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Five things we've learned as autism self-advocates

This guest post is by Paul Silver and Dallas Manning, two young adults who have autism. This post is part of an initiative on our site called “In Our Own Words: Living on the Spectrum,” which highlights the experiences of individuals with autism from their perspectives.

Paul Silver, a 27-year-old self-advocate from Suwanee, GA, serves as the Georgia Grassroots Movement Self-advocate Chairperson, a pilot program with Autism Speaks. Paul hope to bring his message of self-advocacy across the nation. 

Dallas Manning is a blogger from Georgia who writes about how he views the world. He also advocates for Autism Speaks and helped work on bills such as Ava's Law.

5. We found our voices.

Paul: I started finding my voice when I first saw a news report about Anna and Ava Bullard and their fight to change state law with Ava’s Law. Before I saw Anna and Ava Bullard, I was mistreated from services provided by the state of Georgia. When I talked to these services, in the back of my mind, I felt something was not right.

Dallas: I started finding my voice in high school when I first started writing my journal/blog. I found my full voice when I joined Autism Speaks as an advocate, when I started fighting for the rights of autistic people. Finding my voice has given me a new clarity on life and a new strength.

4. We also have the power of the vote.

Dallas: Growing up, I never really felt like I had a voice. Even as an adult, there were many times it felt like my voice had not been heard. When I became an advocate, I began to realize just how much my voice can be heard. I have now helped get a bill passed in the Georgia General Assembly and am working on other bills. When it comes time for a vote, pass or fail, I know my voice was at least heard by someone.

Paul: As an adult in America, you have the power to vote to elect our leaders. My late grandfather always said, “Vote for whoever, you think is fit for the job.”

3. We educated others and not just our elected officials.

Paul: I met many parents with children with autism. (I personally call these parents, Mother Warriors and Dad-advocates.) It gave me some perspective of what their child is going though.

Dallas: Part of what I do at Strange World Autism is take questions from autistic people and their loved ones and try to answer them as best as I can. I also do the same in government. I am always happy to help educate our government officials as to how many autistics may feel about certain policies. I also teach those who are not familiar with autism about it, and how they can best help someone who is or may be autistic.

2. We learned a passion for helping others.

Paul: Since we helped pass Ava's Law in our state of Georgia, I have been helping out more with my local autism support group known as Spectrum. I decided to be a board member at large by representing my friends at the Adult Group.

Dallas: I always enjoyed helping people, with homework or with just a shoulder to lean on, it didn’t matter to me. When I started advocating, I saw just how much I really enjoyed helping others. I love educating people about autism and about how it affects people like me. I also love helping to get bills passed to help brighten the futures of other people with autism.

1. We became role models.

Paul: When I was working on Ava's Law and after, my peers that are friends on Facebook started to reach out and say good job and I was shocked that so many care. I started to look like a role model to my peers and my extended family across the country. The parents (the mother warriors and Dad Advocates) look at me like a hero for them and their children with autism.

Dallas: My proudest moment as an advocate was not when Ava’s Law passed or when ABLE started gaining traction. My proudest moment was when a student at South Paulding High School who is autistic said that she wanted to be just like me some day. Her comments helped me to know that what I am doing is making a difference. As for my personal role models, I see my Mother, Father, Sister, Brother and Rep. Micah Gravely as my role models. All are hard working and I aspire to be like them. 

Have a story you want to share for our “In Our Own Words: Living on the Spectrum,” series? Email us at

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.