Interview: Emily Paige Ballou, Co-editor of the Autism Women’s Network “Girls” Anthology
It’s no longer Autism Acceptance Month, but inclusion and autism acceptance matter all year round. MCIE is pleased to present an interview with an autistic co-editor of an anthology released in January 2017. What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew is a first of its kind anthology by autistic people who went through autistic girlhood. The anthology was a project of Autism Women’s Network (AWN). We and co-editor Emily Paige Ballou talked project development, if the book can benefit educators, and how it can showcase inclusion principles.
MCIE: How did you start out feeling about the project? How did you feel by its end?
EPB: Well, I was initially approached about copy editing the anthology, which is something I’ve done before and is well within my skill set, but later, Sharon [Executive Director] asked me if I could take over primary project coordination, which is something I’d never done before in the context of a publication of this length. So I was pretty anxious, but also determined to see this anthology finished, and encouraged by the importance of what all of our contributors had to say in their submissions that this was something we had to make sure was available to our community. I was relieved to be finished by the end, but very pleased with our final publication.
MCIE: What kinds of problems did you encounter, and how did you deal with them?
EPB: We had quite a few delays from the time frame in which we initially thought we’d be able to get this project finished, in no small part because my regular work schedule can be so erratic and become very intense on short notice, so we were largely working in the somewhat unpredictable spare time that I had. There was nothing to do but just keep going, though. I also couldn’t have done it without the support of Sharon; Amanda Gaul Worboys [Director of Finance; Counsel] who jumped in and wrote a vital grant application for the project; and Erin Human, our art director.
MCIE: What parts were most enjoyable? Which parts do you think you would do again?
EPB: I wound up really enjoying formatting a book for publication! That’s work that I would enjoy doing again.
MCIE: Your intended audience with this book is the parent community — I would be interested to know if the anthology could be useful for other audiences like educators or benefit autistic girls in educational settings?
EPB: Yes, I think that many of the ideas presented in the book are just as important for educators and other people who work with autistic and developmentally disabled people professionally to know: Things like that we may understand more than we can say, that we need to be empowered to say no and stand up for our bodily autonomy, the importance of knowing other autistic and disabled people, and that we need acceptance for who we really are and how we learn and grow. That learning and growth are things that happen differently for us, not things we have to be forced into to make us as much like our non-disabled peers as possible.
MCIE: In the opening to the book, you write, “I want you to know that there is a place in the world for your daughter… I want you to know that she can have a life that works for her,” even if she doesn’t do things that society has decided are markers of successful adults. Do you feel like this speaks to the values of educational and community inclusion for people with disabilities? That all autistic girls and women have the right to inclusive settings and to be accepted, no matter what?
EPB: I hope so. I think that one of the reasons it’s so important for parents and educators, and not just autistic girls themselves, to see and know older autistic and disabled people, is to see that a life worth living, a life lived with autonomy and purpose, can look a lot of different ways.
Originally published at http://www.mcie.org/blog on May 16, 2017.