Meet Kieran: The Autistic Advocate

Writing an about me will be the hardest thing I ever do. So this will literally be just 'about me', I'll save the life story for blogs further down the line.

So, I'm Kieran and I am Autistic...

I'm (at the time of writing) 38 years old (I was born in 1979, so you work it out from there). I was diagnosed as Autistic at the age of 23.  Contrary to popular beliefs, Autism didn't start the day I was diagnosed, nor the day I was vaccinated, It's something I was born as and something that I'll never grow out of and nor do I want to.  I'm as Autistic now as the day I was born.

I'm married to Michelle, who is gorgeous and wonderful and has no idea how amazing she is.  She is non-Autistic, (edit as of 2019) she's definitely Neurodivergent.  There's a whole lot going on behind that smile. 

Here she is, ain't I lucky:

I also have three children.

Quinn is 8 and Autistic. He's awesome, witty and a genius.  Takes after me really! And he loves Giraffes and kittens, but mostly Giraffes.  Also like me - this is getting freaky now.

Albie is 7, non-Autistic... Alledgedly... He is the most laid back child in the history of laid back children, he's also extremely silly. And would like a Nerf World War to start pretty soon:

Together, they are like two halves of the same person.  They hate and love each other in equal measure, but are my two beautiful boys.

Olivia is 4 and is as-of-yet, an undiagnosed Autistic.  She is my screamy Angel, who hurts my head so much but then smiles and breaks my heart.  She's also a Minecraft expert and thinks she's a cat.  Like seriously, she miaows all day and purrs when she's sleeping.

I might mention them now and then on the blog, but ultimately and much to their disgust, this blog is not about them.  When they're older and want to blog about their problems and issues and fully understand what it means to live life publicly, then they're welcome to do so.  I hold issue with people who write blogs about their Autistic children.  I am a parent first and foremost, two of my children are Autistic, but that does not make me an 'Autism parent'.  Their identity is just that and not for me to claim and use as fuel to complain how difficult my life is, or blurt out all over the internet my children's personal problems.

So with that out of the way: 

Welcome to my den of musings, anecdotes, (hopefully) useful advice and general home of Autistic wonder... Or 'blog', as most people call it.

Here you will find me, raw and honest.  At some points I’ll be pouring my heart out over my wife and children, at others I’ll be cathartically going through my life chucking out all the rubbish of unintentional abuse that was my childhood.  There will be explanations of terms from my point of view and I may give names to things that you knew existed, but didn’t know had a name. There might be the odd review; there’ll definitely be responses to current science and news articles. And there will be lots of ranting probably… I'm hoping there'll also be some useful information for other Autistics, Professionals, Parents, Allies and basically anyone who wants to read my words.

Before you go any further than this blog post I have a warning:

I am an Autism Self-Advocate.  This means, I speak for myself.  I don't allow people to make decisions for me, or speak for me.  You will see if you go through my writing that this will be a strong and recurrent theme.  Anyone that denies my voice or any other Autistic voice will get an earful from me.  Don't get me wrong, I will listen to your opinion but reserve the right to dismiss it.  Nobody and I mean nobody, knows what I have gone through or am going through.  Nobody but me understands how being Autistic shapes my worldview or how I navigate and interact with the world.  Nobody but me can tell you what I need to support me, help me or push me.  People can make suggestions, only I can tell you if they work.

Why am I qualified to talk about Autism?  To advocate for Autistic people?  

Well, I'm Autistic.  That's why... 

I was diagnosed with what was once known as Asperger's Syndrome back when I was 23.  It was expected. It was also a shock and one that took me a very long time to come to terms with.  I have finally reconciled and made peace with myself and am ready for the next stage of my journey, which is to help to give my fellow Autistics a voice.

I reserve the right to be me.  I've spent my whole life perfecting masking to the point where nobody can look at me and say I’m Autistic (the opposite in fact, but that's a whole other blog).  It's only in the last few years that I’ve finally come to peace with myself and who I am and to allow myself to be Autistic in public.  If you ever meet me, what you see is what you get. If you don't like that?  Well, I’m not afraid to say that I don't care because it’s your problem and not mine.

No parent, no Professional, nor anyone else can explain my life, my mind or my experiences better than me.  Nobody but an Autistic can tell you how it feels to be Autistic.  Nobody but an Autistic can tell you what works for them.

I have a voice and it's a voice that mostly comes through when I write, i love doing it and I'm good at it, so it was a bit of a no-brainer when I came to the conclusion that i wanted to combine my two big passions:  Writing and Autism.

I feel like I've been telling you off, Dear Reader and that's not the case at all.  I just don't want you to be here under the impression that it's all butterflies, rainbows, jigsaw pieces and socially acceptable wotnots... Coz it ain’t!

Just so you know, anything found in this blog is my opinion (unless it's a guest blog, in which case it has been given my approval).  I do not personally speak on behalf of all Autistics, nor am I a mouthpiece for the Autistic Community, I represent myself and echo the voices of the majority of the Autistic and Neurodiverse Communities; where I don’t do that, I will make that clear. I am fully aware and accept that my opinion can be wrong. I may say things that some might deem controversial, or are an affront to your morals or ethical code.  If there's something you disagree with, or think needs added to, or changed, please let me know.  If you don't like my opinion and don't want to talk about it civilly, make sure you remain quite happily sitting in your Echo Chamber and leave me in mine.

Final warning (this really is the last one):  Sometimes I swear.  Sometimes I swear a lot. And I mean ALOT.  Don't let that put you off, I generally refrain from it, but if I do so verbosely, it's usually because I’m so passionate and hyper-focused (another blog), that I have to just get it all out.

I hope you enjoy reading and bon voyage!

Oh! I forgot!  Honest I did and in no way did Michelle have to kick me under the table to get me to put it on.  

This is me (With a Mini-Olivia). I love getting my grey and balding head on a picture.  Seriously not...

So why do Autistic people need advocacy?

I have a bigger post on Self-advocacy for Neurodiversity which i wrote as a guest post for STARS Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder, but, fundamentally here is a little explanation:

An Advocate is somebody who speaks on behalf of other people.  A self-Advocate is somebody who speaks for themselves.  I am both. I speak with my own voice as a way of determining my own outcomes for myself.  I also speak on behalf of the a community.  I do not singly speak for the this community, nor do i fully represent them, but my opinions generally fall into line with the majority of the active community, so i am entitled to be able to speak with an element of authority on what the community as a whole wants to achieve.

The Community i advocate for is the Autistic Community.  I self-Advocate for my Autistic self.

As an Autistic self-advocate I speak for myself.  Nobody makes decisions for me. Nobody shuts me down or dismisses me. Nobody knows what I have gone through or am going through.  Nobody but me understands how being Autistic shapes my worldview, or how I navigate and interact with the world.

Others Autistics advocating for the Autistic Community may speak on behalf of me, but never for me.

As an Autistic Advocate I speak on behalf of the Autistic Community.  I am a representative of it because I have shared experiences with the Autistic community, because I have sought out many other Autistic people, or because they have sought me out and together we have realised that though we are many, our stories are the same, it's only the geography that changes.

I'm one member in agreement with a lot of members, we do not always speak with one voice, but generally this is what we fight for:

  • We will speak for ourselves.
  • You will listen to us.
  • We will have control of ourselves and our destiny.
  • We will decide how the 'Narrative' of Autism is told
  • We will be accepted.
  • You will use Identity First Language
The Autistic community needs the ability to speak for itself.  We have a long history of oppression by both society and the medical community.  We've suffered enforced stays in institutions, experimentation, neurological programming, forced medication, forced conformity, bullying, segregation and it is still happening now in every corner of the world.  Talk to Autistic adults and young teens from even supposed First World Countries like Britain and the US and you will hear us using phrases such as Abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Go into any Autistic group online that allows non-autistic people in and you'll find them talking over the Autistics or telling them what they should be doing and how they should be doing it.  

Talking not listening.

I see people (Mostly Non-Autistics) talking a lot about an 'us and them' mentality and that by advocating for itself, the Autistic community is causing divisions between ourselves and the non-Autistic.  What these people fail to consider is that the divide is already there and it was put there BY the Non-Autistic

We probably sound militant and aggressive to a person who has not experienced the lives that we have.  I was told once that telling non-Autistic people what they are doing wrong by Autistic people is hypocritical.  That we should all be loving each other and holding hands for a better life for everyone. My response was:

Hypocrisy would be Autistic people locking Non-Autistics up in Mental Institutions.

Hypocrisy would be Autistic people looking for a cure for being non-Autistic.

Hypocrisy would be Autistics neurologically training non-Autistics to change their personalities and physical manifestations to make us feel better.

Hypocrisy would be Autistics expecting non-Autistics to mask their differences so that it makes Autistics feel more comfortable.

Hypocrisy would be Autistics systematically oppressing non-Autistics.

What hypocrisy isn't, is complaining about any of those things I've just listed.

Hypocrisy isn't venting frustration or pointing out things that fail Autistics in the non-Autistic world.

We are not hypocritical.  

We have found a voice. 

And boy do we like to talk...
Some of my articles have proved very popular and, I'm told I've made a difference to the lives of a lot of people who have read them - both Parents of Autistic children and Autistic people.  So, as a start, here are the ones that have received the most attention:

Talking without words

How to hide your Autism

The inside of Autism

I look back at my parents and wonder: How did they miss me?

The mess of Autism

An Autistic Education

An Autistic Diagnosis

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