability advocate, Keith Murfee DeConcini, on his podcast Disability Empowerment Now. I was able to ask him what it means to him to be an advocate. His definition of spreading information about the lived reality of the experience helped me to see advocacy with new eyes.
It helped me see that the work I do writing, speaking, and presenting about autism is all advocating for autism. All of my work is designed to expand our vision of autism beyond the medical model and negative stereotypes.
Keith even pointed out that my therapy work (I specialize in late-identified autistics) is a form of advocacy. In that space, I am helping autistic people to see their whole selves. I am also educating about autism characteristics, strategies, and more.
I also help other people to do autism advocacy work, by doing autistic interviews. Whenever they share their stories, they are expanding the conversation on autism and advocating a humanizing view of it.
The more I look at advocacy as sharing our personal lived experiences on topics that are often misunderstood by the public, the more I see advocacy work happening all around me.
I see it in the neurodivergent TikTok content creators.
I see it in the autistic podcasts popping up.
I see it in professional’s posts on LinkedIn about autism.
I see it in my clients who take the time to explain autism to their friends and family.
I see it in the newly identified autistic who writes a blog.
I see it in the autistic coach who puts together a book of stories about autistic people.
What I love about all of these different forms of advocacy is that we can tailor our advocacy to what feels good to us. It also means we don’t have to see it as “work,” “service” or something we “should” do. Instead, we can just be ourselves and share what we want to share, in a way that feels good to us.
I didn’t start my blog thinking, “I’m going to be an autism advocate.” No, I started writing because I had some shit to think through and I wanted to share those thoughts with others.
The more we move from a place of internal passion and excitement, the more our advocacy “work” will naturally emerge.
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