by Rhi Lloyd-Williams @outfoxgloved
It’s Autism Awareness Month, a time for everyone to be aware of autism. Is it hiding behind that lamppost? Is it watching from your closet? Will it clasp your leg with a leathery claw from beneath the bed?
Probably not. Probably.
Autism Awareness is a curious beast, being aware of autism is a bit like being aware that a foreign country exists; you’ve heard of it, you might know a few stereotypes about the people who live there, but beyond that, all most people really know is that it’s a bit… foreign.
Autism Awareness can feel like a sensory bombardment of clamouring noise. There are the people who hold up autism by the throat and denounce it as the enemy. There are the people who give it a patronising pat on the head and tell us all how weird autism is, but that it should be accepted anyway. There are a thousand voices crescendoing with Autism Awareness.
And somewhere beneath that noise, there’s a voice, or a sign, or a wave of a hand, of autistic people waiting to be listened to.
I’d love it if people were a little more aware of that voice. A little more willing to listen. When you’re talking about autism, you’re talking about people with a social processing condition, this doesn’t make us the most persistent social communicators. By definition, you might need to listen a little harder, seek us out, make a point of amplifying those voices.
This Autism Awareness Month I would love it if everyone used the time to seek out autistic voices and expression. Find the autistic artists, musicians, poets, read something by an autistic author, find a way to listen to a new perspective and see another angle. Be truly aware of autism and all its twists and turns.
Autism awareness doesn’t end on April the 30th, it’s a year-round thing, it’s a lifelong thing, it’s a human thing. If I can tempt you along to hear my voice through another’s lips in June, then I would very much love to see you there.
“The Duck” is my first play, it dances around stories and memories to give one angle of autism.
You can find where and when it will be performed here
Once upon a time, there was a girl. She was a funny little thing, all snarling lips and snarled curls. She would hide behind familiar legs, and watch the world from afar.
Once upon a time that little girl learned that all the things she knew, all the feelings she felt, the patterns she saw, all the colours and edges, were not real. They could not be real, for other people did not see them, did not touch them, were not connected to them.
Once upon a time, the minutes and the months spread into years, and as her hips broadened, so did her study of humanity, so did her hunt for belonging. As the years passed and the performance became heavy, it became harder and harder to see just how everyone else kept up such a flawless pretence.
Once upon a time, there was a duck, a duck who believed that she was something else entirely, and then a new journey began.
It’s an enigmatic start, but then, it was an enigmatic beginning. Autact Theatre Company began because somebody listened to that little girl’s story, and thought it was worth telling. Stories are powerful things. Perhaps if that little girl had heard a tale of someone just like her, she would have found belonging much sooner, but perhaps is a dangerous road to wander down, so perhaps we shouldn’t.
That little girl was Rhi and thirty years ago sensory and social issues were rarely diagnosed, particularly in girls, due to a lack of awareness. Rhi was, is and always shall be Autistic, and she wears that label with pride. Her diagnosis gave her the tools to work with her neurotype, rather than always trying to bludgeon her way through her difficulties.
This year Rhi’s first play, ‘The Duck’, will be performed, and she warmly invites you to join us. ‘The Duck’ is an uplifting glimpse into what her Autism means to her.
She promises that only her hair will snarl.