Autism Awareness

"Curious Incident" Author Does Not Want Book Used as Autism Textbook

Although Asperger's syndrome is mentioned on the cover of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, author Mark Haddon says he is not happy that people are trying to use his book to learn about autism:

“It is used as a textbook for social workers, and for policemen, which is something I heard recently. I never meant it to be a textbook,” he told an audience at the Telegraph Hay Festival.

“I’m a little worried if people are saying, ‘If you want to work out how to treat people on the spectrum, read this novel’.

“I also get a bit worried when people say, ‘I’ve got Asperger’s, my family have never understood me but I gave them your book and it opened a window’.

“I want to say, ‘I wish the people in your life had been able to make the leap of imagination to understand your world without having to go into a bookshop and buy a book’.”


Newsweek Shows the Failure of Autism Speaks, Parent-Based Autism Awareness

If you want to understand how the version of "autism awareness" promoted by Autism Speaks makes it more difficult for autistic people to be accepted by society, please read Michelle Cottle's Newsweek's article about the difficulties of parenting kids with special needs:

Then there is the 800-pound gorilla in the room: autism. In late March, the Centers for Disease Control issued an estimate that 1 in 88 children now fall on the autism spectrum. While debate rages over the roots of the “epidemic,” this swelling population is placing increasing strains on our health-care, education, and social-services systems. A study released last month put the annual cost of autism in the U.S. at $126 billion, more than triple what it was in 2006. The bulk of those expenses are for adult care. Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer for the advocacy group Autism Speaks, calls the situation “a public-health emergency.” And if you think things are tough now, she cautions, just wait until autistic teens start aging out of the education system over the next few years. “We as a nation are not prepared.”

Notice that Cottle felt no need at all to include the feelings of any disabled people, children or adults, in writing her article.  And that's not okay.  This is an article about what a burden we are, about how afraid people should be of us.

And TONS of parents of autistic people will read it, and love it, because it is honest about how difficult parenting us can be.  They will see themselves in it, which is an unusual and gratifying experience, so they will not notice or care that we are missing.

And there are plenty of parents who angry and bitter about their experiences who are eager to share their unhappiness with a general audience.  Hannah Brown is promoting a book, and doing so by going to as many major media outlets as she can and talking about how awful life is for women like her who have autistic children. She did this at The Huffington Post and The Today Show's blog.  She did it at The New York Times.  And Cottle got her into Newsweek, insisting again that the lie that 80% of parents of autistic kids get divorced must be sort of true because it feels true to her:

It is perhaps unsurprising that the pressures of parenting special-needs children prove too much for many couples. There is a commonly cited statistic that the divorce rate among the parents of autistic children is 80 percent. (Toucey mentioned it during our talk.) Recent studies have debunked this figure, yet it persists among parents because it feels so true. “Based on my and my friends’ experience, that stat makes complete sense,” asserts journalist Hannah Brown, the mom of a teenage boy with autism and the author of a new novel, If I Could Tell You, about the challenges of parenting autistic children. Of her son’s condition, she says, “I tried to fight it, but it completely took over my life.” Brown recalls that when she and her husband split up, she was initially embarrassed to tell the staff at her son’s school. As it turned out, she chuckles, “they were really good at dealing with it because they deal with it all the time!”

Now, I understand why it might feel good to the mother of an autistic person to read something like this.  I hope those mothers also understand why it would be hurtful to an autistic person to read this. 

I am very disappointed by the number of parents I respect, who "get it", who participate in media that excludes autistic people.  I would like parents to ask, when interviewed for something like this Newsweek article, "Are you talking to autistic people, too?  Because if you aren't, I'm sorry, but you cannot use anything from me." 

I wish parents who say they care about the voices of autistic people would tell the radio stations that want to bring them in for interviews that they will be happy to participate if autistic people are included, and to refuse to do so if not. 

Again, it's important to include a parent perspective.  But when that's all we get, autistic people are referred to only as problems and burdens and obstacles:

Part of what makes special-needs parenting so daunting is that the load often does not lighten with time—that golden day when one’s child is more or less self-sufficient never arrives. In fact, many parents report that the school years are by far the easiest. Autism Speaks’s Dawson says she frequently hears the shift out of school described as “falling off a cliff, because so few services are available after you exit high school.” In the wake of high school, she says, about 40 percent of these young adults have no activity outside the home, and the same percentage have no social activity.

This is what's wrong with April.

It too often turns into "be aware of how hard it is to parent an autistic child month."

And people who are seen only as burdens have a hard time getting others to see them as people.  Does Dr. Dawson ever stop to think that she is making it harder for the 60% of autistic young adults who are not getting out of the house at all to find places to go when she talks about nothing but how scary they are?


"Lighting it up Blue" the Right Way: Tim Sharp in Australia

Tim Sharp and his "Light It Up Blue" design

One of the reasons I'm not a fan of the "Light it up blue" campaign is that it does not significantly involve autistic people.  Making people aware that autism exists may make money for Autism Speaks, but making them aware of people like artist Tim Sharp can really change people's perceptions of what autism is and what autisic people can do.

Tim's superhero Laser Beak Man has been turn into an animated series and a song.  His work is funny, beautiful, and filled with joy.  He says this about his art:

It makes me feel really happy and perfect.

So I love the fact that Australia is marking Autism Awareness Month by projecting Tim's work on Brisbane's William Jolly bridge. 

You can listen to a radio interview with his mom Judy and with Tim himself here. Judy talks about the Tim Sharp Foundation, which has the goal of getting neurotypical people to spend social time with autistic people.

Click here to watch a news video about Tim's work lighting up the bridge.

"April" Autism Awareness Song Parody

For the most annoying month of the year, the most annoying song of all time:

7am, waking up in the morning
Gotta be the same follow my routine
Gotta have my cereal it's gluten-free
Casein-free, wheat-free tastes like glue
Gotta follow my social story
Gotta get down to the bus stop
Glad it's not the short bus, wish I had friends
Bullies in the front seat
Bullies in the back seat
Gotta make my mind up
Which seat can I take?

It's April, April
Light it up blue in April
everybody's gettin' aware of autism
April April
Wearin' blue for April
Everybody's so aware of autism

Autism Autism
Autism Autism

Stim Stim Stim Stim
Do you want autism to end?

Yesterday you hate me
Today you tolerate me
Me Me Me so excited
Me so excited
To be tolerated
Tomorrow ignore me
And next day hate me again
I don't want this weekend to end!

It's April, April
Light it up blue in April
everybody's gettin' aware of autism
April April
Wearin' blue for April
Everybody's so aware of autism

Autism Autism
Autism Autism

Stim Stim Stim Stim
Do you want autism to end?

Click here to listen.

Comics: OWL Speaks on Autism Awareness

An Autism Awareness Day message from OWL.

OWL has a special Autism Awareness Day message for you. 

Click here to watch the video.

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