Autism Self-Advocacy – 13 year old style

H is 13… in some ways he is still so young… but I see him changing and developing in many areas.  I also see that adulthood is looming, and I understand that this next stage is, in some ways, much closer that I am ready to accept. Our energy and focus is needed to support his positive development and his acceptance of who he is as a person, and his understanding that autism is a part of that. This is the preparation for the transition into adulthood… it is time!

I sense there is much work that needs to be done to bolster the psyche of this young man to counteract the negative messages that he sometimes hears through the media: we are working to reframe the messages of autism and tragedy. I want him to have pride in himself – not shame. I want him to feel an ownership of his differences – so that he can fully understand these himself, explain to others, and also say what it is he needs.

Tonight we had a conversation about his attending the Arizona TASH conference as a self-advocate. I am presenting at this conference next month (Strategies for Inclusion in the Regular Education Classroom) and H has been invited to attend with me.

I told him, “Honey, you don’t have to go… I am not telling you ‘you have to go.’ This needs to be your choice and your decision. I will tell you that I think it is an amazing opportunity. You will get to meet other autistic people, some of whom are adults. There are people who know about you and they want you to come to the conference. They want to meet you and to talk with you. I know that you will like talking to people like Laura Nagle… and they will like talking with you.

I think you are a wonderful boy and I am so proud of you. I think others can learn from you, because you have words to share what some kids can’t.  Learning more about being a self-advocate is important and your Dad and I think this conference may be a good thing. It is important to us that you grow into a man who is able to talk about what you need and explain your experiences to others. You will always be autistic – and I think the world has a lot to learn about that: teaching the world to be more understanding will make life better for lots of people.

But here is the really important part: it is your choice.  I think you are wonderful and I am proud of you even if you don’t go… because this too is self-advocacy. This isn’t about what I want for you – it is about what you want for yourself, and about letting others know what you need.

Buddy – this one is yours to decide!”

H looked over at me and queried, “Mom why are you crying? Are you sad?”

I used my sleeve to dab my somewhat misty eyes, and smiled reassuringly, “No, I am just feeling moved, honey. I am so proud of you and I think you have so much to offer. You are a really awesome boy.”

“Mom – I want to go! I want to do this. I have something to say… and there might be kids with autism who don’t have my words… I can help!”

We’ll keep you posted as this next adventure unfolds… but in the meantime… I must reveal that my heart is almost bursting with pride for this child of mine.


30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.

About Leah Kelley, Ed.D.

Leah Kelley, M.Ed, Ed.D., Writer, Consultant, Activist, Speaker, and Educator, working with Teacher Candidates at UBC. Authors blog: 30 Days of Autism. Projects support social understanding, Neurodiversity paradigm, Disability Justice, and connecting Disability Studies in Education(DSE)to Educational Practice. Twitter: @leah_kelley Facebook: 30 Days of Autism: Leah Kelley
This entry was posted in acceptance, Arizona, Arizona TASH, ASD, Aspergers, Autism, promote social understanding, self-advocacy, Shame and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Autism Self-Advocacy – 13 year old style

  1. Hannah says:

    Well, it must be, because I can feel it, sitting in my living room, on the other side of the world.


  2. Go H! 🙂 You must be doing something right, Leah 🙂


  3. So cool, can’t wait to hear the rest of the adventure. Go H!


  4. Awesome, way to go H… I am sure it will go well and he will do you proud! My son turns 13 this week! 🙂


  5. Wow, L! You are an awesome mom and we are so proud of you. We know that others are learning from you! Another conference because people want to meet both of you and hear your stories, wisdom, insight…. H. continues to grow so much. Many kids grow in spite of their parents. H. grows because of and with his parents and his parents grow because of and with H. and the world is definitely a more understanding place because of it. Go, H., go! PS I am sure this can count for some HACE/SS/Lang Arts…. I hope his teacher understands that this will take some preparation, research, and time. A conference is a very abstract concept for kids. When parents/teachers go to “a conference” that is really like saying we are going to “Jupiter”…. I know he’ll know what to expect and have lots of support/debriefing. Maybe some photojournalism for H”s journey????

    Hugs and best wishes,


  6. sanni says:

    autismn is onli a trajedy tu thos whm dont liv in our minds with autism i encourage this yung person tu be proud an tu nevr giv up as he s a valuabil person sorry im dylexik an i try tu advocate fr oithers lik me on ASD spectrum -ppl al ovr need tu undrstand autism end steriotypes abt us gt tu see us as indivuidials wth much tu offer the mainstreem werld an society sholsd try tu acommodate us tu liv in ther werld instead ov tryin tu force us tu liv in ther werld


  7. Dan says:

    Simply beautiful and well-spoken. I will learn a lot from you! Thanks!


  8. Forgotten says:

    You *and* your sweet son never cease to amaze me. I’m so proud of both you! Please do share the story and capture us a few pics. Pretty please?



  9. This is amazing for both of you. I love that he thought about “kids with autism who don’t have any words.” Of course you would be full of pride.


  10. Pingback: TASH Conference Keynote and a fortress of chips: H Rocks his Advocacy | Thirty Days of Autism

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