Communities of Advocacy
Over the past year at my job at Autism Speaks I’ve seen countless news and feature stories covered on our website. Three items that have been very inspirational have involved people in our autism community giving TEDx talks. TEDx talks have become very popular over the past few years for their ability to start dialogue in local communities about important issues. Most TEDx events consist of a day-long conference which showcases several talks, each one lasting 18 minutes or less.
The three talks that I found inspirational were:
- “My life with Asperger’s” by Daniel Wendler at TEDx University of Arizona;
- “Rising Pride” by Thomas and John D’Eri at TEDx CoconutGrove;
- And “Forget What you Know” by Jacob Barnett at TEDxTeen.
Each talk provided me with greater insight into the autism spectrum. Wendler discussed his experience growing up on the spectrum and teaching social skills to others with learning disabilities now as an adult on the spectrum. The D’Eris offered insight regarding a father and brother’s perspective on having a family member on the autism spectrum. Then there was Barnett’s story which was brilliant because it discussed what he felt his future has in store as he moves into adulthood.
These talks were all truly inspiring to me. A few weeks ago I learned about a TEDx talk that was going to be held in my hometown of Jersey City called TEDx Jersey City. Applications were open and if accepted, applicants would audition to be part of the TEDx event. My mom encouraged me to get involved based on my interest in speaking.
I have gained confidence in my speaking abilities as of late, and I realized this would be a tremendous opportunity to have people in my own community hear my story. However, sometimes that motivation to spread awareness is coupled with overwhelming anxiety about how the audience will react to me and whether I will freeze and want to run off the stage as I did when I first performed in plays as a little boy.
So I did apply for the event and was accepted to try out last Saturday. AND I DIDN’T GO. I decided to push the interview off so that I would have more time to prepare. I have come to instantly know what I can and can’t handle. For many years I have agreed to every opportunity, primarily because I didn’t think I would have these opportunities later. This weekend I realized that it is OK to say “No,” or in this case “Not now” when I am feeling overwhelmed. I understand my difficulties with transitions and just accept that I can just be Kerry. And thankfully there will be other self-advocates out there giving TEDx talks and telling everyone what it is like to be on the spectrum—mine is not the only voice. There are other voices and they thankfully are growing louder each day.