Today's Autistic Moment is recognizing Black History Month with this special show. The movement for Neurodiversity like many others has it's own version of systemic racism. Many of the programs, classes, presentations and schedules are created by and for the white majority. If the movement for Neurodiversity is to be inclusive, then we must listen to the stories of Autistic people of color and learn from them how we can address the issue of racism. Precious Lesley is a black Autistic Adult who will be talking about this sensitive topic. In keeping with the theme for 2023, Precious will talk about the strengths and Achievements of Black Autistic Adults.
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Black Autistic Adults: Stop the Whitewashing.
February 5th, 2023
Welcome everyone to Today’s Autistic Moment: A Podcast for Autistic Adults by an Autistic Adult. My name is Philip King-Lowe. I am the owner, producer, and host; and I am an Autistic Adult. Thank you so much for listening.
Today’s Autistic Moment is a member of The National Podcast Association.
Today’s Autistic Moment is a free podcast that gives Autistic Adults access to important information, helps us learn about our barriers to discover the strengths and tools we already have to use for the work of self-advocacy.
This first segment of Today’s Autistic Moment is sponsored by The Autism Society of Minnesota: Minnesota’s First Autism Resource. For over 50 years The Autism Society of Minnesota has been honored to support Minnesota’s Autism Community. Visit them online at ausm.org.
Welcome to this episode: Black Autistic Adults: Stop the Whitewashing. My guest for this show is Precious Lesley.
Please visit todaysautisticmoment.com where you can listen to the podcast, get the transcripts, program updates, and read the guest bios. Please visit the Future Shows Page with the titles, guests, and descriptions of all the shows coming up through the end of June. The transcripts are sponsored by Minnesota Independence College & Community.
Some of you have written in to tell me that you want to be able to print the transcript, but the darker background uses up the ink from your printer. Others have mentioned that you want to be able to read the transcript on a lighter background. Starting with the Premier episode of Season 3, The Strengths, and Achievements of Autistic Adults, go to the actual link on the website, click on that, and as you scroll down to read it; you will find a link that if you tap on that link, it will take you to a written document with a white background. You can print it and it won’t use up the ink on your printer and/or you can read it from a white background that works for your sensory input.
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You are welcome to watch me, and the panelists live on Wednesday, February 22nd at 2:00pm Central Standard Time for Autistic Voices Roundtable Discussions: Autistic Business Owners, Professionals and Employees. The panelists will talk about how they use the best of their Autistic identity and skills to be successful. The mainstream media and the general public focuses on the deficits of having Autism. The negativity around Autism suggests that Autistics are not capable of being successfully employed. The panelists at this roundtable discussion are Autistics who own businesses, work in professional environments, and are employed in jobs where they are thriving. The panelists will include those who are employed and/or self-employed, working full-time or part-time jobs. The roundtable discussion will be livestreamed and recorded on Today’s Autistic Moment’s YouTube Channel.
I found a very accurate post on the Facebook page Autistic and Living the Dream. The post reads “You don’t have Autistic experience by knowing, caring for or being related to Autistic person(s). You have Autistic experience by being Autistic.” During my 50th show, all three guests commented that Today’s Autistic Moment is a safe space for those of us who are living the Autistic experience to use our voices about the topics that are most important to us, without our voices being shut down or spoken over. There are many topics of discussion that bring a lot of emotion when they are brought up. One topic that brings up a lot of emotion is systemic racism. Among the reasons why having conversations about systemic racism is so difficult is because those who are black and calling for justice and inclusion cannot discuss their concerns without being silenced or being the victims of violence. Add being Autistic and Black to the conversation and we have an added layer to the discussion.
Today’s Autistic Moment is recognizing Black History Month during February 2023. More accurately, you are going to hear from two individuals who are Black, and Autistic tell their stories. On this episode you are going to hear from Precious Lesley. The guest for the other episode will be Oluwatobi Odugunwa.
My guest today, Precious Lesley is an Autistic and ADHD Adult. Precious is dedicated to providing education and establishing authentic relationships with job seekers and employers. She is the Founder and Principal Consultant at Loud Nerd and helps Neurodivergent individuals navigate the complex job search process, while also assisting employers in building diverse, and inclusive teams, and workplace cultures that provide Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA). As a Black, Autistic woman, Precious has personal experience with the compounded effects of racism, sexism and ableism and incorporates an intersectional perspective in her work, and encourages other disability advocates to do the same.
Please stay tuned after this first commercial break, when Precious Lesley will join me to talk about the topic: Black Autistic Adults: Stop the Whitewashing.
Commercial Break I
Welcome back. Let’s welcome Precious Lesley to this episode of Today’s Autistic Moment.
Precious Leslie, thank you for being on this episode of Today's Autistic Moment. It is so great to have you here. Welcome.
Thank you very much. I appreciate the offer. And I'm super stoked to be having this conversation with you today, Philip.
Thank you. Thank you. So Precious. We have started Black History Month. And I have been asking myself this question, to say we need to have some focus on black Autistic people, black Autistic Adults. And as I also mentioned, in my description of this show that the movement for Neurodiversity, like a lot of movements, has our own version of systemic racism. And as with a lot of the other topics that I've covered, I have made Today's Autistic Moment, a safe space to talk about these things, to try to move us in a direction that will address the systemic racism that exists. So um, so what I want to begin with is What important information do Autistic Adults and our caregivers need to know about as in how is the movement for neurodiversity? The movement that wants to bring greater inclusion for Autistic people. Where is the white washing? And why do you think it's happening?
Yeah, so in the Neurodiversity movement, and more specifically Autistic advocacy, we have this mantra, you know, nothing about us without us. That's a very common theme, even in the greater disability rights movement. And yet far too often, the conversation lacks the voices of black Autistics. And it really just lacks in nuance in general. And so, when you're looking at the current diagnostic criteria for Autism, in order to be diagnosed, according to what's outlined in the DSM-V, an individual is measured on and I’m using, quote their words but impairments and social interaction and communication, and their quotes again, restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior. Also, in psychology and sociology, there's definitely an overwhelming consensus that one's culture has a massive impact on social norms, communication styles, behaviors, beliefs, etc. And, yet, you know, the criteria for being diagnosed with Autism is based on how white male Autistic children tend to present. I'm a firm believer in that intersectionality is of the utmost importance when we're discussing human rights in any form. But you can't even start to have a conversation about Autism by its nature without acknowledging the intersectionality piece.
Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. What does that intersectionality mean for you? How does that what does that look like for you?
Yeah, so for me personally, you know, I am a black Autistic woman. Each of those aspects are integral parts of my identity, they shape the way that I interact with others and society, they shaped the experiences that I have in those interactions and ultimately shaped the way that I perceive the world in my worldview. And I guess it goes both ways, you know, as a black Autistic or woman, I have experience, you know, sexism, ableism, and racism. And those experiences tend to have a compounding effect on one another. You know, ableism, oftentimes interconnects with or exacerbates racism. And I think that's something that the current conversation, you know, and the Neurodiversity movement is really failing to give enough emphasis on. And it's something that definitely needs to be highlighted a lot more for we're going to see the positive progress that we're all working towards.
Right, right. Right, right. Um, can you give some examples for our audience about ways that you see that black Autistic Adults are not being included? In that movement? Can you give some examples of that for yourself?
Yeah, so, I think the movement does a great job of speaking about, you know, barriers and concerns and accommodations in general. But it definitely lacks the nuance of a black person, black Autistic person's experience in particular. And so, I'll give you a couple examples. Um, as a black person who grew up in a lower income, predominantly black neighborhood, I had to, you know, not only learn how to communicate within my community, but I also had to learn how to do what's called code switching to speak a version of the dominant English in order to be viewed more favorably in school and then later on in life in the workplace. On top of that, as an Autistic person, I had to learn how to mask to be able to navigate the complex world of education and the workforce. And it's just that that added layer of effort that we have to put in on a daily basis, it's, it leads to more issues with anxiety, more burnout. And it just, it's not even something that I've heard, be brought up. And most conversations about some of the barriers that we face as Autistic individuals.
Yes, yes. Yes. I mean, I mean, one of the other places where we definitely see white supremacy, existing is like, when there are photographs of Autistic people, children, or adults, you know, almost always, they're, they're white or blonde or, you know, redhead or whatever. But, you know, and I think, you know, but you don't really see that many where black Autistic people are represented there. And correct me if I've got this wrong, but if they are there, it's, it's an indirect way of trying to be polite. Yup. So, you know, I'm sure you can kind of expound on some of that, too.
Yeah, there's absolutely a, a lack of representation. And, you know, that's not only in the general, you know, American zeitgeist, guys, but we also see that in the education system and the medical system, and it has a real-world impact on individuals. You know, for example, males are four times more likely to be diagnosed as Autistic than females. And that gap widens dramatically when it comes to black females. And we all know how important it is to receive that early diagnosis so that you can get the supports and the therapies that may be needed in order to set you up for success later on in life. And that oftentimes gets overlooked when we're talking about black individuals. And a lot of times that that disparity in diagnostic rates is dismissed. You know, blaming cultural stigmas or lack about access to resources, be it financial or you know, medical resources. However, studies show that black parents do report behavioral concerns at the same rates as white parents do. But the medical community and education systems oftentimes lack a diversity, and then b don't receive culturally competent assessment, tools and training to be able to understand the impact of cultural culture on how one's Autistic traits are going to present and even be able to, you know, start that conversation that this child might be Autistic.
After this next commercial break, Precious will talk about not being part of the dominant culture within the Autistic community, the importance of recognizing the intersection of being Autistic and black, and talk a bit about some amazing individuals who are working on that intersection. Please stay tuned.
Commercial Break II
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As often happens, we're already talking about barriers as we talk about the basic information, but I think one of those barriers is just the unspoken attitude, I'm going to use the word of the expectations of blacks versus whites. The expectations of Autistic versus non-autistic, the images of these things creates, and what that does to cultures, or groups of people that are trying to find their way to be part of movements like the movement for Neurodiversity. I would guess that those things can really be impacting this whole discussion about what you know, white washing the movement for Neurodiversity?
Absolutely. And so, you know, a lot of the people at the forefront of the Neurodiversity movement, you know, are, are white individuals with, you know, a white culture and so and with that comes, you know, those cultural norms and unspoken expectations. And as Autistic Adults, I think we can all relate to our struggles, at times with learning, you know, social expectations, cultural norms, and you know, all those social norms that go with it. But for, you know, someone that is not a member of the dominant culture in that movement, it adds an added barrier, you know, individuals may have to add on top of everything else, understanding the cultural norms of that dominant culture, that's not theirs. And so just being educating ourselves, being aware of that, and making sure that we're taking steps to ensure that as a movement, we within the movement are being inclusive ourselves, and making sure that we are inviting others and that we're having a more nuanced conversation that is, is taken into account all the different ways that an Autistic person can exist.
During my 50th show, there were some of my guests who talked about how difficult it is when Autistics are trying to talk about the concerns we have, and either our voices are silenced or spoken over. As we talk about black Autistic Adults, and we want to talk about the whitewashing. I mean, can you talk a little bit about how those conversations are either being silenced or spoken over? And, you know, you know what some of that might be like for you.
Yeah, so I think sometimes as a community and speaking about the Autistic community, as a marginalized community, we can sometimes forget or be unaware of our own privilege. And when we have the conversation about privilege, we sometimes get that tunnel vision and we see that you know, as a disabled individual, those who are able bodied who live in a society that we lived in that was, you know, designed for able bodied and neurotypical individuals, they have privilege over me. In that situation, however, we will sometimes forget our own privilege. And so, you know, as a white Autistic person recognizing that, that is a privilege, we live in a society where you know, the systems and structures and social norms of the greater American society, we're built on white culture, that puts that individual to privilege. And so just recognizing our own personal privilege, you know, I'm an Autistic person who is speaking. And I'd say, most times, sometimes I don't know, depending on the day, I can be pretty articulate, that is a privilege, I need to recognize that and make sure that I am not speaking for over individuals who don't have the ability or choose not to speak verbally, when it may be more convenient to get their voice out there. And, you know, share thoughts and ideas with others outside the community. And so I think that recognizing our own privilege piece is something that we should really focus on within the community. And that's really going to lead to the more inclusive culture that we're all looking for.
Yeah, yeah. The other thing that I can't help but think about is the fact that in much of our society, that racial bias is still acceptable by some, by many. And that in the last five, six years, we have seen the white supremacy escalating in intensity. And, you know, more and more black people are being marginalized, targeted. You know, I live here in in Edina, Minnesota, not too far from me, back in 2020, is where George Floyd was killed. You know, and the incredible things that we all went through when that occurred. So, you know, and the thing is, is that in the, in the Neurodivergent communities we may have just either not noticed that it that the systemic racism is there, or we may have just not seen it for ourselves or not been aware of it. I don't know if that's, I don't know what that's a proper way. And please forgive me if I'm missing that. But if you want to speak to that matter, go ahead.
Yeah. So, you, you bring up a very good point, especially, you know, with recent events, something that I've been seeing brought up a lot more often these days within the neurodivergent community is Autistic people being at risk when interacting with police officers who are not trained on how to a recognize that this individual is Autistic, and how to deescalate the situation versus escalating it. And so that's a very important conversation that needs to be had. And I'm very excited to see that conversation, you know, out in the forefront of the movement and getting educated individuals on that particular issue. But again, it's one of those topics that lacks nuance, you know, and so, as a black Autistic person, I definitely understand yes, you know, that is a scary situation when encountering police officers. That is just compounded by the fact that I am black and so, you know, if I'm in a situation where I'm pulled over and nobody likes being pulled over, it's a stressful situation. Throughout the country, there are there's a lot of reform needed within law enforcement and I'm very well aware of that. And so yes, I am on edge in that situation. I am likely to stim. I am likely to be slow in my responses because of the emotional elements that go into that, and I'm also aware that that officer, you know, may be more likely to view me in a negative light, because of my appearance, and it's, it just increases the chances of that escalating to a very scary situation. And so that the, that piece, that nuance piece of that conversation, I'm not seeing and not something that we need to be really diving into on, you know, in our particular situation, how ableism and, and racism can really compound one another to make a bad situation worse.
Yeah, yeah. I agree. And thank you for those that answer. Now, I like to move into, into advocacy. What important steps do Autistic Adults, and our supporters need to take to advocate for black Autistic Adults? And during this year, this year of 2023, I am focusing on the strengths and achievements of Autistic Adults. Because, to quote, Becca Lory Hector, "nobody wants to spend their life talking about the things that stink." So in this part, if you please, let's talk about the strengths and achievements that you see black Autistic Adults making, and then talk about some ways maybe that you have been advocating that you think had been successful. And I noticed that you do some great work through Loud Nerd, you might want to talk about that work that you're doing to that's part of the work for advocacy. So go ahead and give me your answers to those as you wish.
Yeah, absolutely. And so, you know, oftentimes, when we have that conversation about, you know, famous are very accomplished Autistic individuals, the examples that we see are not black individuals. And so that's, that's definitely something that we should strive to be better at. For example, Armani Williams, he is a Detroit base professional NASCAR driver who's had some amazing success, really cool individual that people should check out. I do. And I will actually, I'll send this link to Philip so that you can share it in the show notes. But I want to give a shout out to one of my favorite D IV practitioners. And so, Dr. Bernard Grant, he does some amazing work, I'll definitely share that link with you. He's a great resource for individuals who are looking to educate themselves on how Autism and being a black person intersect and the things we can do to as a community to, you know, address that and be more inclusive. And I think it starts there, just really educating ourselves. You know, you can't fix what you don't know. And you know, people don't know what they don't know. And so really seeking out books, podcasts, just you know, that content that's gonna give you a starting place to start doing that internal work and working on our own internal biases. You know, seeking out Autistic, you know, black Autistic speakers, trainers, and things of that nature. And so, I think that's really the best place to start. As far as my work. I am the founder and principal consultant of Loud Nerd. And I work with both employers and job seekers. With a major focus on Autistic jobseekers to navigate the sometimes overly complex job search process. All of my services are free for job seekers. And so, you know, having practice interviews, updating resumes, just really putting in the work to help that individual have the best chance at landing a role that's going to fit their needs and then being able to advocate for themselves moving forward. I also provide consulting services. I do workshops with employers on how they can improve their hiring process, their internal processes and just develop a workplace culture that is not only going to attract a diverse workforce, but also create that culture that celebrates diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. And we definitely have a conversation about how accessibility is too often left out of that conversation. And so that's the work I do. You can find more information on the website, loudnerd.com. I'm on Facebook, LinkedIn, I probably spend too much time on social.
Yeah, and just for my listening audience. Loud Nerd is already in my Adult Autism Resources Links page, so that you can go and click there and, and access that information. And it is also included in the Guest Bios page for Precious Lesley. So, you can go in there and access that, that website, and you can find all of the incredible information that is there.
After this final commercial break, Precious Lesley will talk about the strengths and achievements of Black Autistic Adults followed by Today’s Autistic Community Bulletin Board. Please stay tuned.
Commercial Break III
Are you Autistic and the owner and/or host for a podcast that is by and for Autistics? If so, I have a very exciting networking opportunity for you. I am cordially inviting you to attend a live virtual initial meeting to talk about the creation of the International Autistic Podcasters Association on Thursday, March 16th, 2023, at 11:00am-12:30pm Central Standard Time. During this meeting we can talk about what we might like an International Autistic Podcasters Association to look like and what we could do. The association members can share with each other what our podcasts are about, what is working well, what might need improvements and promote ourselves and each other to attract more listeners. The meeting will be recorded with a transcript and made available on Today’s Autistic Moment’s YouTube channel. To read more about the meeting go to todaysautisticmoment.com/apa/. Please share the news and link with any Autistic person you know who owns and/or hosts a podcast for other Autistic people. If you have any questions or concerns, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Today’s Autistic Moment has been honored to receive a microgrant from Arc Minnesota for a second year in a row. On behalf of my audience and myself, thank you to Arc Minnesota for supporting the work of Today’s Autistic Moment to continue to provide a safe space for Autistic Adults to share our stories with the world around us.
Today’s Autistic Moment will have a second show to honor Black History Month.
On February 19th, Oluwatobi Odugunwa who works with the Autistic People of Color Fund will be my guest for The Strengths and Achievements of Black Autistic Adults. The news and media tends to focus on the difficulties of having Autism, and black people are sadly classified as troubled and/or inferior to white people. In keeping with the theme for this year, my guest Oluwatobi Odugunwa and I are going to talk about the great work that Black Autistics are doing to foster a society of anti-bias towards Autistic Black individuals with disabilities.
There will be another show on February 19th. My guest Lisa Morgan will be here for the episode A Journey from Suicide to Autism Crisis Support. Autistic Adults are pioneers on their own journeys. Lisa Morgan is a pioneer as a member of a family with a history of suicide because of Autistic needs that were not being met. Lisa is an example of someone who met their tragedies and used them to build herself up and founded her own company to support Autistics in moments of crisis. Lisa’s story will move and inspire you in whatever situation you find yourself in, to work with and through it as an Autistic Adult to create your own life as you are. Don’t miss this special show.
There will be two great shows in to honor March as Women’s History Month. For more information go to the Future Shows page for todaysautisticmoment.com to read about other shows coming up.
Thank you for listening to Today’s Autistic Moment.
What do you think, is the strengths and achievements, the ways in which black Autistic Adults are using their challenges their tremendous challenges to build up their tenacity and, and be and achieve goals that they set for themselves? Go ahead and add your comments to that if you can.
Yeah, I mean, we're, we're definitely out there achieving goals in all industries. You know, we are we're not a monolith. And so, we have various interests and goals that we want to achieve, and definitely crushing them. And I will say, you know, there's one thing about facing a lot of adversity in your life, it definitely, when you make it to the other side, provides you with a lot of resiliency. And so, it's definitely something that a lot of us do have. And, you know, just speaking for myself, it's, it's given me the ability to be a strong self-advocate. To be able to speak out and advocate for my own needs. And that's, that's been wonderful, you know, just being able to set those boundaries. And you mentioned, you know, speaking over individuals, and I don't know, if that's ever happened to me, I can definitely be heard and so, but yeah, you know, we're out there, achieving nearly anything you can imagine, we're just not getting the attention. And so, but, you know, there's some great traction in that way too. And individuals are speaking out more and getting involved more. And that's, that's what definitely compelled me to share more of my experience, and do you know, podcasts and speak out publicly about it. Because there, there does need to be that representation.
Yeah, yeah, that's all so tremendous. And I thank you for sharing all that information here. Precious, thank you so much for coming on today. And having this conversation with me. And I want to encourage my listeners, encourage you, my audience that you know, the challenges we all face as Autistics and the successes that we are achieving or seeking to achieve. I said this in my introduction is that the only way that the movement for Neurodiversity is really going to be inclusive, is if we listen to the experiences of black Autistic Adults, and we get a feel for their experiences. And we can include their experiences their wishes, into our movement, and that we can going to use the word enculturate each other. You know, and so it's a working together, not work not necessarily working on our stuff and their stuff or whatever. It's working together on the things that are challenging us and with that, discrimination, you know, meeting us in the face. And so, I want to encourage all of us to, to do our part to include the diversity that is within Neurodiversity and, and that sort of thing. So, Precious once again, thank you for being on today. It has been a privilege a great privilege to talk with you, and I hope your experience has been really good.
Absolutely. Again, thank you for having me today and talking about a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I appreciate the invite.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Today’s Autistic Community Bulletin Board
All of these events with their links can be found on todaysautisticmoment.com/bulletinboard
Understanding Autism virtual classes will be offered by The Autism Society of Minnesota. These classes are perfect for Autistic individuals, caregivers, those who want to understand the basics of Autism and support Autistic people. Classes will be held on February 20th from 2pm-4pm. March 20th from 2pm to 4pm. April 17th from 6-8pm. May 15th from 10am to 12 noon. Classes are free of charge, but you must register to attend.
On Tuesday, February 28th, starting at 7pm to 9pm Victor Thompson will present a virtual skillshop at The Autism Society of Minnesota entitled: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is a well-sought topic for both employees and employers. In this skillshop we will navigate the importance of creating conversations in the workplace about invisible disabilities through DEI training. Join AuSM and Flexible Solutions as we discuss what DEI for invisible disabilities looks like, how, and when to request DEI training and the importance of inclusion for invisible disabilities in the work place.
Online registration is now available to attend the 28th Annual Minnesota Autism Conference that will be held at the Marriott Minneapolis Airport Hotel April 26-28th. You can register for the full conference that includes the Foundational Workshop and the virtual content together, or the Foundational Workshops only or the Virtual Content Only. Go to ausm.org and click on the menu option Events to register.
Go to ausm.org for more information about these and other events at The Autism Society of Minnesota.
Matthew the #ActuallyAutistic Coach has room in his Finding Your Autistic Self Group Coaching Groups. In the groups, participants learn about unmasking strategies, coping tools, burnout & post-burnout support and much more. Go to autisticcoach.com and click on Autism Groups for more information.
Today’s Autistic Moment is sponsored in part by Looking Forward Life Coaching. Looking Forward turns stumbling blocks into stepping stones towards success. Go to lookingforwardlc.org for more information.
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Thank you for listening to Today’s Autistic Moment: A Podcast for Autistic Adults by An Autistic Adult.
May you have an Autistically Amazing day.