Written By Yenn Purkis
I was sort of thrust into advocacy by virtue of me writing an autobiography which was somewhat unexpectedly published.
I remember being terrified at every event I attended, thinking people would ask me tricky questions about autism and show up how inexperienced and ignorant I was. It took me many more years to get to a place of confidence. Even then it was a difficult road.
I was terrified of being criticised or trolled for my work. I used to read through my blog posts many times, trying to ascertain if there was anything in what I said that people would take offence at. I felt terrified of being attacked – caught between those autistic people I viewed as very hardline on one side and those who were ableist and anti-autistic on the other.
Given all that, it is amazing that I do any advocacy at all! In fact, I am a very driven advocate and want to make the world a better place for neurodivergent folks. My passion for advocacy has driven me through all those worries and fears to a place where I am happy to share my thoughts and not be afraid of trolls or critics. These days I quite enjoy conversations with people who disagree with what I say as it teaches me different views. Respectful, robust debate is a big plus to my mind.
The strong focus on advocacy that I have now, began in 2012 after I met a young autistic man who was very limited by all the negative attitudes people in his life had in relation to his capability. When I told this man that I was autistic and had written a book and worked in the public service, he said quite bluntly, ‘That is impossible. You are lying.’ I was so horrified by his poor view of autistic capability that I launched into what has become a very accomplished and rewarding advocacy career. We all have a rationale for being advocates and things which drive and motivate us.
Fifteen years ago, when I wrote my first book, I would not have believed where my advocacy journey would take me. The path I took is not for everyone but I am really happy about the decisions I took. I hope these tips and my story will help you in your own advocacy journey.
The Reframing Autism team would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands on which we have the privilege to learn, work, and grow. Whilst we gather on many different parts of this Country, the RA team walk on the land of the Birpai, Awabakal, Wattamattagal, Whadjak, Amangu, Bunurong and Kaurna Yarta peoples.
We are committed to honouring the rich culture of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of this Country, and the diversity and learning opportunities with which they provide us. We extend our gratitude and respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and to all Elders past, present, and emerging, for their wisdom, their resilience, and for helping this Country to heal.