Tag Archives | advocate

What is Autism Advocacy to you?

You would think that a question, such as “what is autism advocacy to you?”, would be pretty straight forward. However, if you ask a few thousand people that question, you’ll very quickly realize that it’s most definitely not straight forward.


1. to speak or write in favor of; support or urge by argument; recommend publicly: He advocated higher salaries for teachers.

2. a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc. (usually followed by of ): an advocate of peace.
3. a person who pleads for or in behalf of another; intercessor.
4. a person who pleads the cause of another in a court of law.

I think everyone can agree that, even though there is an official definition, there is no one way to be an advocate.

Autism Advocacy

So I asked what Autism Advocacy is to people on various social networks and thought I’d share some of the responses with you:

#empowerment #support to let families affected by #Autism , #ASD , & #FragileX know ‘they are not alone’

Active support that raises awareness, results in change & aid 2 individuals & families.

For me it means donating money to autism research, doing walks for autism, striking up a conversation about it with strangers in the checkout line, at the park or wherever. Online, it means posting articles, videos, blogs etc talking about different aspects of the disorder. I think it is a combination of these things, as well as being a “voice” for those people affected by it.

Raising awareness of the breadth and scale of autism and reminding people it is a life long condition. I certainly have got into the habit of posting articles / starting conversations about issues on autism.

Autism Advocacy on a parental level is educating the awareness of the challenges you face everyday with your child who is diagnosed. Especially with your community leaders, your local government, and advocating for change to enhance and strengthen the bonds of Autism Families. Most families are not able to financially support the intervention that is provided through health insurance, Fundraising is important aspect of providing those needs to your family. Structure is vital for children with Autism.

I even got some responses such as this one:

Unfortunately, mostly very loud parents.

Which may bring you to feel upset at first but I think when you really think about it and think back to some of the other parents you may have come across in your life, this actually may be true… maybe not “mostly” but certainly some do qualify.

You can quickly see just how varied the answers are. They’re all advocates but they look at the tasks, the targets and those they’re advocating for quite differently.

Who are some good Autism Advocates?

I also asked who people felt are good autism advocates. Many people named Temple Grandin, some people mentioned people on Twitter, such as @Diaryofamom@shannonrosa@CorinaBecker@AutismWomen and @LauraBShumaker.

The response from some parents where that they, themselves, were the best Autism Advocates. Why?

Well, as the parent of a child with Autism, no one could advocate for their child better than they could.

But this brings us back to the first question, what is Autism Advocacy?

In a rather amazing bit of good timing, Jim (@GingerHeadDad) wrote this just yesterday: http://gingerheaddad.wordpress.com/2011/08/30/what-is-wrong-with-just-being-a-parent/

I had written several replies in his comments but never hit submit on any of them. I felt I wasn’t expressing myself clearly, I felt I wasn’t doing his post justice. I felt… I felt that the questions that I had been asking essentially are the response to his post that I am looking for. So I decided to write up a blog post of my own in response and share that in his comments….  which brings me to this:

Autism Advocacy – As Defined By Stuart Duncan

Autism Advocacy is the speaking up about, speaking on behalf of, speaking in support of, speaking in defiance of and speaking in defense of yourself, a loved one, all people with Autism or for Autism in general whether you are speaking to yourself, one other individual, a group of individuals or the entire world.

What does that mean?

It means that it doesn’t matter how much money you’ve donated, if you’ve created laws, written books, built buildings or if you’ve informed a family member, had a teacher recognize a special situation involving your child, had an impromptu discussion with a stranger or even if you’ve simply come to self realizations all on your own…. you are an Autism Advocate.

Never feel like you aren’t doing enough simply because your advocacy efforts are focused on those you love.

That change you made in a teacher, that stranger you talked to, that family member that has a better understanding… they’ll carry that forward to the next time they encounter someone with Autism and it will affect them. You will have made a difference.

Always accept that you feel you could do more but never let yourself feel like you haven’t done enough.

We all see advocacy differently. We all see Autism differently. We all have a different view that leads us to different goals.

It’s not about the number of people that hear you. It’s not about the size of the changes you can inspire in the world.

Big or small, loud or quiet, we are all advocates.


To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world. ~ Brandi Snyder

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Being an Autism Advocate – What I can overcome and what I can’t

There is one inherent problem with being an Autism Advocate. That is that what makes a person the best Autism Advocate also makes them the worst.

Sounds strange, I know but let me break it down for you, as how I see it.

The two best types of people to be an Autism Advocate are:

  1. A person with Autism/Aspergers
  2. A parent of a person with Autism/Aspergers

Who would know more or understand better than these people? Who better to stand up for their rights than the people right in the middle of it?

ObstacleHowever, think about it. Does it makes sense for a person with social and communication difficulties and impairments to be out there, speaking out and advocating for everyone? Does it make sense for a parent, with virtually no time or money, to be devoting time and money that they don’t have to speak out on behalf of others?

Parents are tired, Autistics are introverts…. Parents are busy, Autistics are usually avoiding the crowd.

It creates quite the problem when the best people to speak are the ones that are the least likely to.

There are some exceptions and there are other people that make great advocates, but for the sake of this post, I’m generalizing the majority for the sake of making a point.

What I can overcome

Social networks have really changed the world in that, you don’t have to be a celebrity or own a national news network to reach people.

My blog posts can reach hundreds, sometimes even thousands of people in a day. My tweets and status updates are the same.

And it’s not that what I do is all that great but that the people that follow me or read my stuff are so supportive and kind that they’re willing to share it with their own networks to help me reach out further.

Sitting in the comfort of my own home, I can reach thousands so long as wonderful people allow it and support me.

What I can’t overcome

I work a 9-5 job, like many people but I feel like I could do so much more if I didn’t. I can’t write like I want to, I can’t get out there and spend time with people, I can’t do interviews with people… it’s very limiting.

On top of that, even when I’m not doing the 9-5 thing, I am often doing quite a bit around the house since my wife has Fibromyalgia. Much of my off time, and even sometimes during my work time, I am doing quite a bit of chores around the house.

I live in the middle of nowhere, which means I can’t get to seminars, conventions or even out just to meet some of the wonderful parents, doctors and Autistics within the community.

No money is another big one. I can’t even buy the books that I hear about or that I’ve been wanting to read for so long.

The desire to do more

I have an itch…. I want to do so much more. I want to be more involved, I want to be contributing far more than I am.

But at the same time, I need to be a little proud of myself. I’ve been able to do quite a bit despite having so much limiting me.

The same is true for so many other advocates out there. If you reach an audience, whether that audience is 2 people or 20,000 people… just think of all that you’ve been able to overcome to achieve that. And think about, not only how good that feels, but how much good that does.

I think we’d all like to do more… and the more we do, the more we will want to do. That’s what makes an advocate a good advocate, I think.

If you’re an Autism Advocate, or any kind of special needs advocate, I want you to know that yes, I am bragging a little in this post.

It’s ok to brag a bit, so you should to. Don’t make it a big deal but feel good about what you are able to accomplish.

Even if you do find some obstacles that you are unable to overcome, you should be proud of the obstacles that you can overcome. You should be proud of yourself.

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Autism Advocacy – Some ideas to get you started

autism ribbonI have been rather fortunate to be able to write for not only my blog, but also some pieces for several other blogs as well. It turns out that writing is something that I rather enjoy and I can even be proud to say that I do quite well.

It occurred to me though, that not everyone is a great writer… or comfortable with public speaking… but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be a great advocate. Some people find some great ways to advocate while others still struggle to find what works for them.

So I thought I’d put together some thoughts and ideas in ways that you could help be the advocate you really want to be even if you have no formal training or previous expertise.

Every day life

Probably the most recognized and frequently used method for advocacy is simply to live life with Autism or with a child that has Autism. You’ll find yourself explaining it to friends and family, you’ll find yourself correcting others or volunteering information when people ask… sometimes you might even have to explain yourself or your child in a public setting if something embarrassing happens.

When you live it, you advocate it simply by walking out your front door.

Don’t be afraid to answer questions, don’t be afraid to offer information. You don’t have to have all the answers, just your own experiences. Explain how it’s not the same for everyone but you can offer your own knowledge on the topic.

People are very receptive, people are often very willing to learn. You don’t have to advertise it but don’t hide it either. When someone shows an interest, speak up.

Wearing Autism Merchandise

Wearing something on yourself is not only a subtle reminder to people but can be a conversation starter. There are a lot of choices, some people even opt to get a tattoo!

What ever it is you do, don’t go overboard. The last thing you want to do is annoy people with it. So keep it smart, keep it clever and even classy if you can. Funny is good too but can be offensive to some if you’re not careful.

Ultimately, so long as you’re not annoying anyone… do what ever looks good on you.


Most charities and events are non-profits… meaning that they don’t do what they do to make money, they do it to fund research or support families.

That means that they could really use the help, since they have no extra money to pay people. And usually it only involves and afternoon or just a few hours but your help would be invaluable.

In these instances, I like to think of it as the worker bee scenario.

Events, such as concerts, walks, bbq’s, etc take a lot of people to pull off properly. Whether it’s flipping burgers, getting people’s names… what ever.

Each and every little job is not only important, it’s necessary… and if they can’t fill those spots, the entire event could be in jeopardy.

Your help, whether big or small, for hours or days, is a big part of it’s success. If you can’t afford to donate, if you can’t be a public figure… just pitch in and help out. It’s needed more than you know.

Local Support Groups

Every community, big or small, has at least one local support group. Those groups usually consist of people with valuable information that you can learn from but there’s often people there that have no information, that need information… that feel quite lost and alone.

Someone at that meeting will likely step up and help those people out… that someone could be you.

You don’t have to pay their mortgage, just help them to realize that they’re not alone. Give them some friendly advice, a shoulder to lean on…. take an hour or two to be a part of a team.

You could learn, teach and grow, all the while making friends and maybe even new friends for your children.


So maybe you don’t have a lot of time but you are able to muster $10 or $20 here and there… donate it. Keep the receipts for your taxes.

Charities do some amazing work but they don’t do it all on their own. They need donations from people like you and me to fund the work they do.

Also, no matter how hard you have it, there is always someone or an entire family out there that has it worse. Those people struggle far more than you or I could even imagine and they need support far beyond what you or I could give them as individuals.

That’s where charities come in. They pool those donations and build valuable support for those families using the donations from us all.

You don’t have to donate hundreds, every little bit helps.

Take part in the events

I mentioned volunteering to help events run smoothly but it’s also just as much of a help to actually take part in the event… like a walk or fundraiser.

The AutismSpeaks Walk for Autism events have proven very successful in raising donations as well as general awareness all over the world. And all you have to do is walk.

Several other charities and even just local businesses and people right in your own city hold events all the time. Find them, get involved. You don’t have to work if you don’t want to. Just be there.

In fact, you don’t really even have to be there. Help get the word out about them. Tell friends, post to your social networks…. if you get 2 other people to take part in it, you’ve doubled what you could have done just by being there yourself.

If you do get 2 friends to do it and do it yourself too… well, you can see how something relatively small can grow to something very big and very worthwhile very quickly.

Make up something, do what you do best

As @OperationJack says: “Whatever you do best. For me, unfortunately, that requires running waaaay too much.” He’s a marathon runner. When his son was diagnosed with Autism, he decided to run to raise awareness as well as donations. He ran over 61 marathons in 2010!

Another Twitter member, @invisaWriter suggested: “if you know how to plan a killer party you could do fundraiser dinners, or maybe you can organize boxtops for edu. collections”…  not a bad idea!

Use your strengths… even if what you do has never been used for advocacy or fund raising before, try to put some thought into it. You can make it happen!

We’re all equals

I often marvel at how public speakers can travel the country, helping people all over…. or at book writers who can produce amazing pieces of literature that informs and even inspires.

The truth is though, when it comes to being an advocate, we’re all equals.

From talking to a neighbor about Autism to telling the country on national television, we’re equals. We do the same thing… we inform. We have the same purpose, to inform.

The only number that is important to an advocate is 1. If you can inform 1 person, if you can open the eyes of just 1 person, if you can make just 1 person recognize the difference…. if you can inspire just 1 person to want to make a difference…. you’ve done your job.

Whether you write, speak, walk, donate, volunteer… what ever it is you do, your goal is to reach out to 1 person and have them understand.

If you can do that, do it again and again and again… always aim for 1. Before you know it, you’ll have reached hundreds, maybe even thousands.

Ideas from you

I asked this on several networks, here are some of the responses I received.

Sometimes the most effective thing you can do is just be 'out there':
live your life openly, don't try to hide it or be ashamed of it.
It is what it is. You can also give moral/financial support to
others who can go out and speak, write books, etc.

Answering people's questions as they are asked. Wearing Autism Awareness
stuff, my brother got a tattoo to help raise awareness and has become a
conversation starter...

I've been helping make a local Asperger Support Group for Adults and
Children become a 501(c)(3) organization. A lot of work, but it's so
rewarding when we see the families we help!!

I agree, to speak up when people ask questions, to tell people about your
journey. I have been amazed and overwhelmed how people want to listen, get
involved and even donate money to try to help my son be able to speak! I
used to lock myself away and at one stage became very isolated and
defensive. I turned my life around when I took positive action to raise
awareness of autism and what I'd been going through, people all of a sudden
became understanding, supportive and encouraging! Search for Time to Talk
Liam on Facebook to see what ive been doing. People don't understand,
unless you tell them, it's just not possible for them to understand
without you telling them. I'll keep speaking out for my son, until the day
he is able to speak himself! And even after that too probably!!!

I'm an autism advocate in that I ensure that my daughter gets treated like
everybody else, no matter what I have to do. :)

If there is no local clearinghouse for info on ASD and how to handle,
start one.
Please feel free to share your ideas as well!
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