“When it comes to our children, especially when we honour their gifts, to us – to the Anishinaabe people – our people are so much closer to the creator,” explains Chief Skead.
“These conversations will provide us with the opportunity to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion for those with autism – and equip everyone in attendance with the chance to be more educated about autism, and how we can support those with autism within our First Nation communities to ensure they are getting the support and programming they need,” adds Chief Skead.
Keynote speakers Jolene Stockman, Grant Bruno, Rona Sterling Collins, Theresa Tssessaze, all shared their lived experiences as a caregiver or a person diagnosed with autism, with incredible stories of breaking down barriers, self-advocacy, determination, and success.
Stockman, a writer, Autism expert, and TEDx speaker, shared her story of navigating childhood with undiagnosed autism and embracing her Indigenous heritage, and touched on the need to advocate for new Autism definitions in the medical world, as well as the importance of diversity between all people.
“For many people, being autistic is an innate part of our identity – the spark of who we are,” explains Stockman. “It’s a lens in which we experience the world. A child’s true self is not buried under their autism. An adult doesn’t recover from their autism. Autism doesn’t need to be cured or fixed. We’re not sick or broken. Being autistic in this world is hard, but not because we’re autistic, but because the world is ignorant. Children don’t grow out of autism; we grow into it.”