Over the weekend i had the pleasure of contributing to the Autism Festival of Swansea. I had a really enjoyable time so i wanted to write a little about why i had fun and leave some thoughts about the content and wider angle the conference sent.
The Autism Festival was really cool for a number of reasons. One of which is that they had an all autistic line up of speaker, presenters and performers. They also asked the speakers to talk about our lives and our achievements rather than focusing on the challenges.
Robyn, Dean, Jon and me are all very different. However, something we do have in common is our position that being autistic is something positive in our lives and being ourselves is not a barrier to having a successful and happy life.
An upbeat autism event, led by autistic adults who can demonstrate achievements is unusual. Most conferences are pretty down beat, but this was a celebration of what can be achieved with some practical and pragmatic concepts to help pave the way for others.
It’s also the first conference I have been too where they had an autistic artist to contribute in song rather than in speech as that was easier for them. I’m not a music person, but it’s clear that’s Jack Loo is very talented.
They also invited Rob and Anna compare the event, I believe this was one of his first if not first event and he did great, adding his own remarks and talents to the day. I didn’t see his impressions, but I could hear the laughter from the other side of the building so obviously it went down pretty well.
The venue and format was very well considered. The event was held in a small theatre / cinema venue which had stage seating. The lights where kept quite bright so people could see and everyone was encouraged to take breaks as they where required. After my talk i left for a break and it was lovely.
Unlike other events where there is a huge pressure to stay in the room, the permission to leave set a great tone. Autistic people had there needs respected. Other autistic people who would have been asked to leave as “disruptive” at other events where allowed to stay. That really impressed me.
The format was intensive, a long block of content with a few breaks, however the venue and format made it easy to dip in and out. I was able to take a break and then return about half way through Robyn’s presentation.
I also appreciated the organisers asking permission to film me. It’s a nice change of tone from conferences which seem to assume that what they decree is what will happen “Do you mind if we film your talk” is a much nicer and more respectful approach than the approach taken by others.
Finally it was a nice audience. The audience listened and reacted well and where very kind towards my odd word fumble and tangent.
I did a new presentation for this event. A talk i called “Being Autistically Happy”. It went pretty okay, but had the usual roughness of a new talk. Will need some work before I use it again. For anyone interested the talk can be found on the Facebook page for the event and i will release some slides to the presentation section shortly.
I enjoyed the talk, it’s nice to give a different angle on how I approach things and it was nice to be covering something from a more personal perspective.
During the Q&A i probably was a tad blunt and over chatty, so for next time i will try to be a bit less blunt and a bit better at turn taking.
The highlight of the day for me was watching Dean’s speech. Although this is the 4th or 5th time we have been together at an event its the first time i have heard his presentation. I really enjoyed it. He makes great points in a humorous and concrete way.
I also enjoyed talking to people after the event. I wasn’t able to chat to everyone but it was nice to be able to chat to some people.
It was a VERY long day so i am super grateful to Mike for all the support and driving. It was very enjoyable and i look forward to any future events from the same wonderful team.