Monday, April 20, 2015

Autism Acceptance Challenge 13: Explore the Archives

It had been a long time since I’d visited the archives at If you have been around for a while, you may remember when was still being updated regularly. You may remember when it was one of a very few places to find writing by and about autistic people. There were not a lot of autistic bloggers in the early 2000’s. There was no ASAN. There were a couple of online communities where there was way too much talk of functioning labels and separatism for me to stomach. was one of the first places I could go to read the stories of like minded people.

In revisiting the site in preparation for this post, I expected to find some outdated language and perhaps problematic ideas. Given the number of posts on my own blog that I would not have written today (or would have written very differently) this seemed a reasonable expectation. There are a few broken links, but fewer than I'd expected. The page about's presence on Second Life is still intact. What surprised me a little was the number of articles that are still so very relevant.

From The Conference Presentation I Won’t Make (But Want To) by Laura A. Tisoncik: “The experience of being one of three autistics at a large conference dedicated to autism is somewhat like that of being one of three mothers at a large conference dedicated to Motherhood.” Have we made any progress in this arena? Enough?

Mel Baggs’ How to Become an Autism Expert instructs would-be authorities to study their vocabulary words, including “divisive,” “infighting,” and “unity.” Didn't I just have this argument last week? Are we still fighting the same warped definitions of “community” all these years later?

Joel Smith reminds us that we do not need to discount the experiences of others in order to have pride in ourselves and our community in Autistic Pride Day: Do We Celebrate it Right?

From is just one of the places to start exploring the history of the autistic rights movement. Here are some others:

Please post other links to Autistic history in the comments. 

CHALLENGE: Read some of these articles. Don't limit yourself to the ones I listed here.
If you've read them before, choose a couple to read again. Respond by answering one or more of these questions:
1.       What has changed for autistic people since these pieces were written?
2.       What still needs to change?
3.       Why does our history matter? Or does it?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Autism Acceptance Challenge 12: Public Displays of Autism

This is a tricky one to talk about. I believe strongly that greater visibility is one of the keys to acceptance. I have been openly queer most of my life and openly autistic since I found the name to describe my neurological differences. I also recognize that there is a load of privilege in this. There are people for whom passing as non-autistic is never a choice. There are also those who pass in order to protect their jobs, families, or even their lives. It is not for me to decide that everyone should be “out.” I do believe that changes in societal attitudes will emerge from the recognition that we are here in the families, communities, and workplaces alongside the puzzle wearing crusaders. I do believe that it becomes more difficult for people to unthinkingly proclaim that autism should be eradicated when faced with the reality that this person would not exist in such a world.

Think of this as less of a challenge, then, more of an invitation. Be autistic in public. Go somewhere and refuse to suppress your own natural expressions. Flap, pace, rock, bounce, squawk. Repeat things. Take an animatronic parrot to lunch. Be yourself.

If you are not autistic, think about the things you do that soothe you. Do you twist your hair? Click your pen? Tap your foot? Talk about the weather? Why have you not been shamed for these things or been told or trained not to do them?

Also, if you are not autistic, go out with people who are. Don’t correct them when they say or do something autistic. Observe how that feels, and how other people around you respond. 

Come back here and tell me your story. You have the rest of April to complete this challenge…er…invitation. If it is not something you are able to do, you can participate by explaining why it isn't possible. What would you need in order to feel safe? And if this is something you already do every day, of course that counts too. Just leave your comment to be included.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Autism Acceptance Challenge 11: Choose Your Challenge

We are halfway through the Squawkers McCaw Autism Acceptance Challenge. Over the next 2 weeks, I’ll be posting challenges about stimming, scripts, history, community, and several other topics. I have at least one post that is still undecided. For today’s challenge, let me know what else you would like to see included. I will choose a comment from this post and use it to create a future challenge.

Here are the results of the contest so far:

If you think I have missed a challenge you completed, let me know. All challenges except for number 1 (Walk in Red) will remain open through April 30. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Autism Acceptance Challenge 10: Turn it Down

You wonder why it’s so hard to have a conversation with me. I have no idea what you are saying. Way before the trouble with dual meanings and taking things literally and the time it takes to process spoken language and the time it takes to formulate a response that will make sense to you, the first barrier is the noise. I asked you to slow down, and you tried to slow down, and you maybe did a pretty good job of it—not doing that thing people do to Deaf and Autistic people and people with intellectual disabilities and speakers of foreign languages, that thing where you lean in and double down on eye contact and enunciate as though lives depended on it— but actually slowing the pace of your conversation. Thank you for that. But what about the noise?

More than one person speaking at once or a TV on in the background or that terrible sound coming out of the tiny speakers on your phone or iPad can prevent an autistic person from hearing what you are trying to say. Too many sounds at once can lead to a meltdown. My brain is not sorting these things the way non-autistic brains do. I cannot efficiently weed out what you might think of as background noise. Each piece of information is as valid and important as the next.

What would help? Turn it down. While you’re at it, please turn down the lights. Textures, tastes, and smells also need to be dialed back for many of us to function well.

Squawkers in a calm, quiet place. 
The last time you saw someone having a meltdown, was it in a calm, quiet environment? Did you or anyone think to take the person immediately to such a place (preferably before their tolerance level was exceeded)?

Acceptance is a quiet room (dimly lit) where people talk slowly and make sure everyone has a turn communicate in whatever way works best.

To complete this challenge, pay attention to the environments you live in, work in, move through.  In the comments, discuss how you can make these places more autism friendly. Whether you are autistic or non-autistic, share your story about turning down sensory input. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Autism Acceptance Challenge 9: What Will You Do?

No fun and games today.

Once again a young Black autistic man has been victimized by those who were charged with protecting him. Kayleb Moon-Robinson kicked a trash can at his middle school. He was subsequently arrested, handcuffed, charged with and convicted of a felony. Yes, he tried to resist. What would you do? What would you do if you were Black and autistic and therefore conditioned to being treated as less than human?

He kicked a trash can.
Not a person.
Not a computer.
Not another kid's favorite toy.
A trash can.

Go read this. 
Read the links on this post.

I'm not going to try to say this stuff better than it's already been said.

Think about this.
What does our community do in cases like this? Do we do enough?
What did you do to support Neli Latson? 
What will you do for Kayleb Moon-Robinson?

Will you sign the petition?
Will you share this story with everyone you know?
Will you write or call a legislator?
Will you demand that the organizations claiming to support autistic people take a stand?

Think about what you will do.
Tell me.

Kayleb Moon-Robinson

Monday, April 13, 2015

Autistic Acceptance Challenge 8: Responding to Stuff

For Challenge 8, practice your responses to the kinds of things we hear all the time. From "You must be very high functioning," to "stop making excuses," we've heard them all. Watch this video and leave your best response to one of these questions in the comments here. Responses can be educational or snarky. No slurs against any group permitted.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Autism Acceptance Challenge 7: Support Autistic Bloggers

Autism Acceptance Challenge 7: Read More Blogs. Win your own Squawkers McCaw.
Who are your favorite autistic bloggers? Do you have a favorite post, old or new, that celebrates autism acceptance or calls out anti-autistic rhetoric or actions? Leave a link in the comments and let me know why you chose it. This challenge is about autistic bloggers only. If you would like to recommend a non-autistic blog for its posts on autism acceptance and support of autistics, please do that in the comments on Challenge 4: TrueAllies.

Okay, I'll go first.

These are two of my favorites:

Julia at Just Stimming doesn't post much these days (we have this in common), but when she does the writing is so achingly good and true and original.  Two excerpts:

"And it’s a big problem, because the way they talk…..they think the problem was that they treated their child like they were intellectually disabled, and they weren't. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that they thought their child was intellectually disabled, and so they didn't treat them like a person."

"Echolalia is metalanguage.

Echolalia is an unexpected treasure hunt. You can be watching a bootleg musical you never thought would be any good, but turns out to be beautiful, and suddenly they’re going up the scale singing hot hot hot hot, and you’re back with Kimba, and he’s saying hot hot hot hot–only he’s got this elaborate metaphor about fire and anger going on right now, and here it means I think you’re mad at me, so I’m mad at you, don’t touch me.

And then you’re back at your laptop, wondering when he started watching musicals and rethinking half the things you thought you knew."

Kassiane writes at Radical Neurodivergence Speaking. She says the things other people won’t say in the ways other people won’t say them. She speaks the truth, she is neurodivergent with flaming arrows. She gets death threats and other terrible stuff for her efforts. Everyone who reads this needs to go thank her right now for her commitment to speaking the harshest truths while some of us get to keep our politeness privilege and be seen as the good, or at least less awful autistics. 

Some must-read posts from Radical Neurodivergence Speaking:

There are so many other bloggers I could mention, but it’s your turn now.  If you are not familiar with many autistic bloggers, check the blogroll in the sidebar here for more suggestions. Go to their blogs and see who’s in their blogrolls. Read stuff. And then get back here and tell me about it.