How to Have an Okay Autism Conference

an empty auditorium is full of chairs. there is a stage with a podium and blackboard at the front. a projector hangs from the ceiling

Conference Season is Coming

April is coming up, and with it, autism conferences. If you’re Autistic, you probably know how fraught these events can be. If you’re not, you may not be aware of that because disabled conference speakers don’t always speak up. Some people may be afraid to acknowledge problems. Others may find translating the indignities of being a disabled conference speaker from disabled to mainstream culture and experience too overwhelming or exhausting try. Putting up with painful or uncomfortable things is sometimes easier than explaining them to nondisabled people in hopes that they will change. The challenge is that certain forms of disabled conference speaker-hood can be dehumanizing. Being an Autistic speaker sometimes being questioned about personal matters in front of large crowds of strangers, being asked to explain the behavior of Autistic strangers not present, and being expected to politely ignore any dangerous, quack autism treatments on display. It usually involves exposure to condescension, assumptions about Autistic people, inspiration porn, and repeating autism 101 information over and over again. It almost always involves feeling scrutinized like an animal in the zoo and being in close contact with the representatives of groups with which the Autistic community has a troubled history.

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Day of Mourning 2017

Tonight, people will gather around the world to mourn persons with disabilities killed by their caregivers. Some have loved ones who also remember and miss them. Many were kept so isolated by those who would eventually murder them that they were largely strangers to the world. Their memories are little more than names we read at vigils because they were ours, though we did not know them, and maybe an old school picture online. It’s good that we remember them. We wouldn’t be people, much less a people, if we didn’t remember our dead. While we mourn, though, we can’t forget the living.

If things go badly with healthcare and benefits law, more people will die in the months to come. There won’t be many colorful stories of violence to attract media attention. These deaths won’t make the news. We won’t hear about most of them. They will happen quietly in ERs, family homes, and nursing homes. People who are just barely hanging on at the margins with the access to services and care that they have now will fade away almost unnoticed. Many more will slide into a living death in facilities. The people we loose will look like the average person on a Day of Mourning vigil list: extremely vulnerable because of youth, age, or a significant impairment, isolated. They’re ours, too, whether or not we know them, and we owe them our loyalty, our advocacy. Care about them, too. If you live in the U.S. and are fortunate enough to be able to attend a vigil, think about reaching out to your representative first.

Who Will We Be?

Communities are funny things. They don’t exist until a critical mass of people believe they do. They’re stories that come to life if people tell them loud and long enough. Behave as if a people exists, go through the motions determinedly until it stops feeling artificial, and something will start to solidify. The story of an Autistic people that we are telling together becomes more tangible every day, but we have time to make decisions while things are still malleable. Especially as we enter a time of adversity in the U.S., we need to make choices about what turns this narrative will take.

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Net Neutrality and Us

a map of the internet on a black background. it looks like neural connections

By The Opte Project – Originally from the English Wikipedia; description page is/was here., CC BY 2.5,

People are born, labeled, and self-identified with autism all the time, but the distance from there to “different, not less,” the neurodiversity paradigm, culture, community, and becoming Autistic is a bigger leap. It’s not an intuitive move because it’s downright counter-cultural in a society that often treats disability as a lesser, undesirable, less human way of living. Consider how you or your loved one covered the distance from diagnosis or realization to here. It probably had something to do with the internet. Some people find out about autism online, realize it describes their experiences, and come to identify with it or seek a diagnosis. Some people grow up knowing about their disability and eventually find parts of the internet where people teach them a narrative that has more to offer the Autistic individual than the mainstream assumption of inferiority and acceptance of the medical model. A lucky handful of people have had someone sit down and explain neurodiversity and Autistic identity IRL, but the people offering those things usually picked them up in Autistic regions of the internet.

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New Year’s Resolutions for the Autistic People

Ominous clouds gather and darken above a landscape.

A storm is coming. Are you ready?

We’re headed for hard times. Our movement is on the defensive. The ideas that animate these times don’t bode well for us. That had me thinking about what our absolute necessities are, what we have to have and do to remain ourselves. I only came up with two things:

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