Author and educator Teresa Hedley has spent the last decade championing autism advocacy.
Hedley describes herself as a woman who wears many hats. A mother of three young adults, one of whom, Erik, has autism, Hedley is an educator, teacher trainer, curriculum designer, autism advocate, and most recently, author.
Her website, Teresahedley.ca, went live in August 2021, and it has been something in the works ever since her book What’s Not Allowed? was published in October of 2020. That month Hedley was also featured as Canadian Military Family Magazine’s Guest Avid Reader in their Holiday 2020 Issue.
“I understood then that an author website would help connect me to readers,” said Hedley, “this website is like building a garage to house all of my vehicles, in this case, my passion projects.”
A Website for All
Hedley hopes that the website feels welcoming, professional, and personal but also dynamic as it grows with her. The website intends to be a resource to anyone curious about autism. The site outlines resources which complement the memoir she wrote, What’s Not Allowed? A Family Journey with Autism, and extend the messages in the book.
According to Hedley, visitors will also find a variety of colourful projects, which highlight the autism journey: presentations, podcasts, programs, sound bites, articles, quotations, videos, webinars, tip sheets, and more.
In navigating the site, visitors can follow Hedley’s son Erik as he paddles a kayak and talks about what it’s like to have autism. Or as he walks around Ottawa’s Parliament Hill as he steps back in time and interviews the bronze statues. Hedley explained that “this website takes you into the shoes of autism and invites you to linger in those shoes.”
She said that what she likes best about her website is that visitors will get a sense of Erik through his art, his low voice, and his heart. With that in mind, not only does the website allow people to step into the shoes of someone living with autism, but it also shows the perspective of parents supporting a family member with autism. The website also features information that tailors to anyone curious, empathetic, or practically minded.
Military Life and Autism
As a child, Hedley grew up in an armed forces family and lived in Winnipeg, M.B. and Greenwood, N.S., and for much of her childhood, in Comox on Vancouver Island. She explained how her journey is reflected in her website and that it is a version of any military family’s experience.
From a parent’s perspective, Hedley writes about how finding time to balance what needs to be done with what people would like to do with their kids takes enormous energy and lots of strategizing.
“Add to that a military lifestyle, requiring families to continuously uproot and reinvent themselves. That’s hard. Now add to those layers supporting the needs of a neurodivergent child. Balancing, relocating, re-calibrating, teaching, and sculpting—non-stop, every day, every year. That’s huge,” she continued, “I understand these challenges because I live them. It is my hope that the website provides some direction from one who walks a similar path.”
Back in the spring of 2021, Hedley also made a presentation (view here) which was created as a resource for military families on the move.
More than a Decision
For Hedley, autism advocacy has been more of a reaction than a decision.
“I think that’s true of anything that is born in the heart: it’s what feels right, and it’s what you know you need to do. Knowledge is power to see with clarity. As the saying goes, ‘When we know better, we do better.’ If the strategies and insights and “ah-ha” moments we share help others in their journeys, well, that’s perfect. That’s why I do what I do. And I know that Erik and the other members of the Hedley-5 would say ditto to that.”
To visit Hedley’s website visit here.