Joyfully Autistic
An Interview with Briannon Lee

Listen here to Briannon's interview

Briannon is an autistic parent of three autistic children. Several years ago and before Briannon knew she was autistic, she was shamed by a work colleague for “that weird thing” she does with her hands. Recently, her six-year old child has started hand flapping. This story is about the joy and pride of being autistic.

Transcript of story: 

The background is I’m an autistic parent of 3 autistic children and my story’s about when I was in the workforce. And it hit me this story, this memory came to me really strongly this week and I’ve kind of been processing it and wanting to talk about it and I’m glad that we are.

I remember hanging back after work. I worked at a homelessness centre. It was a crisis centre supporting people who were homeless that day, people who needed somewhere to go that day. And we often hung back after work to debrief and I was in the carpark with a work colleague and we were just chatting away and she stopped midsentence and said “Oh look, I’m doing that weird thing you do with your hands when you talk.”

And just the feeling of shame in that moment and just embarrassment, you know when you can feel your face going red, like going red from the neck up to the tip of your head, just so mortified, because I didn’t know what she was talking about. And then she started doing this hand movement, where she was moving her fingers around each other, which I had no idea that I did when I talked. And I said “Oh, I didn’t know that I did that.” And she said “Oh yes, you do it every time that you talk. It’s really weird.” And her just saying that meant that for a long time after that, every time I spoke, I spent 90% of my energy trying to control my hands and keep my hands to myself, which is a really difficult thing to do, especially for a lot of autistic people who communicate with their hands and use their hands to calm themselves and regulate, it’s called stimming, they might flap or do things with their hands. So it takes a lot of energy to do that (keep your hands still) when you’re talking and the reason that it hit me this week, is because one of my children, who’s 6, this week has started flapping. And because we have a lot of pride in being autistic and we’re trying to foster that in our children as well, it’s actually really delightful for us to see that child do that. It’s always when they’re really happy and joyful about something that they’re passionate about, it’s a computer game at the moment, and I saw my child do this this week and I just thought – that memory came back of the time when I was shamed for doing that. I was obviously talking about some topic that I’m passionate about. And it hit me, the contrast between me feeling joyful about my child stimming and flapping happily and being in a workplace as an adult and being shamed for doing something similar.

Listen here to Briannon's interview