Jamie and Lion
Jamie and Lion are an autistic duo, they've been together for years. Jamie has worked for the BBC for a decade, and is one of the talented coders behind a range of BBC apps used by millions of people everyday. He loves a side project - custom mountain bikes and flying light aircraft. Lion prefers antelope. Their presentation at the National Autistic Society's 10th Anniversary Professionals Conference was filled with humour (and swearing) but had a much more serious message. They highlighted the negative impact of well-meaning autism professionals. Emphasising the damage that can be done when you only see the world through the professional 'lens'. This insistence of imposing a set of values and expectations is simply toxic. Of course, the lens was tuned to shape Jamie (and Lion) into the least autistic, most-like-a-neurotypical-person he could be. This did more harm than good. It used up all the energy and resources on activities that brought no joy, it put more barriers in the way than it took down and vastly diminished physical and mental health. Jamie and Lion spent years trying to live a life that just wasn't their own, and it took them to the edge. It reminded us starkly that professionals are dangerous; we are heavily involved in decisions that impact the lives of others. We must respect their voice, their autonomy and their wishes. The autistic individual's definition of independence is the one we should be striving for - Jamie has support at home so that he can work and be financially self-sufficient because that is what independence means to him. If we , as professionals, fail to listen to the ever-louder autistic voice, we will have no role in the neurodiverse future.