My university days went like this.
Aug 11, 2021
I'm not an autistic researcher.
I take my hat off to my neurokin who are.
I am forever grateful to those who are engaged in research and academia, creating significant and important social change and opportunities for the autistic community and their families to be understood from an autistic perspective.
My business is in supporting neurodivergent people, their families, educators and their allied health support networks.
With significant support and a wonderful team of uni lecturers and supporters, in my mid-twenties, I graduated from a three-year degree over seven long years and then a further postgrad in Education.
It was hard. It was painful. There were tears, meltdowns, self-loathing and much internalised ableism.
I viewed myself as stupid, inadequate, lazy, a master procrastinator and I vowed to never study again.
Of those two degrees, the latter is a specialisation in teaching and supporting youth at risk of disengagement from the education system.
During my university years, I did not know I was autistic. Nor did I know I was unidentified ADHD and PDA.
I also wasn't aware that I was raising a child who is autistic, ADHD and PDA for the years I was a sole parent; completely unsupported, working, studying and struggling.
Over the past few years, I have attempted to study again.
I have enrolled at universities, registered with disability support, had the disability teams tell me what supports I can and can't access and when it wasn't suitable for me and wasn't supportive at all, I was told I should move on to yet another university.
Those disability support teams were made up entirely of non-disabled, non-neurodivergent adults. I know this because I asked them and they were uncomfortable answering.
I have been stonewalled from the education I long for and told that allowing me more than three days extension would give me an advantage.
Equity means having the same opportunities as your peers by being supported to do so, therefore I would not have an advantage as I would be already starting from behind.
With this said, I choose not to engage in debates around literature and research and I appreciate my peers who do.
I wish I was contributing to the research on PDA, but what I see publicly going on around it makes me incredibly sad and disappointed.
I am here to support people who need to be held, heard, nurtured and be supported to remember their value, and then their power.
I refuse to debate the existence or non-existence, validity or invalidation of particular identities, cultures and neurodivergences.
If I worked from a generic framework attached to a neurotype, then this would make a difference.
Many non-neurodivergent medical professionals do this. They have a constructed, generic framework they work from and draw their approaches and understandings from when they hear the word "autism", as an example.
Many in the autistic community, however, understand autism as a particular type of human being, yet support their clients from a human perspective.
My work is family centred. This means I zoom out, look at the entire picture and actually listen to the needs, wants, fears, hopes and dreams of all members of the family.
It is unconditional, led by them, respectful of autistic culture and identity and non-autistic culture and identity and is also respectful of intersectional identities and cultures.
I share my own experience and connect and collaborate.
I don't lead. I am not a leader.
My work is trauma-informed and trauma-sensitive.
I am not drawn to argue with others about my identity, and I can not imagine EVER telling another person who they are or are not.
I questioned who I was in all of my self-loathing and struggles for 33 years before being identified as neurodivergent.
Inside the autistic community, we see one another.
We understand that self-identification is just as valid as a medical diagnosis and there is a range of reasons behind this but mostly due to the inaccessibility and lack of autistic informed education professionals who are diagnosing actually have.
I exist. My experience exists.
And while there are people readily and publicly bickering over its existence and validity, I'll go with the language available, be grateful for the parent volunteers of the
PDA Society who DO seek the input and participation of adult PDAers and I'll keep on keeping on supporting those who have sought support in the many spaces they believed were available to them only to be gaslit, invalidated and dismissed while their children were and ARE denied access to education and adequate mental health.
I AM one of those parents, raising and supporting those children, helping them to process trauma; I am an adult child of that experience and that system and we need to come together to support one another; not bicker or dismiss another's experience because it doesn't match ours.