The Harsh Realities of Rudolph

an image of Rudolph from the 1964 claymation special

The holiday classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is timely this year. The (affiliate link) beloved holiday special has a facially positive message about disability and diversity, but the story contains an unspoken parable about disability in our society that may be a little too dark for the holiday season. The story tracks The Rudolph special, of course, describes how a young, magic reindeer from the North Pole finds a valuable role in his community despite being initially ostracized for an unusual physical feature: a glowing red nose. In the course of his journey to find a place in the world, Rudolph comes across the castoff inhabitants of the Island of Misfit Toys and eventually arranges their rescue. The story is surprisingly positive, surprisingly open to difference, considering that it is a commercial piece from the mid-sixties, in that it has a protagonist with a kind of disability, and he finds social acceptance because of, rather than despite, his abnormality once he manages to find a way to contribute.

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Unsympathetic Plaintiffs

A fence stands in a field, just wires strung between posts. The wire doesn't look electrified and has no barbs. It would be easy to climb through the fence.

Anderson Cooper, the ADA, and Sympathizing with People who Cross the Line

Sympathy for people who break the law seems to have an almost universally human allure. Most cultures have some stories about rebels and outlaws, some (affiliate link) Robin Hood figure who captures the public imagination. American history and culture offer some particularly colorful, compelling stories of people who, for whatever reason, just didn’t stay on the right side of the law from activists like John Brown to more selfish types like (affiliate link) Bonnie and Clyde. Sympathy for law-breakers usually comes up in the criminal context, where stories are colorful, and a big personality can really leave an impression, but it happens in civil law, too. The outlaws we pity or admire, the people we like even though they broke the social contract in some fairly major way, tell us a lot about what we value and what garners sympathy in our culture. Sometimes, our love of outlaws is less about the person who broke the law and more about the identity of the victim. If we’re sometimes disposed to like rule-breakers, we’re also not always concerned about the people who get hurt when someone doesn’t follow rules that are in place for a reason.

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2016 Holiday Gift Guide

Autistic people aren’t fundamentally different enough from the rest of humanity to justify the gift guides specifically for Autistic children that always circulate around this time of year. This isn’t that kind of gift guide. Instead, it’s designed to help you shop for the active, Neurodiversity-minded people on your list. Almost all links in this post are affiliate links, and your clicks and purchases are appreciated. They help this blog pay its bills and will bring you more posts in 2017.

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“The Internet Is Ours!” Autistic History Month Part 2

“In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?”
-William Blake


My grandfather’s life just overlapped with the flowering of the Neurodiversity movement. I had joined Wrong Planet by the time he died. I remember when those kidnapping ads ran, though I wasn’t personally involved in the response. My memories of how I became more deeply immersed in Autistic culture are fuzzy. It was a gradual slide. Maybe the loneliness I felt when I lost a kindred spirit pushed me in deeper. The loss of the only with whom I could identify in certain ways also forced some maturation. This may have deepened my sense of responsibility for nurturing and protecting our community. Maybe it didn’t. I’m not sure what happened, just that I started to help tell the story of an Autistic people, and the story swallowed me up.

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My Friend The Tiger: Autistic History Month Part 1

“What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!”
-William Blake

I met the internet when I was five. Home from school with strep throat, I was allowed to play with it unsupervised because my parents, never particularly technologically aware, thought it was harmless. I came to two important realizations that afternoon:

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