blog » April 17, 2019 by Renee Herren

Autism Awareness & Acceptance With Autism Advocate Carrie Watts by Renee Herren

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3 months ago
Autism Awareness & Acceptance With Autism Advocate Carrie Watts

April is Autism Awareness Month, and as the month winds down, let’s take a moment to reflect and refocus on a movement toward acceptance and inclusion all year long! Carrie Watts is a wife, social activist and founder of Magic Lantern Books, a publishing company dedicated to shining light on autistic authors and illustrators and building pathways to employment in publishing for autistic people. Carrie shared information on the difference between autism awareness vs. acceptance and how to best support the autistic community.

Q: What is the difference between autism awareness and autism acceptance?

Most people are aware of autism at this point, though the stereotypes created by movies, etc., continue to prevail. But being aware isn’t enough. This is where acceptance comes in.Acceptance is when we stop telling autistic people that how they think and behave is “wrong” because it isn’t “normal.” It is when their alternate perspective and communication styles are accommodated for and openly welcomed as useful and beneficial to their communities.

Q: What is an issue you feel needs more exposure, even within the autism community?

There are many, many issues that are unexplored within the autistic experience that still need to be given proper research and discussion. These include:

  • the lost generation of autistic females
  • masking
  • over-prevalence of depression and suicide
  • poor employment opportunities
  • incarceration of autistic males for typical autistic behavior

As an autistic woman who didn’t get diagnosed until adulthood, I am mostly interested in supporting the lost generation and ensuring there isn’t another one. As a mother of two autistic boys, I am committed to changing employment outcomes and, when I have time, addressing the incarceration issue.

Q: Do you think fictional portrayals of autistic people have helped or hurt understanding?

This is layered. Mostly, I think representation is a good thing. However, that representation has to be informed by autistic people, not assumed by neurotypical people. For example, “The Good Doctor” explores very real issues (discrimination at work due to ignorance; sensory difficulties; rumination; executive functioning challenges).But they only show a single positive that makes him “worth it” (his genius), which adds to stereotypes. Autistic people are more than just what they offer NT people.

Q: In what ways can employers accommodate autistic employees?

It is easier than many people think to ensure autistic people can be there full selves at work. The main one is, simply accept them for who they are; don’t expect them to be someone else. Needs are individual, so the best thing an employer can do is speak with them openly and respectfully. Employers should also be informed on the traits that connect all autistic individuals. Here are some easy wins:

  • provide quiet rooms
  • allow individual workstations
  • don’t treat requests for accommodation with dismissiveness

Most autistic people want fulfilling, meaningful careers and to share their passions with the world, just like NT people. Now it’s time for employers to step up and accept them into the workplace.

Q: What do you personally find most difficult because of being autistic?

For me, meeting new people and remembering names is the hardest thing. I get so overwhelmed by trying to “act right” that I can’t focus on things like names. Then I get embarrassed because I can’t remember anyone’s name. Which makes it harder for me to pay attention to the developing conversation. I am terrible at small talk. It seems utterly pointless and such a waste of time when issues with meaning could be discussed instead. And I have yet to master the social convention of being asked how you are and NOT answering truthfully! If you don’t want to know how my weekend was, in detail, just don’t ask me. I’m good with that.

Q: What organizations do you recommend for finding reliable information about autism?

I am based in Scotland, so I primarily use the National Autistic Society (@autism), the UK’s leading charity for autistic people. I value their ethos, the materials they provide and the integrity with which they treat autistic people.

Another great organization is Autistica (@AutisticaUK), who focus their research on improving day-to-day life and future outcomes for autistic people. Again, their ethos is my main concern – they presume competence, listen to autistic voices and recognize that behavior is communication (not something broken that must be “fixed”).

There are organizations from which I would 100 percent steer people away because their beliefs conflict with the idea that autistic people are valuable and worthy, regardless of their ability to “fit in.”For me, if an organization says autistic people are broken, need to be cured, can’t speak for themselves or anything like that, they can’t be and should not be trusted as a resource. Not ever.

Q: Where can people learn more about you and Magic Lantern Books?

I am regularly active on Facebook for my many different businesses. Those businesses are  Level Best Tutorials (English literature tutoring), Highland Editorial Services (editing and content writing) and, of course, Magic Lantern Books.

Due to severe shortages of qualified diagnosticians in my area, I’m also playing with the idea of training to become an adult autism assessor. I feel an obligation to help those who have struggled for most of their lives finally get understanding. I would also love to become a Marie Kondo consultant. I really connect with her philosophy and use it on a daily basis. Maybe somewhere down the line.

Be sure to follow Carrie Watts on Twitter at @MagLanBooks, visit MagicLantern-Books.co.uk and read Carrie’s 30Seconds tips!

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Elisa All Schmitz 30Seconds
This will be so helpful. Can't wait to chat with you, Carrie Watts ! Thank you for sharing your insights with us!
Carrie Watts
Thank you for asking me. :-)
Meredith Schneider
Carrie Watts looking forward to tonight's chat!
Holly Budde
Sorry to miss. I have a speech tonight. I’ll be sure to RT when I get home. Very interested in learning more about this
Meredith Schneider
Good luck with your speech! We will miss you. xoxo
Donna John
What a great chat, Carrie Watts . Learned so much. Thank you.
Mindy Hudon, M.S., CCC-SLP
I am so sorry I missed this chat with @CarrieWatts I loved this recap. Carrie, I am a speech and language pathologist and fellow advocate for children, with autism, their families and teachers. My team and I created Building Awareness Rocks a nonprofit corporation to provide support and training. I would love to touch base with you sometime to learn more about what you do and to share our mission too. Thanks for this amazing chat!

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