Last week I sat in a room listening to some inspiring women, all talking on their topic of speciality. One had recently spoken at the UN, another is a respected psychologist and the third is a highly regarded teacher. And all three of them happened to be Autistic.
Why is this important? It’s probably the first time that an all female, all Autistic panel, has been convened anywhere in the world. The event was put on by the team at Yellow Ladybugs as a way of starting the conversation about the challenges that girls with Autism may face.
And the challenges are great. I was kind of blown away with some of the statistics and research that were presented, with everything from parental rights (or lack there of) for those with a disability, to school advocacy and the best way to get results, discussed.
There were lots of topics, that to be completely honest, I’ve never really considered. Other than the school one, of course, given we’ve lived that many times over.
And that speaks to my own privilege. While I may face struggles, that inherent position that I was born into of a white, straight, neuro-typical woman, there will things that will happen for me in a way that others will always have to fight for.
It’s a little confronting at times to realise how deeply ingrained these privileges are, the impact that they can have on the lives of others, and the work that is often needed to be done to simply get to the same starting point.
While I may complain about women’s rights, and things like the wage gap, at the end of the day, I’ve got a head start on many others – whether I always recognise that or not.
And yet, even with all of this bouncing around in my head, there was an overwhelming feeling of hope and joy in the room.
These women were inspirational and their successes impressive, autism or not. Their experiences have shaped them, and their neurological make-up no doubt plays a role in the way they approach life, but it was clear these were proud Autistic women. As they damn well should be.
After imparting their wisdom on us, and kindly answering a bunch of questions across a wide range of topics, one of them shared these words, which have stuck with me ever since…
I’ve been wired for wonder, and Autism isn’t the lock, it’s the key.
And if that doesn’t give you a lift, and a truck load of hope for the girls that are going to come after her, I’m not sure what will.