Thursday, December 31, 2015

My 2015 Year in Review

My new year in review: from getting accepted into UMKC's graduate a Disability Studies program, to taking on powerful groups for the betterment of my fellow autistics in Warrensburg, to finishing my BS in Cultural Studies. Later my first pet-sitting job followed by speaking to Camp Encourage's autistic youth, followed by many long days of work, to art classes and nights spent with Tyler. Later starting at UMKC, turning twenty-six, finishing my first graduate semester, and creating many stories, songs, and graphic novels, along with reading several of my Lord of the Rings books and catching up with friends from high school, junior college, and UCM, while connecting with the wonderful Arc of Douglass County/Self-Advocate Coalition in Lawrence. Lastly I look back to getting an offer to come back to my volunteer job from high school at Ten Thousand Villages, endless hours of environmental activism, and one memorable night revisiting the autistic community I started at JCCC. My next year: spend more time with the people I care about, less listening to negativity or giving a shit about someone else's drama, more time working on my writing, art, and environmental crafts, listening more to what my gut tells me, and finish the conclusion to my account of my time spent in Warrensburg, Missouri, and then start on the writing of my account after Warrensburg and the aftermath of the experience, and my stories of dealing with issues in the autistic and disabled community at home and the pleasures and challenges of being here. I also learned to stop doubting and just believe there's a way for things to work out in my love life, for if I stop fostering all this negativity, things will find a way. Clearly, I'm proud of a lot, though it doesn't mean I am free of my own issues in every area of my life. However, I know what I want, and am willing to go far with the people who help me get there. Happy New Year, everybody.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Autistic Thanksgiving (kind of) after Twenty-Six Years of Life

Today is my twenty-sixth Thanksgiving, and, while I am grateful for the great things in my life everyday, I will say that I am also grateful for being able to join my dad and grandparents after work at Buca di Beppo (Italian restaurant), enjoying bread sticks with olive oil and particularly saucy hot pizza, and finishing it off with canoli sticks. Sometimes that interaction-despite knowing the tragic Native American side of the story of this day-allowed me to gleam more of who I am and why I am grateful for what I have and what is in my life. Sometimes (as I know all too well as an autistic activist), you will run into the most narcissistic people; people who revel in what they've been through and reach the conclusion that the world revolves around them, and their sufferings and experiences are more important than anyone else's in their lives (autistic and a woman has been called a double disability, as has being from other marginalized backgrounds). But as I indulged in banter with my family, I thought "People on this earth have gone through everything they did, and are alive after all that." I (have known) some of the happiest people in the world who are not alive after split-second car wrecks, terminal illnesses, and other misfortunes that can happen to anyone (including me). As I thought this, I also realized "Whatever some people have survived, be it true or not, they might not have lasted if they had lived in someone else's shoes." I know I have lived in mine, and nobody can judge better than I would who could have survived this life that has made me happier than ever. I am a small town autistic Buddhist with a passion for environmentalism and Lord of the Rings fandom. As I learned when I moved away from city life and spent the next four years in Warrensburg, Missouri, small towns are extremely barren for autistic individuals, in terms of services, basic understanding, and outlets for cultural expressions. Occassionally you will see "discussion" on autism, but it tends to be shallow, gimmicky, neurotypical-led advertising where the host group accrues great financial benefits while belittling grass roots autistic work. In Buddhist circles meanwhile, I find even there I can feel alone and marginalized as a non-neurotypical individual. This has even led to misunderstandings and the unfortunate burning of bridges with many NT Buddhist friends (though thankfully none at the Pathless Land or JCCC's SGI chapter). While many NT Buddhists are rejected by their conservative Christian parents, I find myself rebuffed by my fellow co-religionists. I find myself grateful that I can do my morning meditation every day with my homemade altar and still refuse to honk angrily at some driver ahead of me inside his SUV. Buddhist culture is not something people automatically grasp or accept in small towns in Missouri either, and it took months before I thought rationally enough to stop concealing my Buddhist practice from my roommate and best friend from junior college. As for small town life, I am reminded everyday that these areas hardly seem to be on the radar of everyday autistic rights activists and well-known individuals. They have grown up in cities, filled their shelves with participation trophies, devoid of post-secondary education in history, government, sociology, and anthropology, and away from the poverty of Warrensburg that enables a culture of "trigger-warnings," allowing student voices equipped with twenty-year old computer knowledge engaged in academic and departmental debates to win by default and become experts in their field of study. For me, I created all evidence of autistic culture in my life from scratch-markers, embroidery floss, pencils, candy wrappers, old CDs, paper and ink-to the point where I suddenly realize what a fellow autistic friend from Central Missouri meant about autistic cultures when she said, "Rural Missouri is where it's at." I thought about the culture of Central Missouri, and realized it is the perfect training ground for autistic rights activists, a hostile climate to provide the growth-giving hardships that soldiers are well beyond knowing. There are no safe zones, no trigger warnings, and the vast majority of your activism better be off-line because this town is too close and full of things going on for people to search the internet until they find your results. Sometimes I fear for the autistic rights movement because I know the young people who it will soon be shaped by are being raised under a coddling culture, which would never have allowed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks to openly defy the white government at all costs. I am grateful that I have still been able to believe in such a cause because I have done it in such a hostile environment before and will undoubtedly do it again many, many times. Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

5 Drawings: In Honor of Autistic History Month

For many autistics around the world, November is Autistic History Month ("because we need to know our history"-in the words of Kate Gladstone, see here), and in honor of this month, I've taken some drawings I've done recently to honor it.


I used this as my Facebook profile picture a few months ago.  It, of course, refers to autistic's tendency to stim (flapping hands, rocking, etc.)



Like the crests used by ancient Scottish clans, this represents the autistic world as one big human family (if not one where people fight with each other and don't talk for months) with five colors commonly associated with autistic rights organizations-gold (for which we have the chemical symbol Au, the first two letters of Autistic), red, taupe, orange, and purple, and five common autistic symbols-the butterfly, a flower, infinity sign, and a heart, along with the slogan of the Disability Rights Movement and the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network "Nothing About Us Without Us."  This was also another profile picture.


Another profile picture, my likeness drawn in the four main autistic colors-gold, red, taupe, and orange.



 
This one's pretty self-explanatory.  It got many likes and a share from a mother of an autistic child who I am a Facebook friend of, saying alongwith it, "My son is not a puzzle piece."
 
 
 
In light of the recent attacks in Paris, I saw profile pictures going around of the French flag with a puzzle piece inside.  I liked the idea, but decided to change it to the autistic infinity symbol (as the puzzle piece is very disliked by proud autistics like myself to represent them).
 

 
The University of Central Missouri mascot with the rainbow infinity inside it.  Another profile picture of mine.
 
 
My latest Facebook cover photo, a charm necklace (that exists only in my head) of an autistic Buddhist, Johnson County Community College, UCM, University of Missouri Kansas City student, environmentalist, Tolkien fan.
 
There is also of course the newest picture for The Autist Dharma.  For more of my drawings, you can see my post from last April here.  Stay tuned.  I'll have some digital art work and multimedia pieces to share with you in honor of this month.  Good night.
 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Belated Veteran's Day Post

Since Veteran's Day is today (or yesterday, but I copied and pasted this from Facebook, fifteen minutes late after my computer lost power), at work we were giving free slices of pie to people to had served in our military. I would go back, getting apple, cherry, peach, and every other kind. At one point, a man said he wanted pecan, and it turned out we were out, but I brought four different kinds of slices and told him to choose whichever kind he wanted, and we kept those up for other veterans, though I kept going back to get more. I realized that giving them the pies wasn't so much a way of thanking them as doing it with so much care and respect. Now I honestly wanted to thank them as my coworkers were doing, but saying, "Thank you for your service," like they did just seemed off to me, and I found myself saying, "Thank you for everything." I realized, a great deal of veterans do not feel like they gave service though I do myself. What I will insist they gave was sacrifice. Service and sacrifice. The difference is subtle, yet profound. I also remembered hearing on the break room TV news sixty-five veterans committing suicide every day, and I know that people who commit suicide, or attempt to go about doing so, are not simply selfish. They believe there is no place for them in this world, which would be better off without them. Yet how can we call someone offer their lives for ourselves (on founded fears or not) selfish? We know that veteran benefits are being cut every day, and the transition to civilian life is complicated and overwhelming. Soldiers are trained to spot enemies, not friends. Soldiers come back having served in our country, sometimes on the basis of ill-founded politicians, and find themselves homeless and starving sometimes, and called lazy and selfish by people wearing yellow ribbons when they ask for the amount of money to buy a soda. The way they served their country is now virtually impossible in civilian life. Some have seen their friends die in combat to save their lives, and wonder why they are still alive. They cannot support their loved ones with the same modes that they have now that many of them are disabled. They know and hate that they have taken x amount of lives, regardless of how many they saved in comparison. The truth is, politicians grow to see soldier's lives as expendable, when they are actually inevitable risks. I hope though, that we will do more than just elect the politicians who will value soldiers lives to never be gambled for unfounded puropses; I hope we create a culture where these politicians will never happen period. This is far more than about any political party, philosophy, religious belief, or ideology. It is about the differences between false performances and genuine ones. Having Veteran's Day parades, tying yellow ribbons, and giving out one hundred free pies is not a enough to show respect. If you vilify a veteran trying their only way to get money, think you cannot extent government funds to help our soldiers readjust, and think you have any notion in mind as to how these people should be a veteran, please do not say you support the troops, because you do not.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Living the Autistic Mythos


Having studied different cultures of the world academically for seven years, I have come to learn how all cultures shape their world view through mythos, or mythology.  I had gone to a local community college in my hometown of Kansas City for three years, and after that, I went to school at the University of Central Missouri in the small town of Warrensburg, Missouri, an hour’s drive away from my home, and there I declared and received my degree in Cultural Studies.  My current career ambition is writing-novels, poems, histories, philosophy, songs, etc.—but a series of taking several classes just out of pure interest followed by the sudden desire to graduate school with a bachelor’s degree in good time led to me picking a hasty, individualized major, but one that would enrich my world view all the same.  During that time, I came to learn about the idea of “mythos.”  Myths in this sense do not mean lies or misconceptions.  According to Ronald Wright, author of Stolen Continents, myths are “an arrangement of past events, whether real or imagined, in a pattern that resonates with the culture’s deepest values and aspirations…so fraught with meaning that we live and die by them.”  These “values and aspirations”—beyond religion, politics, and philosophy--are expressed by different cultures in things as taken for granted as every day conversation amongst people in each culture.  The more I learned about different cultures across the world, the more I began to think of the culture of my own country, and eventually, the culture of the autistic community, at home and abroad—a community and culture that I believe moreover share a common, albeit latent, world view, and the common stories they share reflect this and what it means to be an autistic person. 
                I believe, as other autistic rights activists do, that autism is not something a person suffers from, as much as they suffer from a society that benefits people who learn, live, and process in one way that it does others; that autistic people are not a recent epidemic of vaccines, genetic mutations, mothers over thirty-five, or bacon, but have been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years, as an evolutionary divergent strand of humanity like dyslexics and people with AD/HD, OCD, etc.; and that society needs to change to accommodate our differences, instead of changing our differences to accommodate it.  I also realize that every time I see my fellow autistics out there, I share a special connection to them.  I believe these ideas mean something to all of the autistic and autism community, even if some do not know it yet.  I have met individuals and families taking part in the walks and Light It Up Blue events of the pro-cure organization Autism Speaks, even though they reject AS’s medical model of autism, while wishing to know that they and their families are not alone.  In time, I have learned it is my job to show these individuals and families my own way to understand they are not alone, through building connections, planting seeds, and gaining trust.   
These views on the autistic people are reflected in my writing, art, music, and have been for the last five years.  In the last seven years, I would undertake many great projects in the name of these ideas, such as leading and starting autistic student unions at these colleges, writing blogs, and speaking to and mentoring autistic youth at summer camps and learning disabled schools.  During my lifetime, I have also heard about Autistic myths (both good and not so much)—autism and autistic life in films, among celebrities, historical individuals, across the world and throughout history, fighting for their rights, celebrating Autistic pride, going unnoticed in women and girls, existing in adults.  Films from Napoleon Dynamite to Sherlock Holmes to Adam; individuals such as Dan Akroyd, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein; books such as Roy Richard Grinker’s Unstrange Minds: Unmapping the World of Autism and Steve Silberman’s Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity; as well as issues of autistic adults from employment to relationships to dating; and events such as Autistic Pride Day, Autism Acceptance Day and Month, as well as Disability Day of Mourning.  While I certainly do no approve of everything about each “Autistic Myth” I see, I notice how these sociological and cultural aspects of autism have been a part of growing up and living for my fellow autistic rights activists, and I believe over time, these stories, these memes, these perceptions will develop to suit our current needs and ideas. 
When I think of the autistic community, I see we do in fact have our own deepest values and aspirations.  Now, while it is true that many autistics will adamantly argue for their autism to be “cured” and wish that they did not live with it, they do so because they have lived a life full of stigma and discrimination, which makes them blame themselves for their own struggles, reinforced by families, schools, and aggressive lobbying industries such as Autism Speaks.  Indeed, when people from any culture have been surrounded by people of another culture, they frequently become disconnected from their own identity, just as an American can do if they go to live abroad.  But, when I am surrounded by autistics in groups such as the local Autistic Self-Advocacy Network chapter in my area, I feel consistently like I belong, am comfortable, and can express ideas about myself and people like me, which is what it means to be a full member of a particular culture.  When I am around neurotypicals, particularly insensitive, domineering, and close-minded ones, I do not feel so comfortable being openly autistic like I do with ASAN.
                I have once heard a saying, “Other cultures are not failed versions of being you.  They are unique manifestations of the human spirit.”  For this reason, when I think of the Autistic culture, I think of autistics (the autistic community)—proud, self-respecting, and authentic people—and, by extension the people who care about them, such as (potentially) their family members, service providers, friends, spouses, and children, as opposed to groups making enormous profits, saying autism is like a tsunami, car wreck, lightning, or cancer, AIDS, and diabetes combined—groups like Autism Speaks.  Their message is simply crass and has no meaning to Autistic culture whatsoever.
                What seem to be common across the autistic/autism community are certain themes, which in fact all seem to make me believe in the idea of an autistic mythos.  These include themes such as autism in the media (movies, television, etc.), famous autistic people (Temple Grandin, Daryl Hannah, Andy Warhol), scholarship—learning about autism as a difference and how to better accommodate the needs of autistic individuals and families, and public events and recognition—whether events like World Autism Awareness Day and Light It Up Blue or, on a more positive note, Autistic Pride Day.  Seeing autism across different cultures, existing in historical figures, and being masked by behaviors, co-morbid conditions, and medications in women and girls demonstrate to me that our differences can blend in or stick out, depending on the culture and time we live in.  From looking at autistic characteristics showing up in film, television, fiction, and video game characters, I realize how my autism shapes the way I see and relate to people.  The famous autistic people of history and Silberman’s study of autistic individuals throughout time and space demonstrate that we are a timeless people, and not an epidemic, while contemporary notable autistic individuals make it clear that there are inspirational autistics today, and it is unnecessary to look at history to find them.  Autistic adults I have met over the course of my life time, struggling with school, relationships, and employment show me how absurd it is to simply wait around for a magic cure to our autistic realities, and need to get a hold of the situation while we have the chance, and thus making the need for any autism cure completely obsolete, as autistic rights activists have been saying for decades.  And while some events and public recognition of autism are more positive than some, I recognize that we autistics have the power to join together with the support of our friends, relatives, and supporters who make autistic existence what it is.  It is because of my life and education I have had on autism that I am willing to go to any lengths to help my autistic kin, and in that respect, I see what Wright means about how myths are something we live and die by.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Back to the Beginning: Autistic Homecoming

Yeah, obviously I haven't posted in a long time.  I have been working five days a week, going to night classes every Monday, and still getting back into life at Kansas City after four years in Warrensburg.  Heads up, my plan is to keep posting on The Autist Dharma, finish all my posts for Ben's Blog, ending with the conclusion of my time at Warrensburg (stayed tuned), which will be about eighteen more posts, and whose name I am planning on changing to The Autistic Mule, then continue the story of coming home and going to UMKC up until now, which will be about twelve posts, and I will call The Autistic Roo.  But for now I might just say something about this day, which I will sum up with this one recent Facebook post, which goes:

Well, today was quite an eventful day, where I went back to my old alma matter before the University of Central Missouri, Johnson County Community College, where my revolutionary activity in the autistic community began with starting the now thriving autistic community, the JCCC ASD Club. It began three or four weeks ago when my long-time friend and advisor, Sean Swindler, to JCCC ASDC invited me to the last meeting on the 10th at Laser Tag (which I was not able to attend because of my work schedule) and today's at JCCC's Down Under Food Court, which I asked off for in advance and was able to attend, to "see what I started." After driving down to JCCC hoping I got the time right (3:30 like it was when I was in charge of the group) I went down to the food court seeing a cluster of tables full of students and then from behind recognized Sean. After catching up, he said he hoped I would come as much as I could and I said I would, and I learned our last trip of the year (2015) would be a bus trip to Oak Park Mall, which made me decide to cancel my trip I had planned there afterwards. Then Sean asked me if he could introduce me as the founder of this group, which I said he could. Honestly, all the tales of thriving self-advocates and report of the events at JOCO left me quite unprepared emotionally for what I was about to see. I tried in my mind to get a head count of all the students, but kept losing my place, but I could see very clearly it was at least fourteen students, not including volunteers from KU Med and Karen Miller from the JCCC Accessibility Services who said she remembers seeing me when I gave my address to the JCCC Student Senate five years ago, which caused ASDC to become official and recognized throughout campus, and long-time autistic and multi-abled research partners who I knew during my time as president. And as I sat down, I saw a friend of mine and ASDC member from the time of our birth there after all these years, who I hadn't seen since then. We went around introducing ourselves, saying our names, what we were studying, and our favorite books, and I heard majors ranging from computer science to business and getting course requirements out of the way, and books from the Harry Potter series to Psychology texts, and I mentioned my favorite book as The Geography of Lograire by Trappist monk Thomas Merton, which I am currently reading, and my graduate Disability Studies and UMKC. Once we finished introducing ourselves, Sean introduced as the founder of the group, and unexpectedly, the whole host of autistic students and nursing student peer mentors started clapping, and two students came up to me and introduced themselves. I thought "I'm just here here as any other member like I intended this group to be." My final thoughts to the JCCC autistics as I left was, "My job here is done. It is your time to lead this community." We broke up into groups and pitched local outings, giving details such as the time, date, location, transportation and people needed, money, supplies to bring, and then we told it to the whole group to help us meet outside the group, which I was not familiar with. Afterwards we split into three groups, one staying downstairs to play board games, another going to the upper floors to play video game with each other, and, the one i joined, going to the upper food court, where I got Pizza Huts buffalo wings like I used to enjoy every day while at JOCO, and caught up with one of our researchers who I knew in the beginning, and saw Jennifer Smith from the Autism Society of the Heartland, picking up her daughter, saying, "You've been busy I've noticed." And I said, "All on my own time." before she asked me to share in a part on a local program Autism Mom's segment on autistic adult's lives, who she was referred to by a woman I know and mother of a close friend of mine in the autistic community, and agreed to share the details with me over Facebook messaging. I got downstairs and happened to notice one of the local members, from her name tag, was named Alyssa, adding to my swirl of memories, and then another member approached me and I answered questions of his about how I started the group. After we all started to leave, Sean and I talked, where I pointed out what I had done, and what's more told me I would, after having completed a year at the Disability Studies program, would be qualified for a position at the LEAD Center in Kansas City, which provides quite a handsome monthly stipend. After that I mentioned how even though we didn't get this group version quite formalized at UCM, the fomenting of activity we started meant more people in and connected to the autistic community were putting themselves out there, and with the help of one mentionable local autistic in my area, who is now coming to UCM, the likelihood of the group is very inevitable, and it, with Warrensburg's size, could change the whole town itself, and Sean said ASDC would be happy to help with that and the recently formalized Kansas City chapter of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network. I know what people will tell me, but truly I will say this thing is to big to belong to one person, and I am proud as a testament to what it says about the autistic community. Moreover, my various brothers and sisters in the autistic and pan-disabled community who have given me their love and support has meant everything to me, as much as the world itself, so naturally, obviously, I am so full of emotion from this day. Thank you.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Do's and Don't's of Disability Respect


Do’s and Don’t’s for Disability Respect

 

For the last four years I’ve gotten to experience the perception of autistic and disabled people in a collegiate community with educators, staff, social facilities, and people my own age.  One day when I look back, I’ll remember everything, the good and the bad; the things that would flatter my university and the things that won’t.  Disability is certainly talked about a lot in our society no doubt, mostly (varying from case to case) by able-bodied, seeing, hearing, neurotypicals.  Disabled people talk are merely just speaking on behalf of able-led groups in things for themselves.  Much of everyday student’s commitments to disability rights simply reminds me of the movement of offset rights in the West.  By paying a certain amount of money, the credit for a tree that has already been planted is given to you.  Like the indulgences of the Catholic Church, ableds are thinking they can by their way out of ownership by hashtagging pictures, electing pageant winners, and going to two-hour seminars, and take it from there.  People applaud themselves by giving disabled people temporary niches in the Special Olympics and then go back to their lives of refusing to accept us on our own merit.  Large posters go around telling us to “Ban the R-word,” yet they never seem to take claim of the words and phrases they belittle disabled people with on a regular basis.  I once talked to an autistic woman who was publicly called the R-word.  I understood her feelings were not to be pacified, but respected for their ability to show her the injustice, after exchanging thoughts, we both agreed: the R-word is the corsets women wore in the 1700’s.  They are not the oppression.  They are simply a symbol of the oppression.  Without undoing the world that produced this word, we can never make meaningful change at all.  But by living in the world of disabled people for twenty-five years, I’ve found a lot of the source of our trouble beyond bureaucratic frustrations, beyond medical confusion.  They are not glamorous.  They will not get one laid or paid, but they will make you true friends even if we must leave the false, and we will also see who they are.  Without commitment, they can never be adapted, but with genuine effort we will see what we are fighting for.  It will not change the world overnight, but it could save lives you do not see, until the time perhaps you wish to feel indispensable.  A like, a share, a hundred thousand dollars to promote this post will not replace following these things.  They must not be hobbies, but habits, and I know it is a long post to read, but it will still be on this blog tomorrow, so don’t worry about coming back. I have a “Do’s and Don’t’s List for Disability Respect” of ten basic rules, where I have tried to use a positive to balance the negatives, that may not cover every potential thing, but may help you reframe them.  This list goes:

-Do not: give yourself or seek recognition, praise, or self-promotion for treating a disabled person with basic human respect you are just supposed to show non-disabled people.  Don’t take the low-road and imply that we are less worthy of respect because of our differences.  Accepting it when you have done more than your part to make another person’s world better is slightly different, but it should not a) be done for personal gain, or b) to allow you to talk over or ask something in return from us that we did not agree to.

-Do not: base your respect for disabled people on “passing for normal.”  Rather than seeing a world of diverse abilities based on them all having to appear as part of the dominant one, learn about how disabled people should be allowed to express and communicate their way of being rather than hide who they are.

-Do not: EVER support or take part in the practices of excluding, limiting, censoring, manipulating, or subordinating the voices of disabled people on any mainstream discussion that in any way affects their image amongst the public or affairs related to their own lives.

-Do not: express, sympathize with, or help to underwrite any eugenic discussion that involves eliminating, preventing, controlling, or limiting the births of those who will be born or grow to have disabilities.  Their lives are far more important than their abilities to accommodate to your lifestyle or appear conducive to short-term economic effects.  Instead, figure out reasonable alternatives to organizations that support eugenics.

-Do not: base your support for disabled education, services, and employment on projections of their sheer economic potential.  Instead, learn about the gifts disabled people have to improve various parts of your life which are often things that able-bodied neurotypical people struggle with or overlook doing.

-Do not: EVER compare disabled people’s desires for supports and accommodation with there being a sizeable movement of people who want special treatment, having things handed to them, or to take advantage of others.  Are society is a LONG way from that.  Wake me when a disabled person will not be moved down a waiting list for kidney transplants or shot by police at the first sight that might suggest danger.  I have yet to mention a complete lack of diversity-ensuring measures on college campuses nationwide, guaranteed fair trials for child custody, meaningful access to higher education, and even clean drinking water here in the United States of America.  By the time I got through a thorough list, all my neurotypical friends would be fast asleep.

-Do not: treat disabled respect as a mere matter of human social evolution.  Stone-age tribes in Papua New Guinea and rural Mexico have centuries old traditions of disabled inclusion, integration, and roles offered to them.  Celtic tribes practicing human sacrifice had homes set aside for severely disabled.  Native American nomads invented the first forms of sign language, and Japan has a two-hundred year old tradition of blind spirit mediums.  Rather, learn about the think tanks, ill-constructed classifications, and lack of complete study on and speaking of disability in your own society.  Please avoid saying or implying, even literally or figuratively, that society is “figuring things out,” or is just going to realize its mistakes as if they are hard to figure out with high-profile openly disabled people such as Temple Grandin, Daryl Hannah, Heather Kuzmich, Muhammad Ali, Bob Dole, Stephen King, Angelina Jolie, John Denver, Daniel Tammot, Alexus Wineman, Lance Rice, Mike Newman, and so many others that you will be guaranteed to all be buying contraception by the time I’m finished.  Simply do not sugarcoat the truth about disabled injustice.  It’s there.  We’ve lived it.  We can’t unsee it.  We’re basically politicized since day one.  Don’t avoid talking about it as if we can’t hear it.  Instead, just be mindful of our feelings when these issues are discussed.  That’s all.  Nothing theatrical or Shakespearish.  Just plain honest, non-idle dialogue.

-Do not: tourist-travel disabled people’s lives to make yourself or other people feel better about your’s or their own life.  People (seemingly) mean well by this venture, but it causes anxiety for me because it may actually devalue disabled people’s lives.  By showing other’s that they are lucky not to live with our condition, societies have very little accountability placed on them to protect disabled lives from law enforcement, health professionals, teachers, spouses, and even parents, the very people who are entrusted to protect them.  Instead, learn about how disabled people can adapt comfortably and enjoyably to their own lives without the need to be corrected or fixed.

-Do NOT: promote the idea of the well-adjusted disabled person as 1) the model citizen, 2) the champion of adversity, or 3) someone’s whose place is to debase or belittle struggling disabled people or those least understood or independent

-DO: learn about the connections and cycle of bullying and discrimination.  Take a pledge to learn the right thing from the right people, never do the wrong, and encourage others in your circle to change.  Let people know that disabled respect is important to you and you do not take kindly to discrimination and dehumanization.  Start with yourself, wherever you are, and make a pledge to live in a world with respect for disabled people’s diversity, differences, feelings, and beliefs.  If you agree to be mindful neurotypicals and able-bodieds of your thoughts, words, and actions, then I agree to be mindful of your merit in the world. If not, I cannot help you.  I cannot bail you out of your misrepresentation, whatever the cost.  Learn and unlearn at your own risk, and be warned, we will expect people to follow through on their promises to us once they have been made, and we will know when they have been broken.  Stop trying to walk in our shoes and instead walk beside them.  The time to start is now.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day 2015


I want to wish everyone out there a Happy Father's Day. I am grateful to have had my dad support, respect and give helpful advice for my various ways of life and ambitions, such as my bottle cap and ethnic musical instrument collecting, my Buddhist practice, my arts, writing, former filmmaking desire, art, repurposing, blogging, Disability Studies, and mostly my advoacy for the autistic people. I would also like to make note of various autistic fathers and fathers of autistic children in general. Many have worked and strived hard to find the right schools, as with my parents. Their are several who have done so through divorce, unemployment, disease, and such, as I have seen on Facebook and elsewhere. They have also practiced and promoted autism acceptance, rights, inclusion, and led various groups such as the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, the Autism Network International, the Autism National Committee, the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism, and the Autism Society of America, while also challenging the abuses and excesses of various movements such as Autism Speaks, Applied Behavior Analysis, the Judge Rotenberg Center, and various Autism "Awareness" movements.  Happy Father's Day.

 Autism Acceptance isn't just a series of acts. It's a lifestyle.
 -myself

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Autistic Pride Day 2015 from Leadville, Colorado


Out in the woods where my mom and stepdad bought a vacation home in Colorado may not seem like a happening place for June 18’s Autistic Pride Day created by the former autistic rights organization Aspies for Freedom (which has since disbanded and reformed into the ASDCommunity and the Autism Friends Network, abandoning the term “Aspie”-referring to Asperger syndrome-in an attempt to be more inclusive), but when you are in a wooden house with no entertainment within walking distance you find a way to make it work.  I have walked along abandoned train tracks finding many large smooth stones perfect for drawing the symbols my autistic kin have created, in response to the autism puzzle piece, which we have felt is no more empowering than labeling us as child schizophrenics or children of refrigerator mothers.  In the first picture is the symbols created by others, and the second one, some of my own.  The third and fourth are my new Facebook profile pictures and cover photos respectively.
                First I might mention this is only the second time I celebrated it in my life, and have made a resolution each year to come up with a prompt from other autistic’s to write a post based on.  Last year’s was from the page Thoughts from a Female Aspie, which had a post saying, “So this cure of yours that’s in the works, Exactly which parts of me would it remove? My Memory?  My Gift?  My Quirks?  My Personality?  My Thought Process?  My Lifestyle?  I don’t want to be cured of Aspergers at that price.”  This year however, I got behind in finding a prompt, went with what I had already and choose “I’m not a puzzle.  I’m a person.”  Like the oldest one in the book.
             There are two rainbow infinities, the symbol of the former Aspies for Freedom, and one against a winged heart, created by autism’s very own Kelly Green.  The blue and white infinity was created by Janet Sebilius and used by the Metis in Canada.  The heart itself was just a generic symbol first generated around the time Autism Acceptance Month was created in response to the alarmist Autism Awareness Month.  There are pink and purple people embracing each other, used by Britain’s the National Autistic Society, as well as an orange and green coil and jump, from Autscape UK.  There is a pie chart, created by autistic Andrew I. Lerner, interestingly enough making a peace sign (as if to say the pieces fit in peace), then a butterfly with a transparent left wing, created by the autism organization, the Hidden Wings Foundation.  Also an orange spark from the Celebrate Autism Foundation, a blue ribbon with rainbow stars created by autistic CarolAnn Acorn.  The one that looks like a mismatch of rainbow colors, the rainbow scribbles, was created by James McCue to represent “beautiful chaos.”  There is also a white tree with rainbow colors reflected in the water, like my profile picture with me meditating under it like the Buddha under the Bodhi tree, which was created by Stephanie Tihanyi.  The snowflake was created by JoeyMama, representing how all autistics are unique, and the rainbow moebius ring was created by Oddizms.  There is also a horse symbol, which I have no idea who created or what it has to do with autism, but just know some autistics have benefited from equestrian interaction and think this symbol was probably just a joke among us. 
                I know, there are so many symbols, partly as I think each represents the uniqueness of different autistic communities, and as there are so many ways we have responded to the puzzle piece, which I have felt has become merely a socially acceptable way of calling someone the R-word.  I didn’t even include various autistic representations against it because I felt like showing symbols that did not make reference to that logo.  Anyway, I’ve created a few of my own, such as the porcupine, representing autistics ability to defend themselves even if they as a community are smaller, and eventually conceived it for the community I started at the University of Central Missouri.  Also, kind of as a secondary logo, I created the kaleidoscope, representing the diversity of the autistic community, and the fluidity, as opposed to fixedness of our abilities.  There is a well, which I created with inspiration from a quote from my granddad about some self-promoting autism awareness campaigns, which are “a mile wide and an inch deep,” whereas a well provides water, which is essential to live.  Also, in line with that way of thinking is a lone bison drinking from water with the rest of its herd in the distance, a commentary on autistic’s so-called “loner” nature.  There is a yellow, green, and red triskele, those colors being used for color-coded badges in Autistic Self-Advocacy Network and Autism Network International meetings representing either being open to talking, only wanting to talk when one initiates the conversation, and not wanting to talk at all, representing how these three moods alternate among us individuals with time.  I have a similar design using rainbow colors, giving a unique take on autistic spinning.  There is a lotus, representing psychologist Dr. Laurent Mottron’s “Six Traits of Aspie Perfection” (Logical, Intuitive, Creative, Original, Direct, Resilient) by which I don’t agree with this separatist “Aspie” term being used to rate autistics, but a mere commentary on how that was the first time in history a person’s autism was seen as anything other than a burden.  I have a key, representing the key to unlocking autistic’s hidden potential and the potential of our community as a whole.  Two symbols going along the same line are a sun and moon symbol and a sun dial, representing our unique sense of time.  My two favorites are a tree branch with a fruit at the end (representing our ability to take risks to achieve success), and, to represent the beauty of our unique way of seeing and perceiving things, a squirrel climbing down a tree, with its tail and the shadow of its tail making a heart, while the sunset, in fact with its green ground, makes a rainbow.  I think having all these unique symbols is good, and I encourage my fellow autistic to create their own (as long as they aren’t puzzle pieces or crying children), because I believe local autistic communities and their own needs are important, and a common dream, rather than symbols, can unite us.  I have had great success with these symbols, even groups suggesting to sell necklaces with one such as the kaleidoscope to raise money with some interest for myself, which is the least bit important to me, but I won’t say no to it altogether.  But be warned, that if I do not like one particular aspect of a group, whether it’s its ethical, operational, or commercial aspects, I will not let it use these symbols if I had a choice, even if I made 99% interest.  As for everyone here, even if you are not autistic or know someone who is, Autistic Pride Day is for everyone, as there are millions who enrich our world today with this condition, from supposedly autistic Thomas Jefferson and Stanley Kubrick to modern openly autistic Daryl Hannah and Ladyhawke Sparrow.  I know this post is a lot to grasp, so thank you for keeping up with it, and Happy Autistic Pride Day.



 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day Post 2015

Today is Memorial Day, and I myself agree with the sentiment of respecting individuals who giveup lives, freedom, and economic comfort in the name of protecting our own. As nations developed, militaries became necessary to protect the individuals and society from the outside, police to protect individuals from threats on the inside, and national guards to safeguard the countries internal affairs. To protect people from reigns of religiously-sanctioned monarchies, the concept of democracy-elected governments-developed, and to safeguard this, the concept of freedom of speech, freedom, of religion, and freedom of press, and to ensure this literacy and economic stability for individual people had to be promoted by schools, while our armed forces elected (usually) on the promise of securing these necessities, but the fact is these people are ordered by governments, who are increasingly being elected with large businesses, churches, and special interest groups being counted as individual voters (Citizens United), along with the wealthy people who run them. I've lived in this country my whole life, and would never dream of leaving this country if it were not necessary for my own personal safety, but I cannot, without feeling the weight of inconsistencies, call this the land of the free when it was among the last country in the West to abolish the official owning of human beings, and nowadays the last country in the West to allow people the right to marry the love of their live in the name of an All-loving god, and deny families and individuals the right to have their living expenses of wealthy individuals who live off their labor, and spends more money the rest of the world combined to lock people up with nodecrease in crime, while the government uses its tax money to widen the gap between the rich and the poor, while governments subsidizing the rich decide debates on poverty based on free-loaders, while groups suffering from centuries of unpaid labor are shot fornon-lethal crimes, when only a portion of the population are guaranteed clean air, drinking water, and land, when it raises tax revenue from draining the resources and labor force from oppressed countries for minimal compensation, while men and women are sent to war for the expenses of the wealthy and have their survival needs neglected, while the "burden" of raising a disabled child is used to minimalize the burden on society for locking them up, when the law does not go far enough to deny impunity to men who would use women for their sex slavery and call the resulting life-long burden a gift from the divine, when politicians agree to protect a child only until it grows up in poverty or waits voiceless without a family until years when bureaucratic regulations have been negotiated, when diversity and multiculturalism is dictated on the terms of the dominant groups, and when individuals can live off starvation wages, seventy-five cents for the dollar for women, wage discrimination for ethnic minorities, shortcuts around protecting people's ecosystems, collections of tax-payer money, fictitous trade-offs in the Third World, and increased barriers to higher education, and call it "their hard-earned money." Indeed, until large businesses, religious fundamentalists, misogynistic frat boys, and self-promoting parents no longer control the fates of women, the poor, LGBTQs, and disabled people can I truly feel comfortable calling this the Land of the Free.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Autism Positivity Day 2015 Post: 7 Years after Embracing My Identity


Today is Autism Positivity Day, and, conveniently for me, it almost coincides with the day where seven years ago I decided to fully embrace the fact that I am an autistic man, not man with autism, but autistic, with a Capital A.  I know seven years is not much of a period, but for me, this coincides with the time I finally got my Bachelor’s degree, after seven years of college, fighting uphill against two college environments that for an autistic were hard to adjust to.  Yet, in that time, I also started and led collegiate organizations on both campuses that stressed an environment where autistics could be themselves.  I also started two autism blogs, which have now together garnered over fifteen thousand views in over sixty countries, spoke to children at an autism camp twice—which I had formerly attended as a teenager, the high school students of my former school for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the Psych Club, Pursuit of Happiness Day forum, and the 2015 Spring Leadership Conference at UCM, wrote for the Autistic Speaking Day blog, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network of Kansas City, the Horizon Academy (my high school) newsletter, the UCM Muleskinner, KCTV, the Kansas Legislature, JCCC’s Autism Beyond the Diagnosis 2008 Conference, and Autism and Neurodiversity in the Classroom on the struggle of the autistic community.  I would also write The Friend of Autism Pledge, donate artwork to the Mission Project Housing for people with I/DD, and make poster presentations for Disability Awareness Week in 2013 and 2014, and Autism Acceptance Month in 2014 at UCM.  I would also graduate UCM’s intellectual and developmental disability THRIVE program two years before I became the first, and so far only THRIVE student to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree, although many did go on to become regular students at UCM and other universities.  The thing is that my life has changed so radically, as have others I’ve heard, from embracing who I am, something I have only truly done for less than a third of my life.
                But despite all this, I actually feared telling my story to just anyone.  I feared I would become an idol for “inspiration porn,” which is frequently the tone of any disabled person who rises above societies abysmal expectations of them, or, worse, overcoming autism.  At no point was I free from self-doubt that largely seems to go unheard of with autistics like Temple Grandin and John Elder Robison.  I questioned my decisions frequently and even blamed myself for whatever suffering came the way of my fellow autistic UCM students.  In fact, if it were not for my meditation, spiritual life, true friends, family, and fellow Autistic Student and Peer Organization, JCCC Autism Spectrum Support Group, ASAN-KC, Camp Encourage, Horizon Academy members, various autistic and ally Facebook friends, I literally do not think I would have survived the last four years of completing the collegiate autistic advocacy experiment in Warrensburg.  At every point, I encountered opposition from people who claimed to be true friends of autism, and am still learning much of the backhanded nature of their acts.  Many said to me that given our societies unaccommodating nature of autism, these people did the best they could.  However, all of them had in fact acted selfishly.  Over my time at UCM, I learned four valuable lessons of how to get autistics to create a community that truly embraces people like us, including:

 

1.       Do not, under any circumstances, use the puzzle piece.  Yes, the puzzle piece may be very well known, but if groups advocating for autistics care about us more than the group, they will sacrifice their commercial success for individual’s welfare.  Any point where the name of autism advocacy is used to gain a competitive edge over others is almost certainly for selfish reasons.  What really annoys me these days about the autism puzzle piece is that it seems to be a socially acceptable way of calling someone the R-word.  Yes, every autistic person is unique, but I found rainbow mosaic or kaleidoscope symbols (not with just primary colors) also represented every autistic person’s uniqueness in a cohesive, natural way.  A kaleidoscope’s changing ways can also represent autistic’s struggle to adapt to society.

2.       ACCEPTANCE, not awareness, is a mantra for change.  When young, na├»ve neurotypicals stop me in the streets asking them to support their cause of autism awareness, I wish to ask them, “I live with autism 24/7, and it is in my sleeping patterns, dietary habits, and even the way I move.  How can I not be aware of it?”  The fact that a person would automatically assume I am not autistic leads me to wonder how much their cause is really promoting awareness.  Awareness tends to emphasize elite neurotypicals and institutions lending their name to the cause of autism then it does the diverse stories of autistics in our own words.  It is a paternalistic relationship, enforced by the perception that autistics are basically all children, not an empowering one.

3.       Blue lights cannot be away to welcome people you wish to be fully accepting, self-respecting autistics, for their only true association with autism is the logo of an autism an autism organization (Autism Speaks) whose financial, commercial, and corporate aspects are, at best, questionable.  It would be like wearing gray for Black History Month, as gray was the color of the Confederate soldiers.  Instead, I wear gold, whose chemical symbol Au is the first to letters of the word “autistic”; red, the color of a heart, which has been proposed as an alternative symbol for the puzzle piece; taupe, the color of the Tree of Neurodiversity, also suggested as an alternative symbol for the puzzle piece; and orange, the color of the spark logo of the Celebrate Autism Foundation, also suggested as an alternative to the puzzle piece; or rainbow colors, not just blue, representing the diversity of autism throughout life, and the Autistic Self-Advocacy Networks rainbow heptagon symbol, also suggested as an alternative for something.  No prizes for guessing what.

4.       Autistics must be empowered to speak for themselves, as individuals, and as a community, not by neurotypical parents, celebrities, school spirit faces, or institutions.  While neurotypical loved ones may help, they must not talk over, manipulate, or review for approval the voices of autistics, because while many doing so do intend to help, let’s look at what picture this creates of autistics: individuals, regardless of their age, who need mommy and daddy to fight their battles.  Rather than empowering images of people you’d want for your company, social life, or any aspect that is a key to autistic integration, autistics are devalued as children, much the way slaves in the American South were called “boy.”  The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network meanwhile, has created resources for everything from improving autistic services to preventing murders of children to stopping disabled discrimination in organ transplants, and has made substantially more difference then elite individuals who wish to speak for autistics.  For the first few years I knew I was autistic, these things—puzzle pieces, blue lights, awareness, and helicopter parents— were all I knew of the autism world.  Consequently, I did not embrace my autism, and would not have done all this stuff for the autistic community if I hadn’t.  I hope my fellow autistic individuals will be motivated to do the same things I have done and make this a better world for people like us.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day Post

It is Mother's Day, and I want to say, if nothing else,that I am happy for all that I have gotten from my mother, Kitzi Dingley, including food, home, rides to school, work, friend's house, the various stamps, coins, musical instruments, and bottle caps I collect, art supplies, classes, time behind the wheel, notebooks, books, and getting help from her dad so I was able to attend the right school. Moreover, I remember her making suggestions that led me to volunteer at Ten Th...ousand Villages, start the JCCC Autism Spectrum Support Group, which later led me to start the Autistic Student and Peer Organization at UCM, going to UCM's THRIVE program, speaking at the Kansas Legislature for my fellow autistic, the JCCC Autism Beyond the Diagnosis Conference, going to UMKC's Disability Studies program, and her learning what it was I needed in life. I'm glad I didn't have to figure out everything in my life. I am also grateful for various mothers of autistic children, who don't feel the need to fix their children, accept their stress-related habits, communication, don't feel the need to portray them as an expressway for stress in their lives, and respect their right to be on this earth. I also want to give thanks to the various autistic mothers out their who led groups like the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, the Autism Women's Network, blog to inform the world about autistic people, and teach disabled children in schools. Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Acceptance Is

This month (Autism Acceptance Month) the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network is posting signs that people send them that are done on their Autism Acceptance Month templates, which can be found on Facebook and e-mailed to SB@AutisticAdvocacy.org until the end of April.  So I just wanted to share it with readers, and hope you enjoy, though you can also find them on ASAN's Facebook page.

It's an orange fist (orange for the Celebrate Autism Foundations spark logo, which you also see in the background) coming out of a lotus with a rainbow infinity symbol against a winged heart, all much bettersymbols for autism than puzzle pieces, with a quatrain saying:

Guess what.
I'm autistic.
Better get used to it.
I love myself the way I am.
Got it?!

 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Monday, April 27, 2015

Autism and Dual Messages: A Poem for Autism Acceptance Month


You say to me:
"I support you.
I'm going to get hundreds of signs all over town saying, 'Autism Awareness.'"
I hear:
"I want everyone seeing you as the lion in my circus,
how you're a lonely old ladies favorite past time that her dog chewed up a lot of,
and I get a high out of letting us marvel about how you're the sick little kitten,
while we're the human adults."

You say:
"I'm here for you.
I'm going to wear or light it up blue,
like the CN Tower, the White House, the Hotel Dubai, and the Sydney Opera House."
I here:
"I believe in supporting autistic people based off the first thing I hear off the streets,
and the people you listen to on how to support you
are the same ones who've segregated you, discriminated against you, and shoved you into cages, and you can't make these decisions about your life,
despite being on the Dean's List and twice promoted at work."

You say,
batting your eyes at me from across the gym:
"I'm gonna stay by you.
I'm going to wear my shirt publicizing a celebrity or locally-known individual lending their name to the autism cause."
I hear:
"I expect you to support my clique's,
which probably doesn't over represent autistics in their numbers,
line about people like you at any cost,
which we'll peer pressure people like you into doing,
take the recognition of your struggling autism project's work for ourselves,
and try to get liked by appealing to the lowest common denominator,
which is the only real thing we've done for autism,
while for our fifty-fifty relationship,
I don't have to hear your opinions on yourself,
while you're expected to listen to me ramble on about student parking."

You say:
"I'm on your side.
I've liked Autism Speaks on Facebook,
just so I can know what they’re doing,
and plus, they are the most well-known name in autism,"
when I have repeatedly pointed out ways they're financially irresponsible,
use ignorant people's emotions to tell them what's best for us,
and treat us like children who can never know as well as they do how society should accommodate
people with similar needs to our's.
I hear:
"By my logic, Rain Man's Dustin Hoffman and Playboy's Jenny McCarthy know autism best
not like Temple Grandin or John Elder Robison,
so I'm supporting you by clicking a button to let the world know I approve of their didactic, self-absorbed rambling,
and that I expect a financially murky organization like them to tell me the truth of their activities."

You say:
"You're twisting my words,"
make some subtle plea for me to absolve you of these things.
I hear nothing.
I'm this close to unfriending you.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Letter to Myself

After feeling my efforts to start an autistic community in Warrensburg were going so underappreciated by many, I made myself a bracelet from tiles cut out of a beer caddy, each with symbols autistics themselves had suggested for autism, and I wrote a note to myself saying,

Dear Ben,

I wanted to thank you for all you have done for the autistics at UCM and in efforts for the benefit of the autistic culture and liberation everywhere. You have been a pioneer willing to take on ...the worst challenges with little support or recognition. You have persevered under the toughest challenges, and, though you may not think it, your actions are beginning to take root. No one could have possibly taken things further from where you started. At times, many people have been given recognition in the world of autism merely for their looks or their well-established reputation, which people automatically seem to judge the work they do by. You however, have stood for autism, even when the message you brought forth was not popular. You persevered through thick and thin, never gave in to pressure, strove for what you believed was right, and spent hours of exhaustion and uncertainty for people you wished to make strong, empowered people with a culture of their own. Because of you, the autistic world now has many new innovations, such as the thriving autistic community at JCCC, the Autistic Liberation Dharma, the autistic porcupine symbol, the eco-autistic movement, and the Friend of Autism Pledge, and I wish to give you this bracelet of tiles with the autistic symbols from some of the greatest minds in the world of autism, has ever seen, as well as your own. Your granddad also wishes to thank you for the work you have done, and for your earnesty, wisdom, dedication, and sacrifice for the good of autistic kind. Thank you.

Love,
Ben

 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Thoughts of My Own on the Perception of Autism

A moment of your time on Autism Awareness? Many autistics, and I myself have been and still find myself in this situation, spend every hour of every day-at work, at school, at home, even with our families-trying to pretend we're "normal." We must concentrate every ounce of effort we have not put into the jobs, families, and work we already struggle in due to lack of accomodations, to avoid doing anything that might sell us out as autistic. That means flapping our arms, being blunt, avoiding eye contact, and even mentioning about a novel we read last night for fear it show our "special interests." In short, we spend all our remaining energy trying to blend in with the crowd, and then people come along-celebrities, high management autism organizations, parents, politicians, frat boys and girls all meaning to do the right thing-and tell people to be aware of US. And we're told constantly and constantly by the same people that if we don't learn to look neurotypical-using eye contact, avoiding stimming, etc.,-we'll never get a job, go to school, get married, have children, or lead a fulfilling life. We strive harder then ever to look like we're "normal" because the puzzle piece symbols tell us there's a missing piece to be found of us before we can belong. Anywhere. And so autism is presumed by the do-gooders to be some troublesome child who's a constant wreck because that's what gets the numbers up-people afraid their career, their home lives, and their marriages will be ruined because of a child we've already been taught we were, and act so hard not to be. And since we, or none of us fit this image, we may as well be presumed to be neurotypical, or basically almost so because we've had ABA, or are high-functioning, or whatever, just so do-gooders can let the people know those they now fear aren't doing their behaviors to be rude. But God forbid that us "high-functioning" people or ABA graduates should ever stim, avoid eye contact, or have their own interests. We are considered "too evolved" to do these things, not because we do them to help us process sensory stimuli which are brains are already hard-wired to receive differently. And we by no means are capable of speaking for the "low-functioning" community, let alone our own selves. We're afraid to get help, many of us just to stop painkillers the next day, so we can live our lives healthily and comfortable, while still expressinng our own identity. So I ask you, will you, next time you think you're going to do us right as victims and not humans, think of reaching one individual at a time, to be empowered to be his or her own self, and forget this idea that the most attention-getting messages or people are the ones who spread the most progressive attitude towards the masses, and think about what you want for us, not FROM US. We commonly are too complacent or uncritical to examine the conventional wisdom of our approaches to problems. We think if we just let the river flow our boat downstream, not noticing where it's going, we will arrive in the safest place, and all will be better for everyone. Well if you down row upstream, honey, and watch where you're going, the river might well lead you to a waterfall that you'll bring us all down with you.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Thoughts of My Own on the Language for Autism

A note on person-first language: I have heard you don't say "an autistic person" because you wouldn't say "the fat man" or "the short boy." Well, maybe I wouldn't, but that might be because I'm sensitive like that. Anyho, if that is the case I want to hear terms like "the man with racism" or "the girl with promescuity." Why don't I hear those? Because in this culture, those things are shamed, not just the behaviors, but the person doing the behaviors. Whereas obesity, sh...ortness, and other physical ways of being, we want to not shame the person (most of us anyways, I hope) but the way of being itself. But why is that? Is it because we believe these people are lazy or they'll never date the popular girl in school? Well, if you look at autism, you see that we have all these sorts of preconceived notions about them. They can't lie, they're good at math, they can't understand sarcasm. And it's this limited way of understanding that takes away their humanity. So what do we do? We detach autism from them, rather than our prenconceived notions about what autism is like for them. In our obsessive person-first language culture, we continuously associate autism with negative stereotypes-they'll ruin my marriage, they can't learn to communicate-myths perpetuated by society and various organizations such as Autism Speaks. If we view ourselves that way, it's because we've learned to hate ourselves because of discrimination and stigma. You think we'll learn to love ourselves by teaching us to disassociate with part of who that is. You insist on saying "person with autism" so we know that's not the only part of ourselves. This shows your neurotypical sense of superiority by implying we aren't smart enough to figure that out for ourselves. It is the stigma of autism, perpetuated by the stereotypes autism makes you think of, that makes us feel low about ourselves, and by not acknowledging that, you choose to be part of the problem.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

My Autism Acceptance Day Post 2015

For me, and thousands of my friends in the fold of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network and Autism Women's Network, we view April as Autism Acceptance Month. To many there might be some confusion as you may have heard some call it Autism Awareness Month. For us, we have changed it to Autism Acceptance Month because we feel while "awareness" tends to imply a passive pity for how autistics "don't fit in" acceptance means an active role... of refusing to be people who autistics cannot fit in with. Whereas Autism Awareness Month and a Day on April 2nd has focused on blue lights and puzzle pieces, Autism Acceptance Month focuses on reading poetry by and celebrating autistics, along with art, blogging, positive, unhumilitiating storytelling, and often donating to groups where you see openly autistic members in at least a third of their highest leadership giving the bulk of their funds to services allowing autistics to reach their highest potential and showing a balanced view of autism's strengths while respectfully respecting our challenges, bearing symbols like a rainbow infinity or a multi-colored pie chart showing that while autistics are diverse and part of a larger picture, it is a picture that naturally goes together to make a unified image with no beginning and no end. Double palms are also acceptable symbols, indicating many autistics need to flap their hands to self-regulate while still paying attention to those around them. We operate within a diversity model of disability and pan-disability culture, where all are responsible for any message they send.

I helped spread the word from the window of my dorm, with a sign that says, "Wear Gold for Autism ACCEPTANCE Month April 2, 2015/Gold=Au, Autism Acceptance, Beyond Awareness, and changed my profile picture to that. I also put up signs, one representing hand-flapping; one arm-flapping-two movements done to self...-regulate; one of two people embracing, representing autistics search for connection, like the logo of the National Autistic Society in the UK; one an infinity, representing the fluidity of autistic abilities, rather than being fixed; a brain with butterfly wings that I drew months earlier, along with my Autistic Pride sign, all done in black ink. 





 
I put out on the door of my dorm, in addition to my Autistic Self-Advocacy Network of Kansas City poster that I drew a few months ago, I put up an autism pie-chart logo, a design created by autistic Andrew Lerner, with four slices, one blue, one yellow, one green, and one pink, making a peace sign; with white eyes, the left one with the letter A and the one on the right with the... letter S for Autistic Spectrum or Asperger syndrome; while at the top it reads, "AS PIEces fit in piece." Its colors and pieces represent diversity within the autistic community only, unlike the puzzle piece symbol, they fit together naturally to make a coherent symbol. Along with it is a paint slip with various shades of gold for Autism Acceptance Day's Light it Up Gold as the chemical symbol for gold is Au, the first two letters of the word autism, which I made at a UCM Pinterest party, each part with a place where I might be at the time along with a white button on a red paper clip to point to them, red being for Light it Up Red, created like LIUG in response to blue lights used to raise money from pitiful images of autistics.


I made a cross drawn with blue in the background with rainbow stars along it to represent the autistic blue rainbow stars ribbon created by autistic Carol Ann Acorn (and its also Easter season), along with three drawings: a mandala (Buddhist-Hindu meditation image) that is a representation of Turkey's whirling dervishes, which I hung because of autistic activist Lydia Brown's long-time interest in Sufi music and dance; a triskele, an Asian symbol with three curved lines going the same direction in a circle, with one segment green, one segment red, and one segment yellow-the colors of ASAN's and the Autism Network International's color-coded communication badges, each corresponding to how comfortable you are talking to people at their meetings; another "mandala" that was inspired by a Moroccan tile design with various colors representing the diversity of autism, but diversity that is fluid and makes a complete natural picture, and it also has a yin-yang symbol in the middle representing how autism's existence as a disability and a difference exist in balance, and helping the disability should not be disrespecting the difference; along with a mandala thatis based off a kaleidoscope design, also with various colors representing the same thing, and how diversity of autism, or functioning labels, depend a lot on one's point of view, and it is a picture that can move around a lot, and it also has in it the shape of an eight-rayed star the symbol of the Men of Gondor in The Lord of the Rings, who represented honor and nobility.





 

Today for Autism Acceptance Day, I wore an Autism Acceptance Month t-shirt everywhere I went at UCM and in Warrensburg, that says, "Acceptance is Action," showing I'm not going to hide from who I am regardless of how others might think. Also, in honor of the various movements created in response to blue lights, Light it Up Gold, gold's chemical symbol Au being the first two ...letters of the word autism; Light it Up Red; Tone it Down Taupe; and Light it Up Orange, perhaps because orange is the color of the Celebrate Autism Foundation's autism spark symbol, I wore on my left wrist my red Buddhist prayer beads that I made from straws a year ago, which I don't normally wear; on my right wrist an orange bracelet that I made from cutting an orange bag along the sides and spinning the length and a gold paracord bracelet I made, especially considering Warrensburg is the home of an airforce base; on my neck my Lucky Buddha Beer bottle cap lockets, which are red, from the beers my dad gave me last year for Easter; and on my hoody I wore a gold ribbon pin, which used to be a puzzle piece ribbon, which many autistic's object to due to the idea there's a "missing piece" of them or they need to be put together, at I took apart, turned inside out, colored with a gold sharpie, and glued it back together; my pants today were taupe; and on my shoulder was a red bag, with other gold paracord bracelets I made to give to people for this day. I wore my grey UCM hoody instead of my regular blue hoody, and I made a commitment not to avert stranger's gazes as I walk past them or avoid interaction with people to avoid questions, and will go to eat in town to show this shirt to all I can. I also wore on my wrist a tile bracelet made from cardboard, with one an autism pie-chart symbol, a half-transparent butterfly symbol used by the Hidden Wings autism organization, a blue ribbon with rainbow stars created by autistic Carol Ann Acorn, an autism rainbow infinity symbol, a blue and white infinity symbol used by the Metis in Canada, rainbow scribbles representing "beautiful chaos" by autistic James McCue, the orange spark from the Celebrate Autism Foundation, and a porcupine symbol I created, representing autistics ability to defend themselves against larger groups without being aggressive, their affection even if they don't like physical contact, and the quills representing their voice even if they cannot speak. Through this, I plan to get the word out. Happy Autism Acceptance Day everyone!