Challenging people’s perceptions of autism

Nicola Martin is a campaigner for neurodiversity communities and wants to challenge the way people think about autism and to make the world more inclusive. A talented writer and published author, she writes articles to help people understand more about autism so those with autism can be understood and have a voice.

Nicola, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and hyperacusis, works for Talkback UK, a leading disability and autism charity, as a member of the Communications Team as well as the training project. Nicola is applying her writing skills to campaign and help people with autism be understood as well as have a voice.

In her role, Nicola debunks autism myths and explains how the world and society can become a more inclusive place, challenging people’s perceptions of autism.

Her writing about autism has been published nationally.

Nicola’s first novel, Harmony’s Big Decision is available to buy on Amazon and Waterstones. She is currently writing her second novel, due to be published soon.

Nicola has pioneered a national autism training programme with the Your Voice team at Talkback UK. The training has been delivered to the NHS and other organisations, with Nicola presenting her experiences of autism. The aim of the training is to help organisations better understand how to support people with autism in everyday life.

Says Nicola, “During my personal presentation I wanted to tell them about my negative experiences as well as positive experiences because it is the negatives we want to turn into positives for autistic people. Sometimes they are stories that are hard to talk about and bring back bad memories, however if it makes a difference then it’s worth doing it. I always find it useful listening to the perspective of non-autistic people to see how they perceive autistic people and their experiences with them.”

Talkback UK are campaigning for people with learning disabilities and autism receiving their regular medical checks and Nicola has played a key part in this. Nicola has been working with the Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group to help promote the uptake of Annual Health Checks by starring in the annual health check film:

She provides her voice to explain why it’s important and what they can do to make them more accessible.

Nicola’s role at Talkback UK has given her a platform to grow, learn and succeed. A challenge for Nicola was enabling her voice to be heard and in her role she has the ability to speak up for everyone who has autism.

Says Sue Pigott, Your Voice Engagement Manager:

“Nicola joined our Talkback CAMEO group in 2019.

“At the time it was a lockdown, and because Nicola preferred it, and due to her hyperacusis, we began connecting through email. Every week, we developed an understanding of each other, and of Nicola’s life. Gradually, when the time was right, we tried other ways to connect, and we began Zooming. Nicola felt confident to join the others in the group because she had time to process all that was happening. She didn’t feel quite so alone. And what happened after this as they say is history.

“Nicola is now a valued member of the Talkback team, having developed so much confidence she is able work alongside other Talkback colleagues, challenging herself to meet up face to face, having articles published in publications, taking part and presenting training around autism both internally as well as with external providers.

“Nicola will often say to me, “I’ve feel I’ve achieved more in the last 2 years, then in the rest of my 33 years.”

Says Nicola,

“Being autistic is a struggle. People will never understand, but then people do not need to understand. They need to listen and let us use our voices. I think this is very true for workplace equality. Instead of looking at our disability, look at our skills and personality.

Being autistic is something to be proud of. We are lucky we get to see the world in a way most people do not. We have many great skills that are being missed because we are not being given the opportunity to show them.

As long as us autistic people stick together and keep fighting, over time I believe we can help make changes and make the world friendlier for us to live in.”

How does it feel to win?