Hear it from our Guides: World Autism Day with Laura an Invisible (Manchester) Tour Guide

We met Laura, back in January 2019 when she first joined the Invisible (Manchester) Team as a trainee. It has been an incredible experience watching her grow into the exuberant and cheerful character that she is today. Her self-confidence and passion has grown every step of the way, from choosing a tour theme, delving into extensive research and offering her tour to hundreds of visitors. Today marks World Autism Day, a subject close to Laura’s heart, she has written this short piece about her new tour, how she is coping with isolation and why we should all be celebrating World Autism Day.

When I came across Invisible (Manchester), I was ran down, not well and was experiencing issues walking. I have been homeless three times in 17 years, I have now found my true path; public speaking and educating the public about homelessness. If it wasn’t for Invisible (Manchester) I don’t know where I would be today.

I have made a few changes on my original tour to relaunch it as ‘Powerful Women of Manchester’. I celebrate women who have made changes possible in the world and have inspired me as a trans female. I thought it would be hard to set up my new tour but with the support from Millie, our Tour Guide Support Officer, I made a tour I am proud of. The entire process has been empowering, helped me to become more human and myself.

A highlight in March was the Walk for Women on International Women’s Day. It made me realise I shouldn’t be scared of who I want to be. It was a new experience, my first year to celebrate being a woman, I was happy to see how accepting people were.

I am autistic and it is important on days like World Autism Day to celebrate this. For a long time I thought that Autism was a negative thing, but then I realised it was more of a gift. It is part of me, through and through now – I can’t change it or get rid of it so all I can do is accept and enjoy it. As a tour guide, my autism made research for my tour hard sometimes. Although, one amazing thing is that it helps me memorize facts and figures. I do now see it has being the best gift to have. It is not a disability, it’s an ability to do things.

In isolation due to COVID-19, I hope to get some well deserved rest. Invisible (Manchester) continue support me with weekly check-ins, support of basic food or things to lighten my day and even virtual learning sessions. Last week, Millie dressed up as a suffragette and delivered training in place of us attending the Pankhurst Centre. It was really fun!

Someone said one day, “You truly have everything, a roof over your head, food on the table, but most of all friends and a gift that works for you.” I now know what they mean by this, and there I am lucky in every way possible.

Photographer: Emma Ledwith