Ever get the feeling your world will never be the same? That so many things are suddenly possible?
When I signed up for the Future Leaders program, I didn't know quite what to expect. I guess few would have given it's an inaugural project, something that hadn't been done before. The maiden voyage of the visionary endeavour of a couple of highly motivated individuals who were determined that the Asia Pacific Autism Conference should embrace and accept those with lived experience.
I knew I'd enjoy the conference. Given psychology is one of my key interests (for me this means that I would go to the symposia for the psychology teaching staff for fun whilst at uni, and it's not unusual for me to read academic articles on autism, cognition or other interesting topics during my lunch break). Being part of a project involving bringing 23 autistic young adults (and a few slightly older inspirations) together is something I didn't have a concept for. Being diagnosed as an adult, the autistic community is not something I'd really encountered a lot of. I've connected with people online or one-on-one but this was my first foray into a big group.
It was a very rewarding and emotional experience. I guess I also found it validating. Not every one believes you when you disclose, there are people that think you are lazy or looking for an excuse for something. This leads to a fear of disclosure that is closely related to a fear of alienation, rejection or being misunderstood. The no-one-else-does-this effect can leave us feeling isolated, and this past few days allowed us as a community of individuals to discover both ourselves and each other, to embrace our sameness and our diversity and to grow far closer than we (or than at least I) expected.
Lesson number one (there will be more as I reflect more later on) - Mutual understanding and acceptance is something of incredible worth.
I have met so many beautiful people, great encouragers and people of talent with dreams that are growing by the hour. I'm left humbled by the experience.
This is the start of something new. Change is coming for the better.