I am thrilled to say that ASPECT has invited my son Richard as a keynote speaker at the next Autism in Education Conference this August in Brisbane!
I’ve attended many Autism Conferences in the past and even spoken at some of them. They’re usually professionally organised events with impressive international keynote speakers, most of whom are academics. These academics are either researchers or on the spectrum themselves, (obviously extremely high functioning).
While it is important to hear from these researchers and high functioning academics, it has always unsettled me that these are the only voices representing those on the spectrum. Where are the voices of those who are unable to dream of ever attending university, where the voices of those who struggle through school, of those who struggle to even speak?
I have often voiced these concerns in the past and even conducted my own mini event called ‘Autism and ME’ in April 2016. The speakers were a number of young people on the spectrum aged between 8 and 30, the youngest of whom was non-verbal and had written her speech on an iPad, this was a speech I will never forget!
I would like to congratulate ASPECT for being proactive, going against the trend and inviting a non-academic to balance out the usual high profile and exceptionally gifted people on the spectrum who normally take to the main stage as the keynote speakers. Richard is a young man who has worked extremely hard over the years to overcome his many challenges. He is representative of those who, contrary to popular misconception does not have a ‘specific talent’ but he does have an amazing personality and tenacity, and certainly has a story to tell!
I encourage and challenge all conference organisers to look beyond the obvious speakers, and give others on the spectrum a platform and the opportunity to have their voice heard.
If you are interested in attending this conference and hearing Richard speak, this will be ASPECT’s 3rd Autism in Education Conference, tickets are available on ASPECT’s website.
Watch this video to see Richard’s reaction when I broke the news to him that he has been invited to speak in Brisbane!