I was invited to be a facilitating mentor for the APAC15 autistic spectrum mentoring program that brought together autistic adult mentors and mentees from around Australia and one from New Zealand. A small negative was the lack of Asian and Pasifika mentees or mentors and I hope funding can be found to facilitate a geographically wider group in 2017. Some highlights were being called the ‘coolest old person’ and being able to pass on advice and ideas/strategies as requested by the mentors and mentees.
The conference itself had some wonderfully inclusive and respectful speakers from around the region as well as the world. However, it was bittersweet explaining to the young autistic adult mentees that some of the negative and pejorative language used about us was less frequent than in years gone by, but that yes some researchers and professionals really do frame our lives in terms of disorder, disability and negativity. In contrast there were some amazing references to autistic potential and the right to live well as autistics that hopefully signal the pathway ahead.
I posed some pointed questions to a number of professionals around their use of terminology such as disorder to frame autism and their insistence on clinically significant impairment existing in their terms and not in our terms. This phrase, clinically significant impairment, is the crucial final piece in the diagnostic process and people who feel massively different to the typical and experience a sense of difference and other most of their time, except within the the autistic community can be denied a diagnosis even when they meet all other criteria clearly if for example they work or have a partner or raise children, because the diagnostic clinician thinks that demonstrates too much ‘ability’. I find this highly destructive and a way of permanently negating the ability of autistics to live well and am determined to help clinicians and professionals understand why this phrase is so damaging and harmful to autistics and this families and friends.
You can find my presentation on the Resources page