Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Monochrome Autism Advocacy?

When I attend events like the recent Autism Society national conference, it reminds me that we do a lousy job reaching out to parents and providers with a broader set of experiences. Bluntly, the attendees tend to be white, middle-class, and female. That doesn't mean that there are not minority voices, or that there aren't some fathers present, but the gatherings are not reflective of our communities richness.

Conferences are expensive to attend, time-consuming, and not really something I do for social purposes. I admittedly skip the "town hall" gatherings, the fundraising gala, and other events. I walk the vendor exhibits when the hall is least crowded, often right after lunch. So, the events are not for everyone. Yet, they shouldn't seem so exclusive, either.

How can we attract more voices to the conference? I'm not sure, but when you are an insular group, even without meaning to be exclusive, you don't learn as much as you could.

The problem is, any "solution" sounds condescending. Scholarships and grants might help, but how would those be awarded? Some already exist, yet they don't seem to be adding to the diversity. Is there a better solution?

Fathers need to attend. People of all ethnicities, religious traditions, and economic backgrounds need to attend. We need to gather and learn.

Surely, I'm not the only person concerned that the "faces of autism" panel was pretty homogeneous. That's not to dismiss the importance of our voices, but a recognition that there are other voices, too.

2 comments:

  1. Probably because it is that "group" this is the most involved. Truthfully, I think you'd be very, very surprised how few people, professionals, parents etc actually care about advocacy or the online world.

    Online makes it sound like the "be all and end all". Truthfully, in the last 8yrs the main players have never changed and in the real world.. most don't know or care what goes on.

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    Replies
    1. I would like to imagine that I cross barriers between online and conference events, but I'm not a main player in any way. Nobody is asking me to join boards or be a spokesperson for anything autism-related, probably because I'm not an ideologue on most of the issues.

      But, I do wish we could get more voices heard by the leadership of national organizations.

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