The CN Tower from Porter Airlines plane in Toronto at Billy Bishop Airport by @KBronJohn Copyright 2015

The Autism Friendly Unconference 2015

I heard about the Autism Friendly Unconference only about a week earlier, so I booked a last minute trip to Toronto to attend this weekend. The theme was Life After High School and all about work and transitions.

I arrived a little late but everyone was very welcoming and I picked a green pin for the day. Green was for Autistic people who were comfortable being talked to and open about autism. There were red pins for Autistic people who did not want to talk, and blue pins for allies. This made it very easy to see who was who.

The conference opened with a few of the organizers introducing themselves and telling us a bit about their lives. Then we jumped right into the workshops of the day.

The first one I chose was Professional Relationships at Work and we shared our experiences about navigating the social issues of work, as well as interviewing. A lot of people were unemployed or under-employed. It’s heartening to hear so many people having the same struggles and know we’re not alone, but at the same time, there seem to be no easy solutions.

The next session I attended was about Sex and Intimacy. The discussion ended up being more about dating and navigating how to find like-minded people. Again, I really related to a lot of the experiences shared.

Then lunch was provided and I spent a large part of it in the sensory room. It was great. There were bean bags, soft blankets, lights, and fidgets to squeeze or play with. I took a video:

I’m in the #sensory room at the #Autism Friendly conference. Shhhh. #Lights

A video posted by K Bron John (@kbronjohn) on Aug 15, 2015 at 7:35pm PDT

The session right after lunch was called Advocating for Yourself in the Workplace and it was run by a neurotypical, if I’m not mistaken. Slightly ironic because he made a snap judgement on some people who were colouring while listening. It was handled extremely well, however.

Finally, everyone who was left at the end of the day got together in one room to talk about services and what can be improved for neurodiverse adults. We spoke a lot about doctors not taking us seriously, especially when it comes to chronic pain and mental health issues. We also spoke about police violence. Some good constructive ideas came out of this, but I will let Every1Games disclose it when they are ready.

I was really pleased with being able to attend a free conference and I met some really cool people I hope to stay in touch with. Being an out-of-towner makes it a little more difficult, but through Facebook, I think we can keep the connection and flow of information going.

The team at Every1Games did a great job of making everyone feel comfortable and safe and I’m inspired to see what kind of things I can accomplish locally to build a similar community.

autism lingo 101 on

Autism Lingo 101

There are many common terms you’ll read on autism blogs or groups that you may not know the meaning of right away. I’ll be your autism dictionary! Ask me if you come up with others!

Stim – Stim is short for “stimming,” which is also short for “stimulation.” When our bodies either lack or have too much outside stimulus, many of us will do certain repetitive behaviours in order to calm down. “Normal” people do them as well, things like tapping feet, biting nails, chewing pen caps, knitting – those are all more “socially acceptable” stims. Other people may fidget, dance, hum, or repeat words. Some pick their nose. Some pull out their own hair.
Usually, if you try to stop someone from stimming, it will only make it worse. Or they may stop one behaviour only to pick up another one. It’s best to let people stim for the most part, unless they are really hurting themselves. The moment will pass, and most people come up with more socially acceptable stims on their own, in order to avoid being stared at in public.

Social Hangover – This is what happens when us Autistics try to be social. It’s exhausting for us, so after all that effort and overstimulation, we often need a few hours or days to recover. Sometimes I feel drained after a day of work and need to tune out. Sometimes, if I’ve gone out to a party, I need days to get back to normal.

Spoons – The term “spoons” originated with a post by a woman with a chronic “invisible” illness, lupus, explaining to others how she has to allocate a certain amount of “spoons” each day in order to function. A non-disabled person has more spoons than a disabled person. A disabled person doesn’t know when they wake up, how many spoons they will have for the day – some days less, some days more. Getting out of bed and getting dressed takes up more spoons. Getting groceries takes more spoons, and so on and so on. It could be lunch time and you could be all out of spoons! So if a person says, “I’m all out of spoons for today!” they cannot cope any more. They need to rest or go home and wait til tomorrow when they’ll hopefully have some more.

Normie – A “Normie” is a derogatory term for a “normal person” or neurotypical person. It’s not a term most Autistic people use unless they are really angry at a neurotypical.

Curbie – “Curbie” is derogatory word for people who believe autism can be cured.

Neurotypical or NT – NT people are those who have the brain of the majority – non-Autistic, non-learning disabled. This is not a derogatory term. It’s nicer than saying “normal.”

Neurodivergence – Or the Neurodivergent Movement looks to celebrate our differences and have people come to an acceptance that some brains are different than others, but no less important. The Neurodivergent Movement includes Autism and all learning disabilities. It typically does not include mental illnesses, such as sociopathy.

Ableism – Ableism is the belief and act of considering the non-disabled body or person to be superior to all others. It also presents itself when accommodations are not made for disabled people and when people don’t consider disabled people’s needs or opinions. Often influential people or organizations will forget to take into account the very people they are supposed to help.

Biomed – Short for “biomedical,” it’s a group of “doctors” and parents who believe giving certain supplements, vitamins or homeopathic preparations to Autistic people will somehow cure them. While some things, like vitamin B12 supplementation are not particularly dangerous (just a waste of money really), others, like MMS, are poisonous and bleach-based, which have led to the death of some Autistic individuals. There are always people out there willing to make a buck off of scared parents. Just make sure you aren’t harming your child instead of helping them.

GFCF – GFCF stands for Gluten Free, Casein Free. Some people believe eating a GFCF diet resolves some autism symptoms. Others see absolutely no difference.