Yesterday, Autism Speaks published a blog post in which Loving Lampposts director Todd Drezner asks readers to listen to what autistic people have to say:
The first thing you see when you come to this website are the words “Autism Speaks. It’s time to listen.” And as the autism numbers continue to rise, there’s little doubt that we need to understand as much as we can about autism.
But who really speaks for autism? Parents, scientists, therapists, and even the occasional celebrity are well represented in the media conversation about autism. Ironically, the voices most often missing from these discussions are those of autistic people themselves. I made my documentary, Loving Lampposts: Living Autistic, partially to help bring those underrepresented autistic voices into the conversation.
It's a moving and intelligent piece, and it's important that Drezner is getting his message to this particular audience.
And it's further evidence that Autism Speaks is improving that they are including his voice.
Do I support Autism Speaks?
Am I likely ever to do so?
But Autism Speaks is powerful and important. Making it better is important. And saying thank you when they do something right is important, too.
Thank you, both to Todd and to Autism Speaks.
Ari Ne'eman speaks about neurodiversity. Click here to watch.
On August 5, Ari Ne'eman, president of Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, gave the keynote address at a symposium on neurodiversity held at Syracuse University. Called “An Overview of the Neurodiversity Movement and a Discussion of Autistic Politics,” his intelligent and passionate speech is available to watch on video here.
The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism has also transcribed it, and published it in three parts. This is from Part Three, warning about the dangers of teaching autisic people that autism in itself is bad:
Because again, the thinking here is that eye contact is not a skill, it's a virtue. Hand flapping isn't just something that prejudiced people have a problem with, it's a sin. And once again, that has consequences for people.
Now people say in response to that -- and I always believe it's important to accurately reflect the views of my opponents -- "what about Autistic behaviors that cause problems? What about self-injury? What about struggling to communicate? You folks in the Neurodiversity movement just believe in leaving everybody alone, to rot and decay." That's quite frankly not true. The problem is not in trying to address issues like someone struggling to communicate -- anyone who has struggled to communicate, and there are many people in the room who are AAC and FC users, knows how important it is to empower communication and make it possible. The problem is when we define everything that is Autistic as "bad" and everything that is non-Autistic as "good."
We can pursue communication as good unto itself. We can pursue people not hurting themselves as a good unto itself. There is no reason one has to pursue those things as bad because they are associated with autism. Presumably we possess some form of judgment here, that we don't need that shorthand. But when we adopt the model that says, "Because there are some bad things that happen to Autistic people, autism must be bad," we end up with ridiculous contortions, we end up discouraging hand flapping -- why? because it's something Autistic children do, something Autistic adults do as well. We end up encouraging eye contact -- why? because it's something "normal" people do.
Ari Ne'eman speaks at Ohio State University
I ended the thAutcast year by asking my readers to remember Donald Triplett, the first person ever diagnosed with autism.
I begin 2011 by asking you to watch this speech by Ari Ne'eman, who was appointed by President Barack Obama to the National Council on Disability. Since Ari is public about his diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome, he is the first openly autistic person ever to have a presidential appointment.
If you've never heard him speak, this speech given on November 29, 2010, at Ohio State University. Although the topic is neurodiversity and the college campus, most of what Ari says applies to workplace and educational conditions in general.
I know "neurodiversity" is a fighting word for some people, but I think if you listen to the content of what he has to say, you'll find a lot of value.
The full speech is about 45 minutes long. Click here to to watch the rest.