Zoe Gross is one of the people featured in the documentary Citizen Autistic which I posted earlier today. She is also the subject of a wonderful profile in Vassar's Alumnae/i Quarterly. Zoe talks about the accommodations that allow her to succeed in college and how she became involved in autism advocacy.
She describes the world she wants to help build as a professional advocate:
“The biggest myth I’d like to bust is that autism is bad,” she explains. The net effect, Gross says, is that the general public “writes off [autistic people] as less than a person.”
“What I want people to know is that autism is different,” she says. “Just as we have different races, genders, sexual orientations, abilities, and disabilities. Autism is part of human diversity and just as valuable.”
Via Mama Be Good.
William Davenport of Talk Story Films, who made the wonderful documentary "Too Sane for This World", has made a new film called "Citizen Autistic", about the autism rights movement. Its featured subjects include Ari Ne'eman, Zoe Gross, Robyn Steward-- and me! I love the way I come across in this movie and the fact that I get to talk about thAutcast in it. Lots of people have ideas about Ari being some kind of fire-breathing radical, but he's a wonderfully sweet, smart guy who cares about all kinds of people, and you really get to see that here. Zoe is one the emerging leaders in autism advocacy, whose contribution to a meeting with President Obama is a highlight of the film. Others are a meeting of AASCEND in San Francisco and Robyn Steward's dissection of an Autism Speaks walk. Robyn works with autistic people like herself.
The film is nearly finished, and you can see the current version above. You can also donate to help distribute the film. This is a movie we really want shown in film festivals, and the entry fees can cost thousands of dollars. Please watch and please donate if you can.
President Obama recently met with participants from the American Association of People with Disabilities internship program. In the video released of the meeting, he singles out as especially powerful the suggestions about self-advocacy made by Zoe Gross.
"I'm autistic, and one of the issues that we're facing as advocates with developmental disabilities is that people often overlook us when they're trying to find allies in policy-making... So I think really when disability issues are in consideration, whenever there's going to be a speech on disablity or someone's going to make a statement about a certain disability or on the state of disability employment, or especially when... policies are being considered, to bring in people wih disabilities ourselves."
Zoe Gross explains why she is "Autistic", not "a person with autism":
I’m starting to think that when people say “defining yourself by your disability” they really mean “talking about yourself in a way that reflects the belief that your disability is not detachable.”
I was at a conference last summer at which Ari Ne’eman gave an introductory speech, and it fell to him to explain why ASAN uses identity-first language. One of the things he said, which I really liked, was “If I’m on a flight and the airline loses my luggage, I don’t arrive without my autism.” And I feel like this is actually sort of central to the difference between disabled identity-first proponents and non-disabled person-first proponents: they want the disability to be separable enough from us that we can hide it, pack it in a suitcase, and maybe, one day, be able to lose the suitcase forever with the help of a cure! Or, to use my earlier analogy, they want our disabilities to be like an action figure accessory that you can put on and take off, so that they can choose when to interact with and accommodate our disabilities.
Zoe Gross writes a perfect parody of the generic autism story:
Autism is a mysterious and puzzling disease, and children who suffer from having been diagnosed with autism are equally puzzling and mysterious. But the remarkable actions of Joe Autie can give us valuable insight into the mind with autism. Autie, 32, is a person who experiences a label of autism, but has overcome his disability and managed to do something.
Emily Expert, who has never met Autie but has met other people with autism, and knows countless people who know people with autism, runs an organization for family members of children with autism. According to Expert, “This really remarkable thing that Autie has done can help us all to understand what goes on inside the mind of a child with autism.”