I was very fortunate to attend a conference last year held by the Autism Society of Minnesota. The thing that made this conference different from any other I have attended is the fact that autistic people planned it and only autistics were allowed to attend. Most conferences, if we are lucky, might have a few sessions for us autistics, but the majority of conferences are aimed at parents, educators, and other professionals. This conference was a total breath of fresh air. Plus, it was my first business trip, so I felt pretty ballin’.
We were allowed to have support people with us, so my mentor came with me, but they didn’t even get a name tag. It was all about the autistics. There was rocking and flapping all across the room we were gathered in. It was beyond beautiful. I had never been surrounded by this many people who were like me. My favorite presentation was given by the gorgeous Oliva James about burnout. A topic right up my alley and I learned a lot about how to take care of myself through burnout times.
I did have one absolute favorite moment at the conference. I was sitting at a table with a mom and her two children and we were talking about our diagnosis moment. Ya know. Pretty standard small talk. She told me that she would have been very upset if her children had been diagnosed neurotypical. That sentence took my breath away. For her, her children being neurotypical would have been a disability. I had never heard anyone talk about autism that way and it made me feel so proud to be autistic, which is something I struggled with at the time. The only reason autism is considered a disability is because of the society humans have created.
I do hope to see more events like this in the future. Autistic people are the experts on autism. Many people seem to forget that. A degree is one thing, but I live, eat, and breath autism every moment of every day.