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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What We Lost

And What We Need To Do About It

Amid the drama and rehashes of the outcome of the presidential election, the media has almost overlooked the fact that the disability community was one of the major losers of this cycle. We have already suffered a variety of losses and are likely to suffer more before Mr. Trump leaves office. It’s essential that we get ready to mitigate these losses and stay engaged with public life and political processes.

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Autistics Speaking Day 2016

November 1, the anniversary of the successful disruption of a neurotypical-run day of silence -because no Autistic people communicate- by Neurodiversity activists. This is my fifth Autistics Speaking Day and this site’s first.

We are winning the existential struggle over the narrative of what autism is and what should be done about it. This has been true for at least a couple of years. People and organizations are realizing that they have to at least pay lip service to the idea of inclusion, rather than elimination, to stay relevant. Eugenics is one of those tenacious ideas that won’t go away overnight, but there isn’t momentum in that That makes me less inclined to write on one of the traditional themes of Autistics Speaking Day posts, i.e. anti-cure, stop harassing us when we form our own communities on the internet, the autistic life can be a pretty good one, etc. It looks more and more like we have a future, so I want to talk about that. What is our community going to be? How do we make it a good one?

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In Defense Of Work

Following Hillary Clinton’s speech on disability, some advocates were concerned that work was over-emphasized. By in large, the concern was about devaluing people whose capacity to work is very limited. There are reasons to be leery of overemphasizing work. Some people’s survival or medical needs will always exceed their capacity for economic output.  Some people with disabilities will never have lives that can be justified in economic terms. It is fortunate that no life ever need be justified in economic terms. It’s a foundation value of disability rights and disability justice advocacy that personhood and human rights are not contingent on productivity or wealth. They just are. There is at least the appearance of a tension between that position and the various disability communities’ emphasis on work these days. Employment first policy, the idea that people are presumptive able to work, and work should be available to everyone, is high on many advocates’ priority lists these days. These positions are more consistent than they appear at first glance because encouraging work, expanding access to work, is about so much more than economic productivity.

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The Future Of Autism Speaks

Autism Speaks’ recent decision to drop language about a cure from its mission statement could be self-serving. A cure is medically unlikely, widely rejected by Autistic advocates, and increasingly behind the policy narrative of what autism is and what to do about it. That makes it easy to read this situation as less altruism than a desperate attempt to cling to relevance. However, an act doesn’t need to be well-motivated to have good consequences. This is an opportunity for Autism Speaks to drop its position as the leading promoter of eugenics in America today and join the other major intellectual and developmental disability organizations in doing the hard work of inclusion and civil rights. If Autism Speaks makes real, substantive changes to how it operates and what it funds, it will immediately find itself operating in the realm of conventional disability nonprofits, which is vastly different from its current milieu. It would behoove the rest of the autism community to welcome the organization into the fold with open arms if it survives the shock of a change that would be drastic.

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