20 November 2006, the Organised Autistic Association (OA) was formed by five people who met through the Autism Association in Härnösand. From the beginning, its main activity has been collective entertainment. On 27 January 2007, the OA adopted its first statutes and agreed to formulate its overall position on the issues it wants to influence.
22 February 2007 founder Johannes Sandquist told me about the new association on the discussion forum Aspergerforum, and Anders Pemer, who had just joined the forum and was keen to try to get meeting activities started in the Stockholm area, quickly took the bait and started a Stockholm chapter, which got started with meeting activities in the spring and was formally formed and elected a board on 16 June 2007.
25 August 2007, a meeting was held in Härnösand where seven OA members from all over the country drew up guidelines for founding a formal national organisation in July 2008. In addition, it was decided that an e-mail list should be established so that OA members from different locations can keep in touch with each other for further planning. (It was later replaced by our discussion forum.)
On 2 August 2008, OA Sthlm arranged the historic meeting when the national organisation of OA was formally established at the home of our member Inger outside Vagnhärad. At the inaugural meeting, we launched the new national organisation, adopted the new name Organisede Aspergare and elected an interim board until the first regular annual meeting, which was held in January 2009.
During the autumn-winter of 2009-10, several working groups and a new local chapter were set up. At a membership meeting in Tullinge, the initiative was taken to set up our Legal Security Group, which was formally established by the Board shortly afterwards. A number of additional working groups were set up and proposed at the annual meeting in January and have now begun their work, including one on perception issues, and one on ominousness and patronisation. The latter has started with an open letter to the country’s municipalities about better information to all those who have a guardian about what rights they actually have towards the guardian. Shortly after the AGM, on 28 January 2010, OA Skåne was launched in name, but has failed ignominiously to get off the ground in the true sense.
On 17-20 June 2010, several OA board members from across the country and members from the Stockholm/uppsala region in particular gathered for Autistic Pride Day, which was officially celebrated in Sweden for the first time. On Friday 18 June, our “activists” handed out leaflets with information about the importance of the day at the Royal Library in Stockholm, and on Saturday 19 June, an appreciated meeting of members was held. Over the years, the OA has established the whole week before Midsummer and Midsummer Week until the 18th as its own aspie tradition, marking Autistic Pride Day on 18 June and organising activities for ten consecutive days.
In autumn 2010, when the Swedish film “In Space There Are No Feelings” was released, the OA, together with the other interest groups, had a good cooperation with SF and was able to invite members to a joint special screening of the film followed by a discussion with its creators. For the film’s release on DVD, OA’s Anders Pemer raised the idea of an interview film with some real Asperger’s people among the DVD’s extras, something that became reality and Anders himself and two other OA members became three of the five participants in this film, which was titled Far From Right. (The DVD was released in January 2011.)
In November 2010, the OA met with Svenny Kopp, who has a PhD in his work on girls and women with autism spectrum disorders and ADHD. A very pleasant meeting, where both parties learned a lot from meeting each other for the first time. The OA looks forward to holding such meetings with more representatives of the medical side!
In 2011-2012, we made contact and began an exciting collaboration with Karolinska Institutet’s neuropsychiatric competence centre, KIND, and its director, Sven Bölte. Since 2014, we are co-organizers of the major conference “Focus on Autism”
In March 2011, the OA submitted its first opinion to the inquiry on “Healthier teeth at reasonable costs”. We and our opinion were specifically mentioned and commented on when the draft law was presented in June, and seem to have contributed strongly to the backing away from the intended change when the draft law was presented.
In June 2011 it was time to develop the traditions of Autistic Pride Day for another year, with a visit to Gröna Lund, a fun expedition up Aspberget in Norsborg (with a meeting in Aspudden), a film night with the movie Mary and Max and more – and on the day itself, OA had a very fruitful meeting with psychiatrist Andreas Fries, who has written excellent opinion articles in Läkartidningen.
In March 2012, OA Jönköping was added. In connection with the Annual Meeting on the 24th of the same month, the members present had a pleasant meeting with Professor Sven Bölte of the Karolinska Institute’s Centre of Excellence for Developmental Disorders, KIND, and heard about many exciting developments in the cooperation between OA and KIND.
In late autumn 2012, lectures were premiered at, and in collaboration with, KIND, when Pier Jarsmaa from Linköping University came to give a lecture on his research on the topic of neurodiversity. In May 2013, Sebastian Dern brought experiences from the German neurodiversity associations Aaspire and AFK and gave a lecture on how to start research collaboration between autistic people themselves and the scientific community in Germany. In autumn 2013, the OA will start to develop proposals for similar research ideas to start here in Sweden, to be run together with KIND.
In winter 2013, the OA issued an opinion on the Swedish Transport Agency’s proposal for amendments to the regulations on health requirements for train driver qualifications. On 27 February 2013, OA Örebro was formed, and at the annual meeting on 23 March, OA alarna was formed.
In April 2014, the OA co-organised the Focus on Autism conference, where it held a highly appreciated seminar on neurodiversity. The week after the conference, the OA project Autistic Initiative was awarded a grant from the Swedish National Inheritance Fund.
During 2014-15, OA Örebro has been working on this project, becoming the first OA department with its own premises. In 2015, the OA also finally passed the 200 paying member mark.
Since autumn 2016, OA has been a member of the European Autistic Network (EAN). There are seven different countries with 10 members in Europe and the aim is to discuss the formation of a European organisation run by autistic people. OA is represented by Svante Norr.
The aim of the organisation is to promote the equal rights, welfare and participation of autistic people in Europe. The organisation will support and strengthen groups and organisations where autistic people are decision makers and express their collective opinion. The organisation will facilitate the participation of autistic people in advocacy work in policy and research, in the education of decision-makers and in the running of campaigns. We hope to create an environment that will enable us to collaborate on projects around our common goals and to promote the exchange of information and ideas between autistic people across borders. In this way, the organisation will develop understanding of the needs of autistic people in European countries and regions.
2014-2017 we ran a labour market project called Autistic Initiative in Örebro with support from the Swedish Heritage Fund. It provided opportunities for both employers and jobseekers with Asperger’s to network, and learn how both sides can be enriched through better understanding.
In 2017-2018, our district branches have started to formalize as local associations with their own statutes and boards. These are the departments in Örebro, Västernorrland and Stockholm so far. There are also branches in Dalarna, Västra Götaland and Södermanland. We carry out various activities together.
In autumn 2018, KIND has held a higher education course called “Young people and adults with intellectual disabilities or neuropsychiatric disabilities – understanding, responding and collaborating”. Anders Falk has given a lecture for the course, where he told about our activities and what we do and presented our ideology of neurodiversity. There were many questions, mainly about the treatment of autistic people. The participants in the course were people who work with autistic people, ranging from unit managers to residential support workers.
On 29-30 October 2018, Anders Pemer and Niklas Johansson participated in the NPF school days as usual. Where they met everything from games educators to school psychologists. There were about 1000 participants in the Aula medica.
In 2019, our Vice President Kim Talman was interviewed in the magazine Specialpedagogik in the report “Begrepp i tiden” where he talks about neurodiversity.
10-12 April 2019 we were again co-organisers of “Focus on Autism” at Karolinska Institutet. On 11 April, Svante Norr gave a lecture on our international cooperation at the conference.
On 6 October 2019 , the OA became one of the eight original member organisations of the European umbrella organisation for autism-led organisations, EUCAP, when it was formed.
In 2020, Café OA premiered, a digital themed event every Friday evening at Zoom. It is open to autistic people all over the country and you are free to come and go as you please. With or without a camera or microphone if you like. Many come back and listen to interesting conversations as POD. It was a real success.
As the concept was successful, more types of regular Zoom meetings have been started under the auspices of the OA. More cafés at regional level were planned and the first was OA Västernorrland, which premiered on 16 January 2021, but had a sneak preview already in December by inviting its members to a digital Christmas table and digital New Year’s celebration.
On 18 June 2021 , on the occasion of Autism Day, the OA organised a big event at Zoom, a full day with two lectures, a live stream, crafts with Lotta, Wille and Sussie cooking at Zoom and then an exotic fruit salad. Before our popular Friday café, there was Karaoke at Zoom. Our most comprehensive celebration of Autism Day to date.
June-July 2021 karaoke continued a few times and it was very much appreciated. Unfortunately, the technology is a bit hit and miss, so we paused until we find a solution for the technical problems.
July 2021 When the karaoke stopped, “Creator’s Joy with Sussi and Lotta” took over, a meeting for all kinds of creativity, but the interest in drawing has taken over.
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