“Together, we’ve learned how to function as a group, being respectful, considerate, and aware of each other and our own individuality.” – Danny
In 2013, Julia Bramsen, a friend and partner in advocacy, organized the world’s first Autism Pride Week, which took place in Asheville, North Carolina. Bramsen then encouraged Danny Landry to join her in applying to the Partners in Policymaking program, an 8-month advocacy and leadership course funded by the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities (NCCDD). Danny was chosen as one of 25 people in North Carolina to participate in the program.
After graduating from the program, Danny returned to Asheville inspired and empowered to make a difference in the local autism community. At that time the only autism supports in town involved one-hour visits from paid social workers and similar kinds of supports. Danny decided to found Autistics United to help fill the gap in services for people with autism, and to create a place where people with autism could provide peer-support for each other while building community and friendship.
…And the rest is history!
Some of our successes include:
- Improved social behavior
- Increased life experiences
- Met fellow advocates and autistics
- Autism Pride Week
- Partners in policy making
- Legislative testimony
- Autism Society of NC
What we have learned:
- How to accept advice and criticism
- How to move on from your mistakes
- How to form lasting friendships
- How to be open to different ideas and perspectives
- How to thoughtfully share my own ideas and perspectives
- How to be more organized
- How to be a leader
- How to be flexible
- How to put yourself in someone else’s shoes
- How to resolve conflicts within a group
- How to be a more effective communicator
- How to be more self-aware
What we have struggled with:
- Including parents and families, while preserving independence
- Learning through trial and error
- Accepting other people’s ideas and not taking things too personally
- Using appropriate language, effective communication
- Learning to compromise as a group
- Learning to address behavior that may not be associated with autism
- Getting more parents and caregivers to take a more active roles in activity planning and development of the teen group
- Learning to focus more on and emphasize true tolerance, understanding and good, healthy boundaries among all members.
- Truly understanding every person on the autism spectrum is different. We all have different personalities, upbringings, families, experiences, triggers, other diagnoses, and levels of support that affect every aspect of who we are. We are the business of helping everyone on the autism spectrum, not just the people we happen to like or feel the most comfortable with, but all of us who have been marginalized in our society, who are struggling to learn and grow without support and advocacy.