Not only did any number of award-winning (and award-giving) autism bloggers comment approvingly about Flannery's post which turned the name of an autistic teenager into a nasty verb. One of them has relegated that kid to the status of a smudge on a painting. Leigh at Flappiness Is thinks Carly Fleischmann is not a person. She's just a word:
A few days later, Flannery from The Connor Chronicles, came under fire when she posted about the inadvertent harm well-meaning people can do when they incorrectly assume that all autistic persons are alike. Parents of autistic children frequently receive messages from friends and acquaintances about such notable (and amazing) folks such as Carly Fleishman and Temple Grandin. Now, these two remarkable people are not the problem and do much, respectively, to benefit the autism community. The problem lies in the assumption some make that all autistic children will be like them – if only [insert common misconception here]. The macro lenses soon came out, and it made the rounds that she was attacking an innocent teenage girl. Yet, a less contentious reading of her post (and past writings and efforts on behalf of the community) makes it clear that she was not attacking a child – merely the side effects of mass societal ignorance of autism. Instead, the macro lenses focused upon one word in her post (“Carly’d”)– and all hell broke loose. Obfuscating her purpose and garnering attention for those who prefer drama over awareness and action.
Both Carly and her mother complained and said that Flannery's piece was hurtful.
But they are nothing to these people.
"One word in her post."
That one word is a real person's name.
Leigh, reread "Flowers for Algernon." Those people who make fun of Charlie, talk about "pulling a Charlie Gordon"? Those are the people whose side you are talking.
Those are the people you have chosen to be.
Ethical writers don't do blind items.
Blind items are what gossip columnists do when they have something juicy to report but they can't confirm it. Or when they've made up something so outrageous that it doesn't need to be attached to a particular name to be funny. Gawker is the reigning champ with them.
But in Autismland, Kim Wombles is queen of the blind item.
Other land mines this month that I'm stepping in involve the release of two books involving nonverbal (or limited verbal) autistic individuals. They've come for me to review, and my policy is not to comment specifically or publicly about individuals while fighting hard against facilitated communication and its kissing cousin rapid prompting. That'll be fun, especially considering the limited evidence that the communication is genuinely the autistic individuals in question. Of course, all over autism land, people are delighted about these stories, sharing them, high-fiving, and my need to couple professional responsibility and ethics with my own mental obligation to provide fair reviews is nothing short of a quagmire.
Kim and I have similar concerns regarding Facilitated Communication. But she wrote the most condescending thing anyone has ever written to me in my life when I suggested that the ferocity with which she attacks it might delegitimize the speech of anyone using AAC.
I don't know that Kim is talking about Carly Fleischmann here, but I know that's the way it comes across to me. And Carly has never used FC. You can watch video of her typing for herself. But most people aren't going to bother with that-- they'll just read this and assume Kim knows more than they do and think Carly's a fake.
Neat trick, huh?
When you don't name names, you can say whatever you want. You don't have to support anything.
And it's all fair, it's not an attack, you can't be held responsible for it, just so long as you don't mention anyone's name-- that's Kim's motto:
That reality has nothing to do with my post--I didn't mention names in my post--I didn't attack anyone. I wrote about the very real landmines in the online autism community and how most of them are no-win situations and my difficulty in maintaining my integrity in the face of many of those landmines.
She loves to stand at her garden gate and throw rocks, then dart back to its safety, use her children as a shield, and claim innocence when the neighbors complain about their injured pets and broken windows:
We stretch ourselves out a little--reach our grasp, offer thoughts without judgment and yet, all some will see are thorns of their own making.
I first became utterly disgusted with Kim's blind items when she attacked the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and Ari Ne'eman in a post titled "What Would You Think":
If you realized an autism self-advocate advocated specifically for a debunked treatment like facilitated communication?
If you realized that a self-advocate who represents an organization speaks at conferences on facilitated communication?
What responsibility does a disability rights advocate have to ensure that the practices he or she endorses are sound practices?
I became utterly disgusted with The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism when they published a faux-apology from Kim that included this blind item:
That doesn’t mean I’ve gone all soft and mushy with no clear positions. There are some things I am certain are wrong. There are people in our online community who I believe do tremendous damage to others and who, I think, do so intentionally with the sole purpose of getting ahead.
Attacking people and leaving out their names is not discretion. It's not kindness. It's not being ethical.
It's just gossip.
If something is better left unsaid, leave it unsaid.
Don't put it in the form of a question and then claim you never said it.
Don't throw rocks at people and call the damage you cause pointless drama.
And if one of your neighbors is doing that, don't congratulate them on their poetry.
Carly Fleischmann answers questions.
Carly Fleischmann is a young autistic woman who has worked very hard to teach others that people like herself, who use keyboards to communicate rather than speaking, are just as intelligent and human as anyone else. Carly has appeared on ABC News and been interviewed by Holly Robinson Peete. But bigotry against people who do not speak conventionally is so strong that some people still doubt that Carly's words are her own.
So she has made this video, in which she demonstrates her typing process and answers questions.
Visit Carly's website here.
Holly Robinson Peete talks to Carly Fleischmann.
For Autism Awareness Month, the CBS program The Talk has done a series of segments featuring host Holly Robinson Peete, whose son has autism. I especially loved Friday's segments with autistic teens Carly Fleischmann and Winfred Cooper.
Carly is a Canadian teenager who learned to speak using a keyboard and keeps a blog. The conversation here is touching both for its content and for the fact that it was probably the first time many people heard someone who speaks with assistive technology have a conversation of this depth and warmth.
Winfred has a special place in my heart because his story was the first one ever featured on thAutcast. He's a football player who scored a 67 yard touchdown. More impressively, he finished high school with honors and is now in community college.
If you aren't familiar with Arman Khodaei, this is an excellent introduction to his work. Arman is a counselor and advocate for people with autism who does a podcast and a prolific YouTube channel. He is consistently smart, sane, and well-informed.
Arman is also an excellent role model for young people with autism. If you know a kid with Aspergers or autism who needs to understand that their autism can be a positive thing, please let them know about Arman and some of these other young people I've featured recently on thAutcast:
Carly Fleischmann: Blogger
Aidan Guerra: Top Cadet
And, please, if you know any people with autism who who doing great or interesting things, let me know about them.