As you might imagine, researching autism when you are yourself autistic is kind of a strange thing. But I jumped into the research pool with every intention of plucking only the best bits of research to use in my talk. And… ended up with WAY too much information to do in a 10 minute talk.
The TEDx peeps at our university assigned me a “coach,” who would be helping me with culling down my talk from the one hour lecture I had planned to the expected 10 (or so) minute talk. Mark was (and is) wonderful. A professor in the Communication department, I fully expected to be told to tone down my personality and be more academic. I WAS MISTAKEN.
“You need to show MORE personality!” He would exclaim, “that’s why we loved your video! Who starts a talk with ‘why have mild autism when you can have SPICY autism?‘ YOU, that’s who!”
“I’m not sure you know what you’re asking for…. I can get really animated when I’m excited about something.”
“That’s what we want. It’s easier to tone you down than get you to move more. Use those hands! Keep that deadpan humor! It’s so good; it’s authentic.”Mark-to me during the practice sessions
Eventually, I got the hint and became more comfortable in my talking. Because I was essentially immersed in books on the pedagogy of teaching online as well as the needs of people with disabilities in a classroom setting, I only needed to reference my slides when I was directly quoting. My personal favorite….
I was forced to condense some of (what I considered) to be more important facts, like the timeline of accommodations for students with “special needs” within federally funded schools, but I was able to stress that the changes that stemmed from the first few cases where student’s families had to sue the school districts for access… had only begun in my lifetime. And in reality, it’s only been since I graduated high school that real and meaningful change began to exist in education.
Because of Covid 19—the whole point of the talk—there was no audience. Not only that, we had to use air-cleaners between people to ensure that everyone in the room (and we were severely limited on that) would be safe. This meant that even though we, as speakers, would still be expected to play to the house… there was no house*. Instead, we would talk to our plus-one as well as a spattering of people taking pictures, filming, and of course… our coach.
The rehearsal was the first time we, as speakers, got to see the space and use it.
The next day would be…. the TALK.