Wednesday, December 23, 2015


It is hard being autistic when the public perception is against us. As an autistic, I am disabled. It is hard being disabled when the public perception is against us. It is hard when I see vast amounts of information and resources aimed at caregivers. And that is not always bad, when the stories are respectful and have insight from disabled people! Caregivers need to know how to caregive respectfully and responsibly! But so much of it is told from their perspective, and many of the stories are not respectful. The media matters and though the media reflects society, society also picks up things from the media.

What should we ask for?

  • They need to pay the disabled writers who still are willing to publish with them.

A fair wage, not just scraps, too.

  • They must make at least 50% of their editorial staff be disabled editors.

They must have real power and a real say.
  • Signal boost and amplify writing by disabled writers as the majority of their pieces.

No more inspiration and pity parade stories, please.

  • Stop using this as a purely money making platform and actually post things that support
    disabled people

The best way to do that is bullet point three. Admittedly some disabled people inspire me. Not because they're disabled, but because they are awesome. But post stories by disabled people that are not just inspiration porn, but practical. Life narratives are fine and we could all use role models, but we disabled people also need more practicality and things that give us tips on how to get around in day to day life.

More posts: 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

My Autistic Wishlist

There is an autistic wishlist hashtag event going on over on Twitter. It is aimed at advocacy organizations.

This particular autistic wishlist is not directed primarily at advocacy organizations. It’s not going in the hashtag.

It is directed at a community constantly in pain. A community constantly expanding outward, pushing against the fringes. A community that could probably stand to be gentler of people with clumsy language and communication disabilities (see my Autistics Speaking Day post).

My autistic wishlist is that our community can handle the constant pain of both outside forces, and turning inward at each other. That our community, expanding outward and challenging perceptions, can introspect long enough to fight together and dispel the distrust constantly aimed at each other.

Yes, I do have a long list of things I wish for with advocacy groups. But it is alongside a deep desire for our existing community what I have tried to outline above.

If you are with me, this journey will be hard. But I will support you any way I can.

Friday, December 4, 2015

the world is larger than my recycled words

How do I feel? The world is larger than the recycled words I can spit out to try to convince people of disabled people's value. On December 2, I started my second day of work; on December 2, gunmen shot up Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, CA. It was the second mass shooting of the day. Inland Regional Center served people with developmental disabilities. I followed a new routine, too tired in the evening to draft a blog post as my newsfeed exploded with the news.

Speaker Paul Ryan announced his intent to push for the Murphy Bill. The shooters shot up a center to serve people with developmental disabilities. The Murphy Bill intends to curtail the rights of people with psychiatric disabilities.

On December 2, I also received an action alert in my inbox from the Arc. The Senate was about to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act – parts that have helped people with disabilities. On December 3, my Facebook trending topics switched to Planned Parenthood as the Senate bill passed their version of the bill to federally defund Planned Parenthood. A sidenote was that the bill also repealed the Affordable Care Act, which has helped many people with disabilities. President Obama is expected to veto the bill.

People expressed shock and sorrow that someone would do this to a center that serves developmentally disabled people. People fawned over the woman who thanked an autistic person for decorating a cake. Representatives and Senators tweeted heartbreak about San Bernardino. They've done their good deed now, right?

* * *

Please explain to me how it is a good deed to be objectifying autistic people into inspiration porn for decorating a cake. There are far more extreme examples, like having to hold a Day of Mourning: Remembering Disabled People Murdered by Caregivers because so many people murder the people they are supposed to be providing care and/or support for. Then explain to me how people can express shock that someone shot up a center that serves developmentally disabled people.

Please explain to me how it is a good deed to tweet heartbreak about San Bernardino when Congress just decided to repeal key provisions of the ACA that would materially help disabled people. Help, rather than just fawn over someone decorating a cake and think they're helping, or assigning buddies in class to that poor disabled kid, or whatever.

Congress is moving the Murphy Bill rapidly through. H.R. 2646 is the, as Ari Ne'eman put it, “perversely named” the Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act.

The Murphy Bill would fundamentally strip people with psychiatric disabilities of their rights. It would
       community-based services.
  • This includes cutting the budget for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)'s community integration projects.
  • H.R. 2646 will also encourage states to allow forced-medication programs. These would be through court systems. The best way to help people get mental health treatment is to reduce stigma, make it available, and provide support. The solution is not forced treatment.

It was introduced in the wake of Sandy Hook in 2013 to manipulate the public. Don't let them.

Call or write your representative today. Tweet at your legislators. Find your rep at and then use the generic contact us form. Call to the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for your representative and ask them to oppose the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (HR 2646).

There is a federal relay service for d/Deaf people listed at the bottom here

* * *

Explain how the Murphy Bill helps anyone with disabilities. Explain how fawning over a cake helps people with disabilities.

Explain how the “good deeds” work then.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

This Is What They Think: Protesting Autism Speaks

The ASAN-Atlanta chapter recently protested an Autism Speaks GA 5K Run.

Would you like to hear what autistics have to say about Autism Speaks?”

They kept walking. They said no. They flipped us off. They told us to go home. One person told us they knew everything about autism already because they had autistic children and had “full acceptance for them.” If one is running or walking for an autism cure, it means you only have acceptance of what you want your children to be. You're accepting of a vision, not the people right in front of you.

This was with the exception of about twenty folks. They took flyers, which I really hope they kept.

An Autism Speaks staff member approached us and started condescending to us about how much Autism Speaks *actually* helps autistic people. The person condescended and acted like we did not have a complete story about Autism Speaks. The person also completely forgot Autistic adults existed in their spiel. “It's so great that you're out here, Autistic voices are integral to the conversation about autism!” Sappy and dripping with fake admiration, forgetting advocacy is not cute. Autism Speaks also really is not that interested in autistic voices. They have no autistic leadership anywhere. Their only autistic member of prominence, John Elder Robison, resigned in 2013.

Finally: “I'll keep on loving,” the person declared, as if we did not also want the best for their children. As if we did not love anyone or anything.

At least it showed that we made somewhat of an impact. They wanted to placate us, lower our guard, not come back next year.


The children broke my heart the most. One person's child tried to look at our signs. The parent physically turned them away.

This is what many of them seem to think. Autistics cannot think for themselves. Autistics cannot possibly disagree. They do not seem to want their children to grow up with the hope for anything other than a cure and being “indistinguishable from peers.”

To look at our signs and have them realize there are autistic adults who share a neurotype and who are protesting the event that their parents are at would be heresy. To start accepting themselves would be treachery and, to many, the appearance of giving up (it's really not). Many of these parents think that a cure is what society needs to do to help autistic people. They appeared bewildered and angered at our presence.

I really think most of these people do want the best. But they've been told over and over again, by society and since 2005 by Autism Speaks: Cure autism. At the least, make them indistinguishable from peers. It's a disease. A burden.

I flapped at their children. It was the only way to say, “I am like you and you are okay as you are.”


Other Sources on Autism Speaks

Friday, November 20, 2015

On this Transgender Day of Remembrance

On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, I consider the intersections between the disabled and trans community.* I think about how we both hold days of mourning and remembrance for our murdered brethren. I think about how so many of us are disabled and trans. I wonder if any of the names are the same on the collective lists of the dead.

I think about how this is one of the first times I openly am writing a piece about trans rights... despite the fact that I am multiply disabled and agender (thus trans) and queer. Maybe because it's scary to be so many identities at once. Maybe because the environments surrounding us are so toxic...

On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, I let myself be trans (usually I worry – am I trans *enough?*) I let the heartstrings flow and I let the feelings grow. I am autistic, with other disabilities. I am trans. I am queer. Maybe it's time I let this community become my own, too.

So I can remember and mourn with the rest of you.

I mourn. 

I read the names on the TDOR site, so many of them trans women of color, with the same shaky feeling that I got reading the list of the disabled and murdered people at the disability day of mourning. I am, I am, I am trans, I read the list of people that can carry on no more so activists carry on for them and fight. It is in my hopes and dreams that both lists start to get shorter.

For now, I mourn. 


*This is not to say that other intersections do not exist, of course. Especially since so many of the murdered are trans women of color. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Re: Autistic boy, 11, kills himself

Re: Autistic boy, 11, kills himself

I phrase it that way. I don't phrase it the way the article did. Blaming the autism and ADHD for suicide. This was a boy who befriended a locust in a tree. His mother said he felt like the adults at his school didn't care and could not make connections in his class. Had a gift with animals.


Isolated and miserable, I managed to find refuge in certain places. The art room, where the art teacher encouraged me to explore with sharpies and gel pens and acrylic paints. The debate room. My 10th grade English teacher's classroom. The scene shop, where I would frenetically sweep and clean the entire area after school.

Unlike Shane Laycock, I had supportive adults in my high school. I don't know how, considering the story told by so many of us of being shunned by even the adults who are supposed to care. I don't know what would have happened without them.


It was never autism's fault.

In middle school, I arrived with a set of liberal opinions from one of my parental units at a private school and set the school upside down. At a certain point, curiosity about the new student turned into vitriol. It was never autism's fault. The way they treated me created a small, scared, desperate teenager by the time I hit high school. Failure to understand difference is at fault.


I spent most of my time in trees, befriending neighborhood cats, playing with my gerbils, reading, or lost in my head. I once climbed a 40-foot-tree. I lived in fantasy worlds.

Biking is still my outlet, speeding up and down hills, feeling the wind in my face.


He said he felt like the adults at his school they didn't care. This is the experience of so many like us, shoved aside and written off and turned away. Not me (in terms of adults), but so many of us.

How can we make sure that people start to care? That people care about people like us? It was never autism's fault. It is a society that teaches difference is failure, that autism is tragedy, perpetuating the constant isolation of autistic people and other people with disabilities.

And when talking about this...

When talking about this...

Talk about a boy who walked barefoot and befriended locusts... 

Talk about a society which chose to isolate him, talk about a society that failed to accept him. Do not blame him or disability. 

Yes, in a perfect, non-ableist world, there would still be forms of disability. Certain things are disabling. But to turn away from the role society plays in perpetuating isolation would be negligence. 

Defining Ableism

Defining Ableism

Note: This is U.S.-centric


Sometimes it feels hard to define ableism when it is all around us and everywhere and so much more than language. Language contributes to, and perpetuates, ableism. Ableist acts can include language.

But I keep thinking of the time in Fall 2013 when I started having seizures from a medication interaction. The seizures were atypical. No one knew what they were, least of all me, too out of it to tell that something was actually terribly wrong.

What I most vividly recall is not even the night I had my worst episode, but the day after, when my friend and I talked about it and she'd been terrified to call 911 because of the way I was presenting. Because I was slurring incoherently like I was having some sort of non-neurological or physically based episode, and she knew what happens to people in the psychiatric systems if they go wrong. She knew the way I was presenting would land me in the psych ward.

More drastically, I think of the man who ended up in the mental health system during a crisis, and the state of Maine put his cat down and sold his home.

When we have to be so afraid of our psychiatric system...? That's the result of ableism.

Sometimes I think about all the dead and murdered people too, like Dustin Hicks, a recent one close to home. My chapter just had to write a statement on it. The news outlets declined to even reply to my encouragement to publish all or part of the statement. One news report discussed his mother and reasons why she might want to kill him. None mentioned that he deserved to live, or that his death was a tragedy. We know almost nothing about him.

When we have to issue statements over and over again urging people to report responsibly and call our deaths, not our lives, tragedies? That's the result of ableism.

I think of all the various intersections we have between other identities, too. We are not a monolith. I think of the many, many people of color with disabilities who face racism and ableism, sometimes with deadly or injurious consequences. I think of the #FreeNeli campaign, and how long it took many of us white folks to start tweeting on it after the initial call for tweets. I think of Neli himself, unjustly incarcerated for being black and autistic, in isolation. The governor finally did issue a conditional pardon.

I think of Kayleb Moon-Robinson, one of the many students of color and students with disabilities disproportionately referred to law enforcement. An eleven-year-old charged with a felony. The school to prison pipeline is real...

I think of those of us who hold many identify facets, like being LGBTQ+, a person of color, a religious minority, as well as being disabled.

When we have those intersections meet in a dangerous way, amplified by multiple marginalized identities, the ableism and other -isms and -phobias become intertwined, and not the result of purely ableism. These intersections matter.

I think of how someone got kicked out of their house by their roommates for being autistic.

I think of history, too. I think of the sordid history of locking people with psychiatric disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and developmental disabilities in institutions...

I think of the nasty history of eugenics. (The .pdf is American and German history of eugenics only, as I lack a college library to find the other physical sources. Also, there's a typo at one point where I meant to say “Indiana passed the first sterilization law in 1907.”). How it affected so many with disabilities (and other intersections).

I think of how nowhere was physically accessible, how Ed Roberts couldn't go to school unless he lived in the infirmary.

I think of activists crawling up the Capitol steps to protest and demand the ADA's passage. Don't let the black and white photographs in the coverage of the Capitol Crawl let you think that this was long-gone history. We only just hit 25 years of the ADA.

I think of the long, long history ableism has. Ableism is not new.


Could I go on? Yes.

I fear being too depressing. I fear a lot of things. Mostly, I am sometimes frightened of the world.

We could stand to be gentler of people still learning the new words that change so much. Ableism is far more than a list of words and we need all the good hearts we can find. Clumsy language on the part of someone who is trying (and who may have communications-based disabilities!) is something to be less concerned about than the dead and wounded around us. Clumsy language on the part of someone who is trying should, perhaps, receive calling in, not calling out.

Ableism seems insurmountable, and there will never be a great sweeping moment where we crush it entirely. But I think we're making a dent. We've come 25 years since the ADA. Seattle has some crappy curbs that Disability Rights Washington is taking them to task for. Ableism still goes on and on. But we're making a dent. The largest non-profit in the nation dedicated to eradicating autism had its donations drop. Their president is resigning, though this may have been a planned move. We are producing documentaries of our pain and sorrow, of our challenges and stories, of our hopes and dreams.

We have people among us becoming lawyers and professionals and influencing that way. We have others in grassroots advocacy and policy advocacy. We have those whose advocacy is for themselves only, fighting to survive and be heard and respected (and that's okay). We want our brethren to survive. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Autistics Speaking Day: Building Hope

Autistics Speaking Day: Building Hope: Kit Mead

My first experience with neurodiversity was something built gradually from the ground up. It built itself around social connections first, and someone driving me to a public lecture on autism and neurodiversity. Gradually reaching out and pulling together a community. It was the beginnings of what would be the disability student group on campus and my ASAN chapter.

It was a revelation, to say the least. I learned about an entire culture. I myself fell into it hard and fast but the community took a while to build locally.

I am proud of what everyone involved in all that has accomplished.


The Internet has always been my second home. I started an “autism blog” in 2013. I had been on Tumblr before, but not knowing about neurodiversity and mostly reblogging things like cats.

Autistics have a lot of pain to work through, which I have seen flashing up all around me. We have a lot of trauma and ours is the history of a group maltreated. Having pain to work through is fine.

We do have a community, diverse among its interests and identities. We have more people discovering how their brains work every day. It is important to cultivate a disability identity in people carefully and with kindness. Autistics have a lot of pain to work through.


Autism is a neurotype, not a political belief system or other set of beliefs. We share a neurotype. We are diverse. We have pain. We have different opinions. I've seen us come together on a lot of issues and part on others, recent though my addition to the neurodiversity movement is.


The reason I joined neurodiversity was because someone found me and realized that I could contribute something. They helped me learn, slowly, to create an identity out of disability. I read everything I could get my hands on. I came into neurodiversity when the community was speaking out even louder than ever against groups like Autism Speaks. I embraced it.

I was fortunate. I managed to pick up what words to use and had some talent with writing that lent itself well to blogging. I had someone patient to teach me. I joined neurodiversity because someone helped bring me into it. I have hopes for this community. In some areas, I fear for it. The splits seem wide in many areas.


There are many types of advocacy and activism.

For instance: resistance can be self-advocacy. Self-advocacy can be resistance.

If you write just one blog post, you have contributed. If you're not on the front lines and doing spitfire activism, and are quieter in the background, you have contributed.

Some people would argue that “quiet activists” do no good, but I disagree.

We have room for all kinds of activists and advocates in this community. Some are newer, and perhaps we could learn to handle each other more gently.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Interviewing folks about NeuroTribes

This ableist article titled “Can We Please Stop Whitewashing Autism” (CN: Ableism, functioning labels, autism as tragedy narrative) is about NeuroTribes.

It’s not, as the title would suggest, about the real erasure autistic PoC face. The author is more concerned that a journalist is trying to treat autism with more respect.

It’s also by someone who has not even *read NeuroTribes with an open mind*. The author of the article has also blocked the author of NeuroTribes from a different thread. 

I'm going to to interview some people: M.o. Kelter from Invisible Strings, Chavisory, and Shannon Rosa of TPGA.

Q1: What is your reaction to the backlash articles against NeuroTribes, in general?

M.o. Kelter: Neurotribes covers so much territory that there is room for constructive criticism. And I think Steve Silberman has been more than willing to listen to constructive criticism. People have discussed stories and histories that they feel could been focused on more and I think all of that can be part of a healthy discussion. So, I would separate fair criticism from what I see as distorted, unfair criticism. For example, when people say “Neurotribes presents autism as this wonderful thing” means they didn't read the book. Neurotribes describes a huge, diverse range of autistic experiences. From what I can tell, most of the backlash falls into this second category, where folks are attacking the book for claims it never makes.

Shannon Rosa: Eye rolling. I've yet to see a statement from an anti-neurodiversity perspective that can't be countered by direct quotes from the book. 

I think people are upset by the success of Silberman's campaign for accepting and understanding autistic people like my son and my friends, and his rejection of the usual "brave" horror show accounts. Heavens forbid anyone attempt to derail the decades of abuse and stigma suffered by autistic people (and their families)!

Chavisory: I find it pretty predictable, honestly. Steve's research is groundbreaking, but people who are really, really sunk in the line of reasoning that autism is a terrible affliction were always going to find it all too easy to dismiss his findings as biased or wishy-washy...

Q2: So do you think the backlash articles are absolutely strawmanning the issue that he didn't include accounts of what “real autism” is like? In quotes, because all autistic people... are autistic.

Mo. Kelter: Definitely. In most of the cases I've seen, it's a willful, intentional straw man fallacy. The real fear that's motivating some of the backlash is that people might read Neurotribes and start thinking of autistics as human beings. Certain camps just don't want this. But their criticism, that “real” autism is left out: it ignores the actual content of the book. He includes a variety of experiences.

Shannon Rosa: : Well, yes. Those accusations are B.S.-- the very first autistic person mentioned in the book is a girl with "severe" autism, and she's far from the only high-support autistic person featured. Full disclosure: my family's story is included, and I find it perplexing that anyone who read about my son would question the reality of his autism.

Chavisory: Yes, for the most part. He wrote extensively about the first people diagnosed with autism in the US--Kanner's patients are literally the prototypical cases of "Kanner autism," it's just that they've been grossly misrepresented by history and frankly, by people with their own stakes in believing autism to be the horrific affliction they believe it to be. He profiled people like Leo Rosa, who as his mother reiterates pretty much constantly, is minimally verbal, has a lot of emotional regulation issues, and requires 24/7 one on one support. Even to take an obvious genius like Henry Cavendish, I hope that it was very clear from Steve's descriptions of his life just how debilitated he was by it--like, he had a second staircase built in his house just to be able to doubly avoid being seen by anyone else ever? That's an *extreme* level of exposure anxiety and aversion to human contact, and obviously it had a profound effect on how Cavendish had to live his life.

Q3: How would you address claims that he's using neurodiversity as a tool to make things all glossy? Is that also a strawman argument?

M.o. Kelter: It's an argument that cherry picks a very, very small portion of the book and then blows it out of proportion. The book includes a few profiles of autistic savants. this too glossy? No. What's happening here is that people are shooting the messenger. Silberman is covering a huge swathe of history...and until recently? Very, very few autistic experiences were recorded. One reason Neurotribes includes a few autistic savants is because those were the only stories that were recorded for a long time. Autistics with communication challenges, or with greater self-care challenges, and so on...they were institutionalized, often killed, always hidden away. Neurotribes is not concealing autistic stories. Society did that. It still does that. What the book tries to do is look at that history...the history of how autistics were defined and treated and prevented from being part of the society around them. It's a messenger about autism history, not the mechanism suppressing that history. I think some people are just very reluctant to see the ugly truth about why autistic stories were completely absent for so long.

Shannon Rosa: I would say those claims are being delivered by people who are preemptively prejudiced, don't understand neurodiversity at all, hate-read the book, and/or somehow failed to notice anything but the "strange gift" section of this passage:

"Whatever autism is, it is not a unique product of modern civilization. It is a strange gift from our deep past, passed down through millions of years of evolution.Neurodiversity advocates propose that instead of viewing this gift as an error of nature—a puzzle to be solved and eliminated with techniques like prenatal testing and selective abortion—society should regard it as a valuable part of humanity’s genetic legacy, while ameliorating the aspects of autism that can be profoundly disabling without adequate forms of support."

Chavisory: Mostly I think the people making that claim either have never understood neurodiversity or are deliberately misrepresenting it. More the former than the latter...I just mainly think that a ton of these people *cannot* get their heads around the concept that many human abilities and inabilities are two sides of the same coin, or that autism, which *looks* only like a severe set of inabilities to them, has another side that might not be apparent to someone determined not to see it.

Q4: What do you think the message of NeuroTribes is? What it's trying to say about autism? How do you think it does with encompassing a variety of autistic people?

M.o. Kelter: For me, the message is: autism has always been here. We've always been afraid of it, tried to hide it. And it's time to see autistics as human beings, not as “diseased”, “tragic” or part of an “epidemic”. I wouldn't even say most of the book has a “message”, since it's not about Silberman's is primarily a history of how autism was researched and defined over many decades...and that history speaks for itself, in a lot of ways. Someone can sincerely disagree with Silberman's personal take on any given issue...but you can't disagree with facts. And most of the book is a historical overview, not an opinion piece.

Shannon Rosa: I doubt Silberman would phrase it quite this way, but in my opinion NeuroTribes is a history of how an entire innocent population has historically and systematically been [expletive] over, maltreated, and ostracized, how we can stop doing that, and how we can start treating autistic people like human beings, whatever their abilities or needs.

Chavisory: I think NeuroTribes primarily succeeds at relating how the story of autism, and thus our perceptions of autistic people, has been so distorted by history, by bad research, by self-serving researchers, by the ease with which various popular self-appointed experts have been able to use autistic people as a projection screen for whatever their own fears and obsessions were. To say that it establishes that autism has been historically misrepresented is an understatement.
I do wish that it had represented a wider variety of autistic people...but not in the ways that most people are complaining about. And I do understand that Silberman was working under editorial constraints that probably made inclusion of everything *he* wanted to include difficult.
But I would've liked to have seen more representation of what was happening to undiagnosed autistic people prior to the 1990's who *weren't* in the sciences or tech sector. Rural autistic people, autistic people in the arts and humanities, autistic people who were misdiagnosed and/or institutionalized etc., because the expanded diagnostic criteria actually included *them* for the first time as well, autistic people of color....

But like, there's just not a ton of material openly available about these people, because of the distortion that Silberman is writing about.

Q5: What are some things you hope for moving forward from NeuroTribes?

M.o. Kelter: For too long, the window of “what can we discuss when we discuss autism?” has been skewed in this very negative, inaccurate direction. People were focused on conspiracy theories and vaccine nonsense, for example. My hope is that Neurotribes pushes that window in a new, better direction. Hopefully we can talk about, in a bigger public sphere, autistic lives and experiences (and this means the full range of autistic experiences, with no stories left out or suppressed), so that people are learning to see these issues in a more constructive, informed way.

Shannon Rosa: I hope it inspires well-funded philanthropists to work on items to improve the day-to-day quality of life for autistic people, things like affordable alternative communication strategies and equipment, or gear for coping with sensory issues (e.g., inexpensive noise canceling headphones in every classroom). 

I hope it inspires more autism professionals to apply neurodiversity principles to their work.

I hope it allows parents to love their autistic kids more freely.

And I hope it helps autistic people feel empowered, vindicated, rightfully angry, visible, and connected.

Chavisory: I would really hope that more and more of the general reading public would start looking towards autistic people to understand our stories and who we are. I hope that NeuroTribes will make people who are still learning, or don't know much at all about autism, or still questioning what they think, feel compelled to weigh accounts by autistic people against the professional misconceptions. Like, NeuroTribes will probably be the first thing that some people ever read about autism, and that makes me really happy to think about.

I hope that more people will think seriously about whether, given the known contributions of autistic people to human culture, whether erasing us, and our cognitive diversity, from the future is really what we should be striving to do.

Friday, October 2, 2015

On Mass Shootings: Scapegoats and the Manipulation of the Public

On Mass Shootings: Scapegoats and the Manipulation of the Public

Part One: Fearing for Neurodivergence

I sit in a coffee shop. The headlines on the newspaper stand are all the UCC mass shooting. I am afraid to go near them. I am afraid to move like I usually do. I am afraid to twitch and jiggle my legs and duck my head like I usually do.

I worry about other people with disabilities and mental illnesses that will look too “weird” and “suspicious” in public today. I fear the police for them, especially if they are of color. Apart from the police, there are other looming threats against people who are visibly neurodivergent. We have a psychiatric system built on the recognition of “weird” and “suspicious” behaviors. Our behaviors are pathologized. Our behaviors scare people.

Really, what appears so dangerous to the public as the unexplained and sometimes disruptive?

Sit... listen... imagine what it would be like if people blamed people who shared a major characteristic with you for every mass shooting, en masse. Imagine.

Part Two: Excuses

So many of the mass shooters that make the media are white. Many openly publish manifestos on their blogs or whatever platform they choose. Then everyone blames mental illness/neurodivergence. It is easier to blame us for society's mishaps than to admit the problem is racism, misogyny, or what have you. It is easier to take a marginalized population, many of whom are vulnerable, and exploit us and try to get more of us locked away and stripped of rights than to address the virulent culture of racism and misogyny. (I'm looking at the media... and laypeople... and President Obama... and Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA).

Someone I know said they are “far less afraid of mental illness than violent, narcissistic entitlement.” The root of mass shootings is societal ills rather than mental illnesses. Mass shooters shoot out of a massive sense of entitlement which society creates. Then society blames us. There are differences between belief systems that enable someone to shoot ten people than mental illness.

Part Three: The Murphy Bill's False Solutions

The Murphy Bill took advantage of Sandy Hook. It took advantage of a fearful society and exploited them and us mentally ill folks.

I will post a transcription of the Autistic Self Advocacy's document on the Murphy Bill, along with an image of the document below, and I urge to you write/call to your Congresspeople against this, and spread the word. On October 7, 2015, there will be a social media push against the Murphy Bill.

"Why Your Member of Congress Should Oppose HR. 3717 
*Note: now HR 2646

After the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) introduced HR. 3717, legislation designed to take advantage of media associations inaccurately linking mental health and violent crime to rollback civil rights protections of people with psychiatric disabilities. It is intended to completely change the current state of mental health services to make it easier to forcibly treat people with psychiatric disabilities, expand institutionalization and reduce privacy rights and legal protections. Here are some talking points you can use when speaking with your congressional offices about why they should oppose HR. 3717:
The bill would reduce privacy protections for both people with mental illnesses and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The bill allows disclosure of confidential psychological and psychiatric information to family and caregivers in additional circumstances to those already defined in current privacy laws. Right now, doctors and therapists can give confidential health and mental health information to family and caregivers in emergency situations or if they have permission from the person getting treatment. The bill would allow doctors and therapists to give confidential health and mental health information to family and caregivers even without permission and without emergency circumstances.
The bill also allows for greater influence from family and caregivers, including forcing involuntary medication and institutionalization.
The bill will provide federal government funding for more institutionalization. This will mean less money is available for other community-based services. The bill will also cut the budget for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s community integration projects to a little over a third of what it is now.
The bill would also require all states to create programs that allow judges to order people to take psychiatric medications that they do not want to take. The best way to help people get mental health treatment is to make it available and give people support, not to get the courts involved.
Legal Protections
The bill takes away many legal protections available to people with mental illnesses through the Protection and Advocacy program, which is the largest and most accessible program for legal services for people with disabilities. Over 80% of the funds for Protection and Advocacy for people with psychiatric disabilities would be taken away.
The bill establishes an unnecessary assistant secretary position to oversee the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration which would be financially supported by a portion of the budget allocated to supports for people with mental illnesses.”