Why I write

Toward the end of 2014, I was offered the opportunity to give a presentation at our local Pecha Kucha event.

For those who are unfamiliar with PechaKucha have look at their website, { click here }. Basically it is a form of concise presentation in which you show 20 images for 20 seconds each while you speak about the images.

I chose to speak about why I write. I’m told my presentation will be available on the PK website at some stage, but I am publishing it here too, with image descriptions to make it a bit more accessible.
You will find the images on the left of the page, with the text I spoke to the right, then underneath that text is the image description in italics. I hope it’s not too hard to follow. If it is and anyone has a suggestion of a more accessible way to present it, please get in touch! All photos in this presentation were taken by me, unless otherwise stated. All images are copyright. Please do not reproduce with out my written permission.

Trigger Warning: during the presentation I discuss murder and justification of murder. I also use a couple of analogies that Autistic, or otherwise disabled, people may find offensive- I chose to use them in the context of the presentation as they would be understood by the target audience, but acknowledge some may find them triggering, and wish to apologise to anyone who is offended

11/3/15 : Edited to add this presentation is now available to be viewed on the Pecha Kucha website. 
Click >> here <<

1. Hello. I’m Michelle.  I’m a mum, a wife, used to be a teacher, just finished a psychology degree, I keep a couple of blogs and Facebook pages going. I dabble in activism, I am an advocate and I write stuff.  Mostly I just want to change the world, which I will explain in a minute.
image: me, a fair skinned female presenting person with brown shoulder length hair and blue eyes, wearing a black shirt and black framed glasses, with the word “hello” in cursive at the top left over my shoulder.

2. My husband and I have 6 kids. Our oldest son and our third daughter are Autistic. Tonight I’m going to tell you a bit about how Autism, and the Autistic community, has changed me…. and why I write about that.
image: a row of people, my family, on a field with gum tree bush in the distance behind us. We are all jumping, some quite exuberantly with arms and legs flung wide and wildly, some more sedately with arms by sides. Image credit: Mell Mallin Photography

3. The thing about your child being diagnosed Autistic is that you are already well primed by society to believe Autism is something bad and wrong, a tragedy, disorder, impairment, deficit, so it is likely that your initial reaction will be one of grief and fear.
image is the words: Autism is
a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. It is distinguished not by a single symptom, but by a characteristic triad of symptoms: impairments in social interaction; impairments in communication; and restricted interests and repetitive behavior. Social deficits distinguish autism and the related autism spectrum disorders from other developmental disorders. People with autism have social impairments and often lack the intuition about others that many people take for granted…….. Etc. etc. etc.
source: Wikipedia
4. You can read everyday, if you care to, stories that tell us Autistic people are disordered, in need of fixing, to be feared, a burden on their families, and all sorts of other negative things that induce panic and grief in any parent who hears the words “your child is Autistic”.
image: a selection of 6 screenshots of news headlines that frame Autism in a negative way

5.  So when I started to process the information that Autism was a part of our lives I had a bit of a problem. I knew I was supposed to acknowledge there was something wrong with my kids, and they do have significant struggles dealing with society and all its expectations of normality, but I felt they were a gift, not a curse.
image: a stack of paper boxes in different patterns and colours secured with a bow and with a tag attached at the top
 6 & 7. Then I met some Autistic adults, who were just like my kids when they were younger, and who despite their very real challenges are all living happy productive lives. My kids have a tribe! full of people who are standing up and speaking to the world, saying that they are happy just the way they are. I had been floundering, trying to reconcile my thoughts against the message I was hearing all around me, and meeting these new friends moved me from a place of fear and worry to a place of acceptance
images 6 and 7 are a collection of  postcard type memes showing a variety of  people, all Autistic (except one person who is the father of the girl he is pictured with). Each postcard has its own unique background colour. Next to or below each face are the words “I need your ACCEPTANCE much more than I need “Autism Awareness”.”
The photos in these images were provided to me by the people pictured and with their permission I made the memes as part of Autism Acceptance celebrations in April 2014. They were originally published { here } along with many others.

8. I love my kids exactly as they are, and accept them gladly without expecting them to change or desiring them to be anything other than their natural selves. They say a weed is just a plant growing where it wasn’t expected. I think weeds are beautiful and serve a purpose even if they weren’t expected.
image: a dandelion flower and two leaves, resting on top of a wood stump. To the right of the photo are the words “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You. -Dr. Suess
9. & 10 My daughter loves to make things, draw, watch movies, bounce, swing, twirl, dance, climb. She has trouble processing sensory input and interpreting social situations. She spent a large part of her first 4 years in a state of meltdown- so overwhelmed by the way her body processes sensory input that she just couldn’t cope. That still happens to her sometimes, especially in new places or places that are very loud or bright. She loves all creatures. She rescues worms and moths when they are wet. She works very hard to learn and understand social interactions, and she just keeps trying.
images 9 and 10 are a collection of photos of my daughter, known online as MissG. MissG is fair skinned has blond wavy hair and blue eyes.       In the pictures she is showing off a story she wrote, climbing a climbing frame, roller skating, eating while wearing ear defenders and sunglasses,holding a baby chicken on her shoulder, showing her face painted as a gold lion, and standing in front of a tree looking at the camera and smiling 
11. My son is a bit camera shy. He has a strong sense of justice. He was mostly non-verbal until he was 5 years old. When he is overwhelmed he loses the ability to use spoken language, so writes things down in order to communicate. He designs games. He is teaching himself piano. He struggles to understand the way his peers socialise and often feels out of his depth in social situations. He is smart, and kind and does his best to be fair always.
image: two photos of my son, known online as MasterL or L. He is fair skinned, with brown hair and blue eyes. In one picture he is sitting with our German Shepherd dog Charley facing the camera and smiling. The second picture shows L from above as he is working on a craft project placing small beads on a template board which will later be ironed to melt the beads together forming a small flat object. I thin he was working on reproducing minecraft images. 
12.  These kids I’ve never met. They are all Autistic. They all have challenges and strengths, just like my kids. These kids were all murdered by their parents.
image: photos of 9 Autistic children (images were screen shot form the internet), each of whom was murdered by their caregiver. 
13. And when the media reported on their murders they said lots of horrible things justifying the murders of these beautiful children whose parents were supposed to protect from harm.
image: in red, the words – “he was difficult to live with”, “she was a handful”, “his mother lost hope and snapped”, “she required 24 hour supervision”, “mother did not receive enough services”
14. My children, are like those children in many ways. And so, if I read the news reports on the murders of these kids, and see that the parents who killed them are sympathised with…. the logical conclusion is that if I killed my children people would sympathise with me. This is not acceptable to me. So, I write.
image: two postcard type memes with red backgrounds. The one to the left shows L’s face, the one to the right shows MissG’s face wearing thick rimmed glasses and fabric rabbit ears. Bothe postcards have the words “I need your ACCEPTANCE much mote than I need “Autism Awareness”. 
15. When I first started writing, it was just for me, a record of my journey as a parent. I showed the blog to my sister and mother, who encouraged me to publish it and make it public. I was surprised to find that people were interested to read. It has grown from there.
image: a piece of paper sitting on top of an envelope. On the paper are written the words ” Dear Me 10 years ago”
16. What used to be a journal of my thoughts has become more of a community of people travelling with me who are learning along side me what it means to be advocates for Autistic people.
image: a collection of screenshots of pages on the internet where I write and blog. 
17. These days I still write about my role as a parent, and what I am doing to support my children. I also write about advocacy for the Autistic community. I have added my words to those of others who want to see Autistic people have the same rights as non-disabled people.
image: on the left a photo of a ball of small white flowers, to the right of which are the words ” Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder. Rumi”
18. I talk about issues of funding, supports, stigma and privilege, and whether Autism Awareness is enough. I try to point out that even though Autistic people are seen as different, and sometimes unwanted, that they are just people trying to get along in an often hostile environment, a bit like weeds.
image: the blue sky, with some clouds, behind a silhouette of a fence some trees and some yellow dandelion flowers. AT the bottom of the image in white text the words “beautiful weeds”
19. I am trying to change the world. Because, people need to see that it is possible to choose positivity even when life is hard daily. Because, I am tired of feeling the need to protect my kids from the world, I want them to go confidently and safely out into it.
image: on the left a white candle burning, with yellow words to the right reading “better to light a candle than curse the darkness”
20. Because, when my kids are adults I don’t want them to be fighting the same fight for acceptance the adults of the Autistic community are fighting today. So, I write…. hoping that people will listen and the world will change.
image: a brown brick wall with two small windows. There is ivy growing over it and someone has covered the windows on the walls exterior with red gingham curtains, and painted a bright red and yellow mural of two daisy like flowers in a square vase. To the right of the picture are the words “Be the change you wish to see in the world. Ghandi”

11/3/15 : Edited to add this presentation is now available to be viewed on the Pecha Kucha website. 
Click >> here <<

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