My friend and I used to say that we understood each other better than most people who speak the same language, because even though we were from different countries, we were both on the spectrum. It was exactly this that made me feel so fantastically at home with my new Italian friends in Rome, Italy on 18 Febbraio.
Davide Moscone, David Vagni (of Cuoremente Lab) and Silvie Pastorelli and were the co-organizers of this stupendous event in a picturesque conference hotel on the outskirts of the city. The two Davids as I like to call them, were responsible for the translation and publishing of Aspergirls in Italian. The entire conference was dedicated to women on the spectrum and was called “The Rise of the Aspergirls” or “La Scoperta delle Aspergirls”. I was stunned at the turnout, the enthusiasm, the warmth and generosity of the Italians. I can’t even say Romans because many people travelled from Milan, Fiorenza, Venezia and more.
I was also impressed with their stamina—it is not easy listening through headphones to people translating my words on the fly. But the audience was hungry and it was a kind of feast. My first talk was the subject and the title of the conference, with multiple meanings: Why and how we are being identified and diagnosed in greater and greater numbers, how we can rise as a force and a power in this world and how we can manage our challenges to allow us to do so as individuals.
Mireya, Chiara, Manuela, Silvia and others, all told their stories or gave practical information about life behind the mask and learning to live an authentic life without it. Women on the spectrum have not had much of a tribe—but as we’ve seen, we are beginning to. The two Davids each gave talks, as mental health professionals and as Aspies themselves, covering interesting subjects such as the prevalence of AS women among the ranks of those being treated for eating disorders.
For my second talk, I just sat on the edge of the giant table on the stage and chatted. I was going to talk about my life, but it felt too me-centred, so I decided instead to give some motherly advice to all the Aspergirls and professionals in the audience. I don’t think I’m smarter than everyone else, just a bit older perhaps, and life has flung me into some foreign adventures and taken me places others only dream of, so I’ve gathered, through trial and error, some experience and wisdom to share. I used to stare at the globe when I was little, spinning it on its axis and feeling determined to discover as much of it as I could, even if I had to walk. I am discovering it inside and out, i.e. I make external voyages to make internal ones. I am almost overwhelmed at what I discover every day about human nature. And as always, about my own–what it means to be an aspie, to be human, to be a woman, to be a mother, an artist, etc.
I have shifting and sometimes flimsy boundaries, which gets me in trouble, but it also keeps me open to learn. The trick is knowing when to shut the gate, stay home, pet the dog, cook some pasta, be quiet. But I do not stay there for long….I must educate the world about us, even if most of the time they don’t want to hear it. It’s so funny to me, that I get paid sometimes very generous sums to tell people my thoughts, but in my kitchen or a café, those very same thoughts get shut down by a disbelieving world. It was nice to hear other women have a place to tell their stories, and not get shut down.
Rome has been very good to me, and much more welcoming than other cities I have been. A group in Paris wanted me to speak on International autism day, for free, and they insisted that I provide a medical diagnosis, while clearly realizing I helped write the book on female diagnosis. That to me, was slightly self-defeating. They could take a page from Roma’s scroll—to be welcoming, warm, appreciative, and respectful. It is all any Aspie wants, any human wants. In fact, I will be returning to Rome monthly to meet clients in Cuoremente Lab starting soon. It is the heart of Aspiedom in Roma, the clinic started by the two Davids. Once I’m a bit fluent in Italian, I hope to lead the woman’s social group there as well.
To read event reviews click here.
I’ve some studying to do….ciao, e grazie! And to my Italian friends, addio e arrivederci!