Conversations with… Miss Trout (subject: Autism, Creativity and the #IAmMe Campaign)

The internet is full of many wonderful, talented, creative individuals using their platforms to promote positive change in the world. York based mother of three Miss Trout is one of those people.

Miss Trout has many wonderful, uplifting messages that she shares with the world in her own fantastic, sparkly way, but one of her most important messages is her #IAmMe campaign that raises positive awareness of autism and neurodiversity.

This interview is a celebration of creativity, uniqueness and the magic of individual differences. I can’t wait for you to read it!

What is the #IAmMe Campaign and what inspired you to start it?

I Am Me is an interactive blog and social media platform that celebrates and creates positive awareness around autistic individuals and those on the spectrum, all inspired by my son Dylan. The campaign is about educating and normalising neurodiversity. The aim of the platform is to educate people and to spread the message that everyone has the right to be proud and to love who they are in a real, honest and above all empowering way.

The campaign also has a workshop based upon my short story, ‘I Am Me’, that is a storytelling, theatre and education project aimed at young children and teaching staff. It raises awareness of neurodiverse individuals through the escapades of a young superhero struggling to understand his own powers. I wanted to use my skills as an actor and writer to create something that celebrated and educated people on individual differences and highlighted the message that we are all unique.

What a fantastic message to be sharing with the world! What has the response to the campaign been like so far?

The response has been wonderful and really enlightening! I haven’t actually had any negative responses yet which is fabulous. There have been a lot of people asking questions which is what this is all about.

I have learnt so much from other people because of it. I have had many parents and educational settings get in touch so that they can get involved with the project too. It’s been a real eye opener to discuss neurodiversity with other parents and teachers and understand their experiences with it. It’s also been beautiful to watch so many people have an interest and want to get involved in the campaign.

What has been your proudest moment so far with the #IAmMe Campaign?

My proudest moment so far has been the 2018 Miss Trout Charity Ball raising funds for the National Autistic Society. I organised the ball and it was where we launched the #IAmMe campaign. It was fabulous! Dylan was there and he absolutely loved it, as did my other children and my husband. We raised a fantastic amount of money and it felt like a real achievement. It meant a heck of a lot to us as a family and it’s something that I don’t think we will ever forget.

You describe your work as creating ‘positive awareness’ around autism. As a teacher, I have seen firsthand how autism can be met with fear and an incredible lack of understanding. What kind of positive awareness do you want to draw attention to and why does changing the negative associations matter to you?

The #IAmMe campaign has been a really important way to promote positive awareness. I feel very strongly about encouraging positivity about neurological differences and I want people to accept people on the spectrum as just like they would you and me. At the end of the day we are all the same – we all have a beating heart and we are all here to do our thing.

I really want more people to understand the way the neurodiverse mind works so that they can understand the person better. Often autism is perceived as a scary and negative word, but actually there are so many fabulous traits and attributes that so many neurodiverse individuals have! We are missing out on celebrating them. Changing that is important to me which is why I talk about superpowers in the ‘I Am Me’ story because I really do value the differences in neurodiverse individuals. I think we should be celebrating them for they are unique and fabulous, just like we are.

Your website contains a blog all about your experiences with raising an autistic child. How has blogging about your experiences helped you and others?

Blogging about our experiences as a family with autism has been a huge outlet. On a personal level it has provided a space to talk openly, freely, confidently and honestly about what it is to be an autistic family because that’s what we are. It’s been a really therapeutic and powerful platform for us to use and I am very glad we have done it. At times we were thinking is this the right thing to do and is this fair on Dylan, but everything we do is about empowering and celebrating him and the autistic community.

We’re very honest about what we post – we share the good days and the bad. But at the end of the day, it’s all about supporting Dylan and that’s something I encourage with everything I share.

One huge benefit of blogging about our experiences has been connecting with other families. It has been a huge lifeline and a big eye opener. It is lovely to be able to share experiences and see messages from families in similar situations echoing what we have said.

Your positive, celebratory attitude is wonderful and I really think you have the ability to change how people perceive autism. What do you wish people knew about autism that perhaps they might not?

I wish people knew more about autism in general. I think the whole subject matter needs more of a voice and more positivity in general.

The biggest thing I wish more people knew about is that no one autistic individual is the same as the next. Many people still think if you know one autistic individual you know them all, but that is a big misconception. It all goes back to the whole we are unique idea. We all experience things in different ways and go through life feeling different things. It’s no different for an autistic individual. Yes there are a group of characteristics that can help diagnose people with autism but they are still a person, still an individual with their own likes and dislikes and ways of being, thinking and feeling.

What more do you think can be done to help promote understanding about individual differences?

I really feel that there is a lot more that could be done in schools and in society in general to help promote the understanding of individual differences. To put it simply, we need to talk about it. We need to have an open, safe space where we can feel confident to talk about these things. We need to get education of facts and figures and not feel afraid to bring these topics up.

Often with tender subjects like autism, a lot of people are afraid to be honest or to ask questions because they fear they will say the wrong thing. We put this idea of not speaking about things onto children which is sad because children are the most accepting of differences. Watch some toddlers playing – they don’t see any difference.

In my opinion, the most important thing we can do is be honest, open and talk about differences from a young age. If we do this, understanding and acceptance will echo through society as people grow up.

On top of running the #IAmMe Campaign, you are an author, blogger, actress and illustrator. What has working in such creative fields brought to your life?

I am very lucky to have worked in many fabulous creative fields. Creativity is the biggest thing that flows through me. I couldn’t live without it! I love to be able to express myself, my passions and what’s most important to me through my creative outlets.

They have really been there from day one. Believe it or not, I was quite an introvert when I was younger, but once I found the world of the school play all that changed. I came out of my shell. I went on to do a lot of public speaking and I have acted in theatres since I was sixteen.

My writing is another outlet that has always been an enormous part of who I am. I’ve written poetry and stories since I was very young girl and those stories have formed the basis of Miss Trout. My stories centre around misfits or people who feel like they don’t fit in with the world and I write in a way that celebrates them and their differences. The world of Miss Trout is all about celebrating magic, uniqueness and self-love. It’s an important message to send out the world.

Your wonderfully creative stories come with the most magical illustrations (I love the sparkle!!). Where do you get your writing inspiration from?

I have always adored dark fairy tale stories and been drawn to misfit characters. You know the type I mean – people in the world that might seem to fade into the darkness but actually have so much light around them, it’s just that people don’t stop to look at them properly. I’ve got a real thing for obscure characteristics in animals and, obviously with a name like Miss Trout, the sea is a huge source of inspiration for me.

At the heart of it all though, without sounding a bit big headed, my inspiration is me. It’s the small Anna inside of me, the person that I would want to read these stories to now. My children are also a humongous part of my storytelling world and they are very much a part of the brand of Miss Trout. It’s very much a homage to me, the little girl I once was and my beautiful babies.

As for the sparkle, I don’t remember a time when sparkle wasn’t in my life, so the illustrations had to be beautifully sparkly!

You juggle a full on, exciting career, an online presence and have three children. What things do you do to take care of yourself and your mental health?

I am incredibly grateful for my life. It’s a fabulous but full on juggle. The struggle is real and I burn out quite quickly! I’m also someone who feels creatively blocked if I don’t feel like my mind, body and soul are all in alignment.

I have recently learned to prioritise giving myself a bit of care and time to preserve my own mental health because I can’t give out as much as spangle and sparkle if I don’t. I find tarot is a gorgeous way to self-reflect, so every so often I do that. I have also recently found sonic sound healing which I have been doing in lockdown and it’s just been bliss! It’s a beautiful way for me to connect, meditate, let go and process my day gently.

I do like sweets, a bath bomb, a face mask and to do my nails. Also a good G&T will always go down well with me!

When you look at your life, what are you proudest of and why?

I am proudest of lighting up people’s lives in a magical way through my work and my stories. Doing my bit to spread a bit of goodness is a real achievement. If I were to die tomorrow, I would be thrilled to know that my work has made at least one person smile or cry or feel like they could be that bit more themselves.

But also in equal measure, if not more, I have to say my three beautiful babies. Watching them grow and become gorgeous little souls that hopefully want to go off and do their own bit of spreading magic, whatever way that ends up being, is so wonderful! I don’t take it for granted at all.

If you could sum up your outlook on life in one statement, what would it be?

Spangles and sparkles!

With that, I suppose another phrase would be ‘scales always sparkle’. I’m a firm believer in always trying to see positive in a situation. I try to remember that beneath any fear, doubt or trauma, our sparkling scales are just waiting to come out and shine. We just need to remember to give our bodies and minds bit of TLC and those scales will be sparkling again. We all have the ability to sparkle and sparkle our way through life!

If you want to visit Miss Trout’s website and find out more about her work, click here. If you want to follow her fabulously colourful and sparkly Instagram, click here

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