I came back from a conference, the Institute on Communication and Inclusion Summer Institute and I had to sleep for most of the next two days.
This is nothing really new for me. After conferences, where there is a lot of information, where I meet new people and see old friends again, my brain needs a break. During the conference I tried to absorb as much information as I could, I tried to be alert and enjoy the presence of my dear friends. So many emotions and so much to process!
This was not my first ICI conference, but it was the first one I was also a presenter.
Add the usual (good) overload of information and emotions, the anxiety before my presentation, and my resolve to not get too relaxed after it (and not sleep through the rest of the conference), I really needed the rest.
But this is not the only reason why slept so much after coming back. I was also holding on to a feeling I don’t experience very often in real life:
The experience of having hundreds of people not judging you, or how you move, how you communicate, the noises you make, where you look at, the silence you crave, the gestures you use to show happiness, the solitary moments you need.
This, in short, is the presumption of competence.
This is how most non-disabled people live most of their days. They don’t expect that the majority of the people they meet every day will talk down on them, will dismiss or ignore them, will show contempt for their existence.
All this happens to us every day. But not during those three days, when we are equals – as the laws of the universe say we are but the behavior of a majority wants to overrule.
To make things even better, for the most part we are the ones everyone wants to hear from, as it should be: we are the experts on us.
In conferences that presume our competence and value our opinions we are equals, and like the incredibly awesome Dr. Elizabeth Anderson-Grace (I call her incredibly awesome Ibby, my friend) said:
“We presume competence because, duh!”
That’s so obvious, isn’t it?
The conference had so many highlights, from honoring the one who first brought to the US the method I use to make myself heard, the lovely Doug Biklen, now retired Dean of the School of Education (but he is not going away!), to awarding Tracy Thresher, mentor to many, and movie star.
The biggest highlights: the voices of autistic typists were loud and our experiences shared.
To me, having presented about blogging and activism, it was great to hear from fellow typists that they too want to start blogging.
And some of us met and talked about how to become fully involved with our community and how to be better activists.
New voices, community and activism.
Communication, participation, engagement.
All this in a place where we can simply, safely, be who we are.
A friend reminds me of something my co-presenter Ariane Zurcher wrote about a safe place to be autistic: “the beauty of unedited human beings being”.
And also this quote from my other co-presenter Ibby (incredibly awesome Ibby): “the keyboard is mightier than the sword”.
I am still processing all that happened those three days. And I am still smiling. Because, duh!
Please checkout FundRazr page:
“My name is Amy and I am autistic. Some of you know me or have read my articles.
I was invited to present at this year’s AutCom Conference. I travel with a support person and the trip gets a little expensive.
I want to be able to go to AutCom and present because it is important that we, autistics, are heard when the conversation is about autism. As a non-speaking activist, I want to show that we all have a lot to share.
So, I am counting on my friends, in real life and on the Internet, to help me get there. You can donate, you can share with your friends or you can do both! The donation is tax deductible. And, if we are not yet friends, we soon will be!