Comic Con logo in spectrum graphic with quote

 

On Sunday 26 May, autistic content creators Daniel Jones, Holly Smith and Connor Ward and parent content creator Kevin Chapman hosted the first ever UK YouTuber panel about the online autistic community at MCM Expo London Comic Con.

In these blogs, Daniel and Connor tell us about their ground breaking panel…

Connor Ward

On Sunday 26 May, Comic Con invited Kevin Chapman, Holly Smith, Daniel Jones and I to host the very first UK YouTuber panel about autism online. We discussed interacting with strangers online while being autistic, ethical considerations about profiting from advocacy and many other points throughout the 45 minute panel.

We worked together to create a panel that would discuss the importance and rise of autistic people’s presence on social media. Dan, Holly and I shared our perspectives as people on the autism spectrum and Kevin shared his thoughts as a family vlogger and parent of Andy, his autistic teenage son. We were all amazed that 15 minutes prior to the panel starting all of the seats had filled and people kept pouring in to stand at the sides. The audience seemed to be mostly made up of autistic people, their parents, carers and friends and a few people who work in the world of social media and content creation. I think the content creators turned up because the profile of autism has risen dramatically in mainstream media in the last few years and they wanted to find out why. We could have filled the same amount of chairs again. As we were not at a convention that was specifically about autism or social media, we were extremely impressed with the turn out.

Towards the end of the panel, we opened up questions to the audience. We had such a range of questions as people were really engaged. This included a question about how it felt for us to be making history with our panel. To answer the question again in this blog, it felt incredible and we are all very aware that the purpose of the panel was bigger than any of us.

We wanted to celebrate how social media has helped so many people in the autistic community who struggle with social isolation feel connected and understood - something that seriously changes lives.

As the panel was called Neurodiversity: the Rise of Autism Online we also wanted to celebrate the work that the YouTube community is doing to accommodate autistic people also, such as adding a quiet room at the YouTube event Summer in the City. The panel was an achievement for our entire community and I personally just felt lucky that I got to be a part of it. The world online has always been more accepting and celebrating of difference, and I feel that’s why our condition has found such a great home online. It’s revolutionary that people who struggle with social interaction can connect with anyone across the world through social media.

We were at a convention that was not about autism. Over half the audience didn’t know who we were, and it was the final day of Comic Con which is often the quietest day. Despite these things, there was a brilliant reception to our panel, proving that people care about autism. I would absolutely love to be part of something like this again and I hope many other autistic people pioneer to set up panels and share their stories in the future.

Daniel Jones (TheAspieWorld)

Looking at the crowd that turned up to see our talk, it is clear that autistic representation is needed, not just at Comic Con but at lots of conventions. As autism is a spectrum condition that impacts 1 in 100 people in the UK, there should be some representation of the community in large events like this.

It is very important for autistic creators to be recognised, simply because at all major creator/fan expo events, there is a complete lack of any neurodivergent representation for the people attending. This causes a feeling of disconnection from the autistic people who attend, and may make them feel left out of typical events that they enjoy. No one wants to feel left out.

I hope that this type of panel can be implemented into all festivals, events and expos across the world!

It’s time to think big, and time for the autistic community to start being represented across lots of different events, not events just about autism.

By bringing this type of panel talk to events like MCM expo, not only will the autistic community relate to the panel and the panellists, the people who are looking to learn more about autism or just to create understanding in general will benefit from insightful panels.

 

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