“One thing that has really helped me as an autistic creator is being able to talk to other creators that you can be 100% honest with about the madness that is YouTube.”
Over the past few years, YouTube has grown in terms of inclusivity, especially in terms of disability and mental health. Whether it’s people educating others on various disabilities or people sharing their experience of what it’s like to be a disabled person, that side of YouTube is thriving and increasingly entering the mainstream. Last year, Summer in the City hosted its first Disability and Disfigurement Online panel, featuring creators such as Grace Mandeville and Nikki Lilly.
Connor Ward is a small creator who talks about his experience as an autistic person, both online and in the real world. “I started making videos sort of accidentally,” he explains to us. “I’d been planning to make a short film about autism but coincidentally a competition ran by the National Autistic Society was brought to my attention.”
Further explaining the competition, he adds, “the deadline was only 10 days away so I had to quickly come up with something else as my film would be too long.” It spurred him to create a poem called I Am Autism, which he labels as his favourite video to date. “It’s still the one that’s most special to me and that’s mostly because of the comments. If I need a little pick me up those are the comments I go and read and I’m instantly inspired again.”
Chatting to us about what he likes about the platform, he mentions that “YouTube has always been a very embracing place, anyone will tell you that. All those quirks that people used to pick on you for are actually what people subscribe for.”
He describes YouTube as “the most social stage of my life” and goes on to say that “the best thing about YouTube though is no one is forcing you to do anything so you can do as much as you feel comfortable to. As much as you are going to want to stick to a routine make sure the other things in your life prioritise.” He mentions that he feels free to chat about things he’s passionate about, listing Disney, Jessie J and LEGO among his interests.
“The more you put into YouTube though, the more you will get out of it,” he adds. “Doing it has led to so many new situations that my day to day confidence has improved massively since starting. It’s certainly increased my social confidence more than I could have imagined. YouTube was the first place in my life I’d felt fully accepted as me and I hope many other fellow people on the spectrum will find that in the future.”
However. YouTube could still be doing more in terms of educating people on autism and disabilities. Connor feels that “autism and disability as a whole is something that is starting to be noticed more in the mainstream YouTube community.” He adds that “it would be great for more creators to realise that making literally one video about autism could help so many people!”
Throughout the year, there are various events raising awareness for autism, including World Autism Awareness week, which is from 26 March to 2 April 2018, with 2 April being World Autism Awareness Day. Connor recently made a video highlighting his own plans for the week. He took part in the night walk in London on the 16 March, as well as making various live videos for the National Autistic Society.
In 2017, Connor attended the full weekend of Summer in the City for the first time. When we asked him about his experience with the event as someone on the spectrum, he told us that “SitC is the most overwhelming place I’ve ever been in my life.” However, he made use of the accessibility system, which he says helped a lot.
However, that didn’t mean that the whole experience ran smoothly. “There were still some flaws with that system as I was unable to skip merch queues and everything else on the floor so it was very much about strategic planning to go to certain places at certain times which actually caused a lot of stress as everything had to be planned and executed so precisely.”
Talking about improvements that Summer in the City could make in 2018 and future years, Connor says, “my biggest saviour would be a quiet room!” With the amount of people attending the event each year, we believe a quiet room would be a wonderful addition for those who are on the spectrum and those with anxiety etc. Sometimes you just need to have some time out at busy events! Connor talks about his experience with the event in more depth in his video, Autistic Logistics: Summer in the City.
Connor has a lot of plans for the rest of the year, both on and off YouTube. He mentions wanting to expand his content. “Although I mostly talk about autism, it is a very human condition and what I mean by that is that almost everyone can relate to some part of it,” he says.
“I hope that anyone would be able to take something away from my content that will help them in an area of their life. I would like to expand my content this year to exploring things that, yes autistic people struggle with, but also neurotypical (non neuro-diverse) people also struggle with too.”
Ultimately, he wants to “continue doing what I’m doing with the same core values I started out with […] One thing that would be extremely cool would be to moderate or even be on some sort of disability panel at a convention like SitC.” We think he would be a great addition to a panel like this! He carries on to say, “I do public speaking and that’s where I’m most comfortable surprisingly so it would be a dream come true to bring that to the YouTube world!”
We’re really excited to see what the future holds for Connor. He has done great things to date for the autistic community and we can’t wait to see where his channel goes next!
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If you’re looking for another creator to watch that is out there to educate people, read our Channel Spotlight on Emily Eaton, who makes content about her journey with her bisexuality and how she found herself on YouTube. Alternatively, read our Video Spotlight about Ben Bayliss‘s struggle with deafness and how it affects him daily.