autism awareness

Webinar tomorrow “Using Jewish Culture to Understand Autism and Inclusion”

I hate Autism Awareness, but I love how autistic Jewish culture is. So I’m doing a webinar about that on Monday, April 3rd from 1-2pm Eastern time. (Wearing my rabbinic hat).

CART captions will be available. Webinar will be recorded. You can register here.

You can see recordings, slides, and transcripts from past webinars here.

Announcing the Real Social Skills t-shirt!  The shirt is slate gray, with text “Noncompliance is a social skill. realsocialskills.org”.  Orders will be open until April 14th, and will be printed and shipped shortly after. (And should arrive around the end of the month.)   https://www.bonfirefunds.com/real-social-skills-t-shirt

Announcing the Real Social Skills t-shirt!

The shirt is slate gray, with text “Noncompliance is a social skill. realsocialskills.org”.

Orders will be open until April 14th, and will be printed and shipped shortly after. (And should arrive around the end of the month.)

https://www.bonfirefunds.com/real-social-skills-t-shirt

Autism Awareness starts with acknowledging that autistic people exist and matter

The strange thing about Autism Awareness is that a lot of people raising it seem to be largely unaware that autistic people exist.

They organize all these Awareness events, and then they don’t invite us. It doesn’t even seem to occur to them that it is possible to invite us. They invite professionals, our parents, and sometimes our siblings. They say they’re raising Autism Awareness, but they don’t seem to realize that autistic people exist and have opinions on autism.

They give fancy Awareness speeches, and they speak as though no autistic people are in the room. They say things like  “Let’s imagine what it must be like to have autism and be overwhelmed with sensory information.” Or “They really need therapy so they can come to do the things that you and I take for granted.” They talk about Awareness, but seem to be unaware that autistic people are present everywhere.

They don’t reference the perspectives, accomplishments, or activism of autistic people. They don’t reference the existence of the autistic self advocacy movement. They talk about Autism Awareness, but they seem to be distinctly unaware that autistic people exist and do things.

So, for April, this is the Awareness I’m raising: Autistic people exist. We do things. Our accomplishments matter, and deserve to be respected and acknowledged. We grow up, and our adulthood needs to be taken seriously. We learn, and our thoughts are important. We are people, and it’s time to stop objectifying us. We have perspectives, and our voices matter.

Why the puzzle piece is an offensive symbol

said to :

I sent an ask before, but I’m not sure if you got it. Are puzzle pieces bad? Could you explain why?

I’ve seen your explanations before and you make things so easy to understand.

I’ve always really like the puzzle piece thing because autism for me feels as if I have all the necessary information (the pieces and a guide for where they go), but I’m unable to make them fit together, like they’ve been warped from humidity or something and won’t actually connect.

realsocialskills said:

There’s not necessarily an inherent reason why the puzzle piece should be offensive (and there are a lot of ways in which it could have been a positive symbol.) It’s offensive because it’s a symbol that’s strongly associated with hateful attitudes. (That’s often the case with symbols.)

The puzzle piece is widely used by hate groups like Autism Speaks in degrading ways. That has made it an extremely offensive symbol.

What Autism Speaks (and many other hate groups) means by using a puzzle is along the lines of “autism is a mysterious puzzle, and we need to solve the puzzle so we can rearrange autistic people so they won’t be autistic anymore.“

People who would like their brains and want to keep them tend to dislike seeing lots of reminders that many people are working very hard to figure out how to make them different people. (It helps some to remember that seeing these symbols around is actually an admission on their part that attempts to get rid of us are failing.)

It’s not so much the inherent meaning - there are all kinds of ways a puzzle piece could have been a good symbol - it’s that it’s become a symbol of hate because of how it’s been used.

tl;dr Puzzle pieces are an offensive symbol for autism because hate groups make them into a symbol of contempt for autistic people.

Light It Up Blue is an annual reminder that Autism Speaks can't make us go away

Today is Autism Acceptance Day, and April is Autism Acceptance month. It’s also an annual reminder that we are strong, we are still here, and that attempts to eliminate us are failing. When they light it up blue, they’re admitting that they’re weak and they’re failing.

Autism Speaks and others who wish that autistic people didn’t exist think that it’s Autism Awareness Day. They’re calling us a public health crisis, and they’re trying to get others to agree with them and give them money. They want to get rid of us. They try to pretend they have any chance of succeeding.

I realized today that April 2nd is actually an annual reminder that, no matter how hard they try, they can’t actually get rid of us. When Autism Speaks supporters are turning on blue lights, what they’re really saying is that they have just spent another year wasting a lot of money in a completely futile attempt to get rid of us. They are acknowledging with those blue lights that we are still here, and that we’re not going anywhere.

We are more powerful than they want us to believe. We have persisted in existing despite their pervasive attempt to eliminate us. We are succeeding in spreading love and supporting one another in power and pride.

We are speaking up. We are being heard. People who care about autism, autistic people, education, and communication are listening. The tide is turning.

Their hate symbols are a sign that, even though we have far less money and far fewer resources, we are more powerful than their ineffectual attempts to make us go away. We are right, and we are strong, and we will be here long after Autism Speaks is gone. We ought to keep that in mind when we see the pathetic hate symbols they’re displaying today.

An open letter to sorority members

Dear Sorority Members,

Hi there. I’ve heard you’re promoting autism awareness this month.

So I wanted to tell you something: autistic people exist.

We are people. Real people. Who you have an obligation to learn how to accomodate and interact with respectfully. And you can do this. Everyone can learn how. There isn’t an insurmountable barrier between you and us - unless it’s one that you erect.

I don’t think you know that we exist. Not really. Because, if you did, you’d talk to us. You’d want to know what we think of your awareness campaigns. And, you’d ask us what kind of help we need.

But you’re not doing that. You’re not spreading awareness of the fact that autistic people are real. You’re not telling people about common autistic traits. You’re not working to learn how to communicate with, respect, and accommodate autistic people. And you’re sure as hell not trying to figure out how to bring autistic women into your sororities.

People are ignorant about autism in ways that hurt people badly. Even in ways that get autistic people killed. You could be doing something about that. You have the public eye, and you’re socially valued. If you said the right things about autism, people would listen.

So, it’s upon you to raise your own awareness, so that you will know what you are talking about, and so that you can tell the truth.

You might start with this post I wrote as an overview for aides: http://realsocialskills.tumblr.com/post/39482079759/autism-awareness-for-aides

And more generally, I’ve written a lot of posts tagged autism.

And also, learn why self-advocacy organizations are organizing Autism Acceptance Month

And everything on autisticadvocacy.org, starting with Position Statements, and Why ASAN Uses Identity-first Language

If you read and understand, and start spreading the right kind of awareness, you will be able to make the world better for a lot of autistic people and their families who are suffering needlessly.

Another kind of reply

lawlandauror asked realsocialskills:

.There is a sorority at my college who’s charity is Autism Speaks. All their promotional material and events are making me really uncomfortable. I’m not autistic but I am nueroatypical. I don’t want to talk over autistic people, but I also don’t want to stay silent. What can I do in this situation?

A few things I’d say, in addition to signing the pledge and urging others to do so:

I think what you need to bear in mind is that you’re not speaking for autistic people, you’re saying why Autism Awareness is bad. You don’t need to be autistic to understand that. So long as you’re not claiming to speak for others, I think you’re probably ok.

(For instance, don’t say “autistic people don’t like autism speaks!”, say something like “autism speaks doesn’t have any autistic people in positions of leadership and that’s a problem”).

Also, don’t expect any kind of emotional reaction from autistic folks as a result of what you say. Don’t expect autistic people to be grateful, or to be moved that someone is saying something. Sometimes that might happen. But it shouldn’t be the reason you’re speaking up, and it shouldn’t be something you expect. If you’re putting additional emotional pressure on autistic folks, you’re doing it wrong. 

And also, Awareness paints a pretty broad brush. Autistic people get the most direct hate this month, but it’s also when people promote a model of neurological disability that’s dangerous for everyone. Feeling personally threatened by that is not appropriative or silencing. If that’s part of what’s going on for you, it’s ok to say so. 

Typing is important

Some people communicate better by typing than they do with their voices.

Some people need to do both at different times, or even within the same conversation.

Maybe you’re like that. Maybe you could say more things if you used your hands and a keyboard rather than your voice sometimes.

You almost certainly know people who could communicate better if they didn’t always have to speak.

Knowing that this is a thing is important. So is being a safe person for other people to type to if they should.

Something non-autistic folks can do to combat the Autism Awareness mentality

lawlandauror asked realsocialskills:

.There is a sorority at my college who’s charity is Autism Speaks. All their promotional material and events are making me really uncomfortable. I’m not autistic but I am nueroatypical. I don’t want to talk over autistic people, but I also don’t want to stay silent. What can I do in this situation?

You can sign this pledge, and urge others to do so (http://www.autismacceptancemonth.com/pledge/):

I pledge to only attend, speak at or otherwise participate in autism panels, conferences and events that meaningfully involve Autistic people. I choose not to give my business or my time to settings that fail to include Autistic voices in conversations about autism.

Remembering that you are not alone

April is a brutal month.

There’s a lot of hate directed at autistic people, during April.

The same people who bullied us in high school, have Awareness events in college. They think they’re better than us. They put on rallies and events telling the world how awful it is that we exist.

At the same time they lament our existence, they ignore our presence and voices. They don’t really understand that autistic people are real. They just wish that we weren’t.

And, during April, it seems like everyone is in on it. Even people you otherwise like. Even people you thought better of. It’s everywhere. You can’t get away from it. It’s scary and humiliating, and it can be overwhelming.

It isn’t actually everyone, though. Not everyone hates you for being disabled. Not everyone wants to erase you. Some people understand. You are not alone. And it helps to remember that.

Even the hate only goes down to a certain point. It’s possible not to believe them. It’s possible to create space for yourself that that they can’t touch. Keeping that in mind helps, too.

And you’re already real. You’re already worthwhile. The people who think you need a cure to be a person are wrong. You are a person. The people trying to convince you otherwise are being horrible.

You are not alone. Try to keep that in mind as much as you can, and reach out to the people who can support you.