Connection in times of change
The Ambitious Youth Network and young people involved in the projects that Ambitious about Autism run have been taking part in online video chats run by the Participation Team. As an autistic young person these have been really useful during these really difficult times that we’ve collectively called ‘The Thing’ to try and stay positive.
Isolation and negativity can be dangerous feelings when we are seeing people less often, but these chats have shown that what we’re feeling is very similar to those across the country and the world who have had routines upended and pushed into uncertainty by ‘The Thing’.
Socialising virtually with those who know what we’re talking about and can signpost to places relevant for autistic mental and physical wellbeing has been a lifesaving opportunity for those of us struggling at the moment.
One of our chats, that I’m proud to say I was involved in, focused on highlighting the positive things about being autistic and the things we’re proud of. This chat happened during World Autism Awareness Week, something that is usually celebrated worldwide to show the world that being autistic is not something to be ashamed about. Together, we hosted our own celebration, shared our similarities and differences, and found out that really, we aren’t alone in how we’re feeling at the moment.
I’d like to share some of the positive themes that came out of our discussion.
What words do you associate with autism?
What makes you proud of being autistic?
We talked about positive words we associate with autism and why we should be proud to be autistic to help us feel empowered. Some of the words are bigger because multiple people had entered the word. Seeing the word grow bigger helped us to recognise similarities. Even though we are different, we are all connected.
What is the one thing you want people to know about autism?
When discussing what we would want other people to know about autism, who maybe don’t understand much about it, I was really surprised by how many phrases and words came up, such as ‘we are talented’ and ‘we are determined’. These made me realise that how people portray us or perceive us isn’t always right and that being autistic isn’t a problem.
What are your autistic strengths?
There were so many different strengths and strengths that we all shared. Importantly, we don’t want to be overlooked or our strengths underestimated. Each person is an individual but we all bring so much to society in our honesty, enthusiasm and perspective on the world.
What is your favourite stim?
Finally we shared our stims, which is self-stimulatory behaviour. This helped us realise we all ‘stim’ in different ways and it is important to us and allows us to self soothe and regulate our behaviour. There are so many different ways to stim and express yourself to show your emotions. We were able to see for ourselves the others' ways of expressing themselves and think about how narrow the definition of stimming has been.
At difficult and challenging times, it’s really important to focus on the positives which is why engaging with other autistic people online in this way is so valuable.
About the author
Georgia Ellin is 21 and from Derbyshire. She is a Youth Patron for Ambitious about Autism.