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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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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