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2017 Autistic Advocacy Award: Michelle Middlemiss

posted Jul 7, 2017, 6:28 AM by Jessica Benham

We're thrilled to announce that Michelle Middlemiss will be the recipient of our 2017 Autistic Advocacy Award at our Gala. This award is given to an autistic person who has demonstrated commitment to the values and mission of the disability rights movement and intersectional feminism in Western Pennsylvania.
Michelle had no concrete idea that she was autistic until the age of 30. Up until then she was diagnosed with having an “unknown cognitive disorder.” After finally being diagnosed with Autism, ADHD and Dyslexia she was accepted into the Autism Waiver for PA, which literally saved her life. The Waiver set her up with a staff that works on strategies and coping skills that help with daily life challenges. Because of this involvement she became committed to helping otherson the autism spectrum. Michelle achieved her Associates Degree as a Teacher’s Assistant and hopes to work with autistic students in a classroom setting. She has volunteered at Spectrum and Sunrise Schools working with students on the spectrum and found that she can help them in ways “someone who doesn’t live it every day” can’t.

In 2013 she was asked to speak on a panel in Lancaster at the 6th Annual PA Autism Training Conference. Normally that would seem impossible for her to cope with because of the large group; but when she is speaking to anyone about autism, she becomes a different person and her advocacy takes over. At the PATC she spoke to the crowd with her heart pouring out to them; she became confident in what she wanted them to learn about autism. In 2015 she was invited to be a member of the ISAC Subcommittee which meets quarterly in Harrisburg. The board helps develop policies and feedback involvement for autism advocacy. Since then she has been an invited speaker at multiple autism functions, speaking to professionals and parents of those on the spectrum. Michelle loves writing for PITTVERSE magazine which is written totally by autistic writers!

One event she is most proud of came last year at election time with the primaries. When she went to vote they told her she was registered as an independent, which was incorrect and stopped her from voting. Michelle brought up both her voting and disability rights and was persistent in them contacting a lawyer who works with human rights and disabilities. The result was that a lawyer with these credentials obtained the paperwork needed and walked it up to the courthouse to get it signed by a judge. It was faxed back to the voting poll and after waiting 5 hours; Michelle signed the paperwork and put in her vote!
Thanks for all the work you do, Michelle - we're thrilled to honor you with this award.

Image 1 description: Michelle, from the side, wearing headphones and sunglasses. She wears a white t-shirt and looks off into the distance. She is outside, and there is grass and a fence in the background.

Image 2 description: Michelle stands in front of stairs. A grey cat sits behind her on the stairs. She is holding two stuffed animals and wearing sunglasses. Her hair is short and brown.