Response to Kibo, 29th April

Dear Leo,

We are autistic mothers who have contributed to the online conversation about the play, The Big Things. We write to you as a core group of women who’ve joined together to try to create a constructive response.

Firstly, we would like to thank you for your speedy response in altering the marketing for the play. This fostered good feeling and showed that Kibo wanted to listen to autistic people in a most tangible way.

We’ve been informed that you have been given a printed copy of the open letter to Kibo Productions on the website http://autisticmotherhood.co.uk written by Katherine May, which is gathering many signatories; both autistic mothers and their supporters.

You may also wish to read Rhi Lloyd-Williams beautiful blog post in celebration of autistic motherhood https://autistrhi.com/2018/04/24/in-celebration-of-autistic-motherhood/

Sonia Boué’s outlines why she feels the play’s premise is problematic for autistic women per se (regardless of author’s intent etc.)  https://soniaboue.wordpress.com/2018/04/27/autisticmotherhood-misrepresented/

In sharing these posts, we seek not only to inform, but also to invite you into autistic spaces and make the point that online platforms are accessible for us where realtime spaces often aren’t. Without going into detail this is mainly due to invisible disability.

This is in great part why your invitation to an after show panel with Q&A was inaccessible to autistic women, and to those of us who are mothers even more so.

Sadly, failure of access is why we were not represented on your panel. Paul Wady, may believe he can represent autistic women (and mothers more specifically) but he can’t. No man could do. However, from the audio recording he has shared online it is clear that he misrepresented us. This is distressing.

With the benefit of hindsight the discussion (which should be about autistic women’s responses to the play as we are its subject) needed to take a different form. Less haste and wider consultation could have prevented it, though I think we can all recognise the great learning curve involved on all sides.

Yet it is extremely regrettable that the panel and audience members for the Q&A were treated to a further misrepresentation of autistic women. The audience showed a distinct lack of understanding we feel, and an opportunity to hear about us authentically was lost, despite your sympathetic comments about autistic people (which are noted and appreciated).

We truly feel that this should not be allowed to pass without public comment.

A man can’t be a representative for autistic women and this should be acknowledged openly out of respect for us.

We now feel what is needed is a distancing from Kibo’s conversation with Paul Wady – in essence what the panel boiled down to on the night – from Kibo’s conversation with autistic women which can be carried out directly (and accessibly).

It is clear that Paul has his own thoughts and creative agenda which he is entitled to, but do not in this case converge with the main points at hand.

We really do appreciate you must feel bombarded from all sides (we are a vocal and multifaceted community of people) but hope that we can open up a dialogue. We look forward to hearing from you on the next step. We are open to discussions which accommodate our access needs and are respectful of our demographic.

The Autistic Motherhood website and hash tag have come into existence to bring coherence to the debate and to form a central point for information and comment. We will be happy to publish your forthcoming statement, or indeed a conversation with the Autistic Motherhood group should this be made possible.

Finally, we would like to commend Kibo for reaching out to the autistic community. These conversations are challenging, many of us are also creatives and professional people, and we understand how hard it can be when a piece of work receives such criticism. Dialogue about why a creative work may lack sufficient sensitivity is especially hard across neurologies as so much nuance can become lost in translation. One of the most useful starting points can be to think about autism as an emerging culture which can best be supported by being allowed the space to flourish in its own right. Being an ally isn’t easy but the attempt to do so is very much appreciated.

With best wishes,

The Autistic Motherhood Group,

Sonia Boué

Shona Davison

Rhiannon Lloyd-Williams

Katherine May

Florence Neville

Paula Sanchez

Tracy Turner

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