Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Country of Autistic People


Imagine for a moment

A country for just autistic people,

NT and allistics citizens through marriage or birthright,

But still a place all to ourselves.

 

Imagine people being allowed to walk around freely at gatherings, meetings, and events,

No stimming repression or forced eye contact.

Imagine no alarms or bells that hurt our ears,

Bookstores, television shows, and movies all with accurate and positive representation of autistic characters.

 

Imagine less than ten percent autistic unemployment,

No one forcing you to wear the tags on clothing,

Your food sensitivities are respected everywhere you go,

No forcing you to socialize when you are so low on energy.

 

Imagine that “special interests” were not suppressed,

Where autistics do not have six times the national average suicide rate,

Domestic violence is not a disproportional issue,

No person wearing a puzzle piece, lighting blue lights, comparing having an autistic child to being a combat veteran.

 

Universities are packed with students using fidget spinners, chewy necklaces, etc.

No college professors spreading lies and disinformation about autistics,

Maybe the rate of autistics with epilepsy, social anxiety, depression, and PTSD is less than it is in the world we know,

Health care is what socially hegemonic neurotypicals have come to know.

 

Picture a world where it was not unusual for a child to go to an autistic in a divorce proceeding,

Therapy is not eight hours a day inside being taught to hate and repress yourself for external reward.

Picture a place like the on-line groups we know and love,

But offline, with houses, cafes, schools, hospitals, banks, post offices, and government buildings.

 

Maybe an observatory like the Space Needle, Fernsehturn Berlin, Oriental Pearl Tower,

Sovereign building like the White House or Buckingham Palace,

Business and communication centers like Sears and Willis Tower, the Empire State Building, the Hancock Center,

Bridges, theaters, architectural monuments.

 

Ok, not really a possibility.

Not a place where nothing ever goes wrong.

No injustice ever happening the way it does when society is mostly NTs.

But I would like to see all races, faiths, sexual orientations with business and government done in dozens and dozens of languages.

 

Maybe it is not a really possibility,

But sometimes, when times are tough, it is nice to have a place to escape to,

If only in your mind.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

7 Television Show Ideas About Autism the Television Industry Should Consider Making


Let’s face it: Atypical, The Good Doctor, and Sesame Street have peaked in terms of autistic representation.  Most of these have become face-value stereotypes and draw a lot of controversy from the autistic community for making autism the butt of a joke in addition to failing to cast autistic actors to play autistic characters.  While some of them did make some effort to reach out to autistic people for consultation (Sesame Street did contact the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, an autistic-approved, autistic-run organization) these shows portrayals of autistic individuals are informed mostly by groups like Autism Speaks—whose message about autism is toxic on every level—and groups like Talk About Curing Autism, the National Autism Association, the Autism Research Institute, and the Autism Society of America—whose views are similarly problematic.  Besides that, these shows reached out to parents, siblings and family members of autistic people (whose views can be extremely myopic)—not autistic people themselves.  If these shows were to do that with any other minority, they would certainly draw criticism from the public.

                So, instead of shows that are vaguely and inconsistently informed by non-autistics, what about shows derived from sources that are shaped by autistics at every level?  I’m talking about comic books, autobiographies, books and other media by autistic people, about autistic people.  They could have moments that make us laugh and cry, as well as shed light on autistic relationships (including LGBTQIA people).  Some would be fiction, semi-fiction, and some could be real-life as well, similar to FX making The Assassination of Gianni Versaci and Trust: a Getty’s Family Saga.  Assuming said owners of this sources would be willing to have a show adaptation (or movie) I had these few ideas in mind:

 

The Life of an Aspie



 

















Not to be confused with The Life of an Aspie blog by activist Alyssa Marie Huber (which is fantastic, and Alyssa has a novel Vael that would make a fantastic TV show as well), this is an on-line comic done by autistic Twitter personality Aspi3Gam3r about a sixteen-year old orphaned autistic teenage girl who sent to a Japanese boarding school run by her grandmother.  The comic includes the grandmother trying to be a good guardian to the girl (named Susan Graham) while stopping her granddaughter’s behavior from damaging her career.  It also includes Susan taking lessons in Manga comic drawing, her relationship with her sixteen year-old roommate, and learning to resolve her issues with the school’s counselor.  Unlike Aspi3Gam3r’s Twitter page (which often shows heated political opinions), The Life of an Aspie is very non-political and is something many autistics could relate to.  Here’s one show that could have a female character, and possibly challenge the stereotype in the media that autistic individuals are always plain-looking or unattractive.

 

Born on a Blue Day



 

















Based on the autobiography Born on a Blue Day by British autistic savant Daniel Tammot, this show could show the existence of autistic savants without making the same mistakes that Rain Man did.  As a main character, Tammot could also give a voice to living with epilepsy.  Falling more under the category of drama, the show could depict the feelings of Daniel’s family as he goes off to Lithuania, since all parents, regardless of their nationality worry about their children going off to foreign countries.  Daniel’s character would also be a break from the portrayal of autism in the media, which seems to mostly show heterosexual characters too.

 

Conspiracy of Birds



 

















Written by autistic Trevor McKee, Conspiracy of Birds is a comic series about the adventures of a character very much like the author that demonstrate the bizarreness of social rules and expectations.  This could be an opportunity for a show with light-hearted hi-jinx that also forces neurotypical audience members to be more open-minded and respectful of autistic traits.

 

Look Me in the Eye, by John Elder Robison



 

















While Robison is the center of controversy among some autistics for a few of his viewpoints (most recently his support of TMS Therapy for autism), this show could give light to older autistics who are severely ignored by the media (Robison did not get diagnosed until he was thirty-nine years old, twenty-one years ago), and could have anecdotes about living with autism relatable to most autistics.  This TV series could also include stories from one of Robison’s other memoirs Raising Cubby about fathering his son with an autistic woman, and serve to dispel the myth that autistics can’t be good parents.  A compelling episode that might be a possibility for this series could focus on Robison’s resignation from Autism Speaks in 2013 to protest their continued backwards ways, which attracted a lot of publicity, and delivered a serious blow to AS’s reputation.

 

Growing Up Aspie-A Comic by Nathan McConnell




 

A widely popular published hit in the autistic community, Growing Up Aspie is a series of comic strips the author dealing with his childhood and young adulthood as an autistic.  In addition to sometimes making you laugh, these strips have an amazing ability to make you feel the pain the McConnell feels due to being discriminated for being autistic.  Whoever makes this idea into a show might also consider portraying the NTs in McConnell’s life the way he draws them: as phantom-like creatures in reference to how they force on him a social standard that he can never life up to, however hard he tries.  This series could also show the love story between McConnell and his wife, Candace, and their first child born as the book was being published.  Some story lines about interactions with in-laws could be good too.

 

The Rosie Project



 

















Though this source (a novel) is written by a non-autistic—Australian author Graeme Simsion—its portrayals of autism bare some merit.  The novel follows Don Tillman, an autistic professor (something I can relate to, since I work at a university) and his experience in love with a bipolar woman, Rosie.  There is a sequel to this book that the movie could cover—not to give too much about the story away, although it has been out for several years.  Originally, it was set to be a movie starring Ryan Reynolds and Jennifer Lawrence, though Lawrence, angered that she was being discriminated against in pay due to her gender, quit the project and wrote an article about it to Lena Dunham’s “Lenny Letter.”  Due to her experiences, JLaw may not wish to have a role in a television adaptation of the novel, but that does not mean this sort of series couldn’t be made.

 

Michael McCreary-Aspie Comic comedy-based sitcom



 

















Michael McCreary is a twenty year-old autistic comedian with a huge social media following who has long been disproving the stereotype that autistics don’t have a sense of humor.  In the same way Seinfeld made a show based off his comedy antics, it might be funny to see McCreary be the center of a show based around his own comedy routine.

 

Plus+…an Extended Universe TV Series about Harry Potter’s Hermione Granger



 












While Hermione has never been verified to be an autistic character, I have heard from several autistics who say that she demonstrates many characteristics of Asperger syndrome herself.  A series could follow Hermione before Hogwarts, where she is a doubly-marked girl in a British muggle school both for her autism and the fact that, like all young witches and wizards, she makes things happen that she can’t explain, particularly when she is angry or scared.  Fast-forward to her time at Hogwarts showing the events of the books from Hermione’s perspective, the wizarding view of neurodiverse people (surely there are autistic and non-neurotypical witches and wizards in the Harry Potter universe—no jokes about Ron, please), and her shifting back-and-forth between wizard and muggle cultures as a muggle-born witch.  Fast-forward to her adult years.  Can you get a diagnosis from wizarding professionals?  Imagine how hard it could be for Hermione to get a diagnosis from a muggle doctor without letting slip that she is a witch and exposing the wizarding world, on top of trying to get a diagnosis as a woman and an adult (and possibly a black British woman, as seen in the fan-made show Hermione Granger and the Quarter Life Crisis).  The show could also deal with Hermione’s revelations of how she is (why she kissed Harry in public, was stubborn about rules despite frequently breaking them, and why she was always willing to do Harry’s and Ron’s homework) and her regrets from her life during the Wizarding War, her life as a politician, wife, and mother, and her struggle to say the right thing to survivors of the Wizarding War as Minister of Magic, in comforting her husband Ron and other in-laws over the death of his brother Fred, and in trying to explain to her children the tragedies of the Wizarding War.  In addition, the show could provide story lines about quack wizards who hawk fake magical cures for autism, in the same way doctors peddle fake cures for autism in the “muggle” world, leading to attempts to capture them and subsequent wizard duels with aurors Harry and Ron.  And being autistic, a woman, and muggle-born, Hermione is a triple+-minority, and that could add a good angle to Hermione’s post-war story as she campaigns for the rights of house elves.  Also, does Hogwarts provide accommodations for learning-disabled students?  This could be another subplot in the story of fulfilling the post-Wizarding War promise of accepting all wizards.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Autism Acceptance Month 2018

For some this is coming April is Autism Acceptance Month where people wear gold (whose chemical symbol is Au the first two letters of Autism), red, taupe, orange, and green, donate to autistic-led non-profit organizations such as the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, the Autism Women's Network, the Autistic Union, and so on; hold stim sessions to educate people on the meaning of repetitive behaviors in autistics; and read, write, and share poetry, blog posts, art, articles, and personal stories from Autistics, their allies, educators, parents, family, and specialists in celebration of autistics and the unique strengths they have and gifts they bring to the world without denying their challenges they and their loved ones experience as a result of social pressures and internalized biases.
To others this Autism Awareness Month, spear-headed by neurotypical, high executive-paying groups such as Autism Speaks whose focus is on genetic research, compare autistics to car wrecks, cancer, and being struck by lightning; and of their executives, only two are autistic in the thirteen years of AS's existence. This is celebrated by wearing blue and lighting blue lights in reference to Autism Speaks' blue puzzle piece logo that is blue in reference to males who AS and similarly medical-modeled autism organizations cite at face value make up eighty percent of autism diagnoses, with females only twenty, despite increasing evidence that autistic traits manifest differently in males and females with diagnostic criteria on autism possessing far more understanding of male's traits than females.

Furthermore, many autistic people reject the puzzle piece for a number of reasons. Not only are puzzles usually made in primary colors-suggesting autism is only a childhood thing or that all autistics need to be judged on their supposed mental age-but refers to finding a "missing piece" both a cure, and the "normal" child inside an autistic person that the cure will free from the cage of our autistic behavior and shell.


But despite what Autism Speaks says I am not a person plus Autism. Autism is not an addition to my personhood or me. It is a valid way of being a person that no one has a right to make me hide or get rid before I can be truly accepted. If I were truly accepted I would not have to change my neurological wiring just as I would not have to change my race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or nationality first.


Society deemed that autistic people had some "normal" (neurotypical) child hidden beneath the surface, autistics ended up spending hours in therapy each week to try and teach us to be neurotypical, which only ended up hindering autistic's development of self-esteem and self-awareness, and merely increased the feelings of isolation therapy was meant to alleviate. We spent our lives, childhood to adulthood, trying to get tone of voice, eye contact, body language, and facial expressions right when interacting with NTs, who judged us as different before we even spoke to or communicated with them. We get old to be ourselves, but rebuffed the instant a crack shows up in our mask. No matter how much therapy we got or how early we received it, autistic people always faced higher suicide rates, higher rates of depression, and greater instances of addiction than the general population. Our peers and our families failed to recognize that the responsibility of stress of ourselves and our loved ones lay in in us being they way we are, but the larger world's bias against it and being engrained in thinking that actively prevented them from accommodating it.
When my autistic kin, allies, and I celebrate Autism Acceptance Month this year it is more than a celebration whitewashing autism. It is a rebellion. I, together with millions of autists across the globe, posit that social progress does not move in the same direction as societies ills. As I have done for the previous two Aprils and the last twenty-four days of the April before them, plan to wear no blue for the entire month from 12:00 AM on April 1 to 11:59 PM on April 30, with the exception of my rainbow-colored Autism Acceptance Month shirt, which I will hit places all over Kansas City on both sides of the Kansas City border, Lee's Summit, and UMKC in my hours off the clock. But besides that anything that has blue I will not don. I have planned out my clothes for work to do so already and made plans to get new clothes to help me do so.


If you choose not to go this far, that is fine. I am just saying this so you all will know what I am doing and why I am doing it. I am not litmus-testing. If you do choose to do this, great! Do whatever you can do to avoid wearing blue. Let's make Autism Acceptance Month 8 a month worth remembering. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

My 2017 in Review

The highlights of my year: finishing my schooling (graduate certificate in Disability Studies at University of Missouri-Kansas City, co-teaching Disability History and Culture to UMKC's Propel students for post-secondary students with disabilities, spending nearly every day of the last six months illustrating my graphic novel, and starting to illustrate to others, finishing one of my short stories that I plan to find a literary magazine for, making my new key bowls from old receipts, and going to the Autism Society-The Heartland's AWARE Game Nights 18+ for Adults with Autism. Also continuing my long, cherished friendships, and meeting new friends, working at my second job and making money, making more progress on my novels and stories, progressing through in and finishing reading many of my books, and finishing new watercolor drawings in my art class. Also I might be finding new work next year that I am still looking into. My New Year's Resolution: I just cannot think of any at the moment. Staying strong, thinking of the people who mean most to me, and living my life every minute, pleasant and unpleasant.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Autism Acceptance Month 2017

Ben Edwards updated his cover photo.
42 mins
Tomorrow is the first day of April, which, for some out there, is Autism Awareness Month with blue lights, clothes, and other decor, but for me, and others out in the autistic world, it is Autism Acceptance Month, as of the past six years, which is associated with gold, red, taupe, orange, and green. For us, blue and awareness tend to be associated with medically-modeled groups on autism, such as Autism Speaks, which unfortunately, has raised money (of which only 3 to 4% tends to go to autism services every year-the bulk in advertising, genetic research, and corporate salaries) by comparing autistic people to car wrecks and being struck by lightning, and of their twelve year existence, only in the last two were there autistics on their board, and only two-Stephen Shore and Valerie Paradiz. I have nothing wrong with these two individuals, certainly. I saw Stephen Shore speak at Johnson County Community College and thought he was wonderful, and I have heard well of Paradiz and am sure her work is top notch. I am sure neither of these people accepted their positions lightly, but that is not enough to turn around an organization, which, only months after finally appointing two autistics, endorsed Donald Trump in the 2016 election-the man who mocked a disabled reporter on live television and believes vaccinations cause autism despite twenty years of overwhelming evidence. Blue, moreover, signifies AS's puzzle piece logo, already a red flag for representing autism and autistics as something to be put together rather than fitting together naturally, but is blue due to the notion that autism is more prevalent in boys than in girls, despite diagnostic criteria having a heavy male bias where autistic females are diagnosed much later than their male counterparts, particularly in low-income areas and rural communities, that they have been called "research orphans." Gold, on the other hand, is there because its chemical symbol Au is the first two letters of the word 'autistic,' and red, orange, taupe, and green symbolize other autistic symbols, such as a heart and spark of the Celebrate Autism Foundation, and promoted by groups with heavy board and membership autistic representation, large portions of income to autistic services, and positive representation of our abilities, such as the Academic Autism Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education, the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership, the Autistic Union, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, and the Autism Women's Network. And for everyday of April, I will wear NO BLUE WHATSOEVER (except in my rainbow color Autism Acceptance Month shirt), but plenty of gold, red, taupe, orange, and green. I started doing this two years ago six days into April while still an undergraduate student at the University of Central Missouri, and did it all month long last year, and this year I will do it again. And let me tell, I do it to the letter.  The photo on this post is my new Facebook album cover.

Now, I have heard, on awareness versus acceptance, that awareness is necessary for acceptance. I am indeed for awareness (as in understanding autistic behaviors roles in processing and resulting from environmental factors), but let me put it this way. Imagine you are buying a bookshelve to assemble from IKEA (I know, I'm sorry) and awareness is the screws, while acceptance is the wood. You would not keep ordering tons and tons of screws and no wood hoping it could create a full shelf. Acceptance implies awareness. We have enough awareness, but awareness is not enough.
You can celebrate Autism Acceptance Month in many ways: art, poetry, donating to financially accountable charities, telling stories of yourself or others in your life who are autistic (as long as you do things like not telling private information against their wishes), and other things. There are limitless ways you can celebrate Autism Acceptance Month. April 2nd is Autism Acceptance Day, as opposed to Autism Awareness Day.

One last note: I know that many of you out there wear blue and celebrate Autism Acceptance Month because you care about a loved one or people out there, and I care that you care. If I did not, I would not be writing or doing this all. All I am asking is for all to consider that activism can go in wrong directions, and we as people can correct it. If you do not end up agreeing with me, I know at least that I can teach you something, and you all in return, many be able to teach me.

 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

World Down Syndrome Day 2017

Today is World Down Syndrome Day, and at this point, I have to say I cannot help but remember my good friend, year-long roommate, and friend and "disability brother" Tyler Weekly. I would have a photo collage of all our selfies and pictures from our trip to Florida together if not for technological issues, but I will have it, and I will say that I (and all our number of great mutual friends) remember all that he is-the guy who I go to see movies where works at AMC in Olathe ...and can get me in-and then teases me when I cry during Passengers, how we spend nights watching plays at Starlight Theater where he is an usher captain, how he will spend the night while we watch The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, and I will read him some of the books of Buddhist legends and folk tales I have and share with him stories from the autistic people, get to see him at the Spring Down Syndrome prom every year, who I saw Dr. Strange, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Moana, The Accountant, Sing, The Great Will, The Lego Batman Movie, and Hidden Figures-for which I still have all the ticket stubs, and how he will always dream big, challenge me to go on with whatever I am doing, and, above all, remind me of why I love life so much. Seeing him will make me so glad that all the progress for people with Down syndrome that has happened and all that is in the process of happening, as well as that with autistic people and those with other disabilities.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Past 2016 For Me

My year in brief, not withstanding the 2016 presidential election: starting to write for the first time in years and create dozens ideas my own for new novels, graphic novels, short stories, and fairy tales, most of them involving autistic and disabled characters, and, unlike with most stories portraying characters with said abilities, have well-rounded characters, distinct motivations and personas, and so on, who are not the only one if their kind in a world where autistics flat-out look like oddities, and even have their distinct cultural identity of their own autistic brethren, even to the point where neurotypicals actually begin to look like oddities. Like Shakespeare, Homer, and the Brothers Grimm, my stories do tend to be somewhat retellings of disability stories-from video games, artwork, internet memes, history, mythology, adaptations of classic stories, and even bits and pieces of old novels here and there from Neuroatypical authors-but with imagination, descriptive powers, imagery, and drawing from experiences that I happy to possess. This is the year also where I received A's in two of my graduate Disability Studies classes at UMKC, the other class from 2015 being one where I got a B, which brings my UMKC GPA to roughly 3.7. I have also started the process creating a distinct on-line video game involving people with disabilities that should appeal to a wide range of on-line gamers, and gotten some career breaks in UMKC's new Disability Propel program, the Missouri Developmental Disability Council, UMKC's Facing Project, writing disability-related articles, and so on. In addition, I have become more positive about finding romantic relationships, and made incredible headway in doing so (young disabled activist/scholar's lives can be incredibly lonely sometimes), gotten together more often with some of my close friends from over the years, seen former teachers and influences; finished over ten books I had gotten it was reading and over seventy graphic novels from other authors; worked thirty-two to forty hour work weeks most weeks depending on my course load; made over two hundred discarded produce bags worth of plarn with my own two hands and scissors; made several new environmentally repurposed crafts, drawings, and over a dozen new watercolors with my art teacher, Donna; and meet others with genuine interest and support of autistic and Neuroatypical people from around the country and around the world through close friends of mine. I was also wise enough to gently leave a former friend who I learned was talking about me behind my back and even went on long, unending rants at me on my own personal posts, that are no longer on those threads; and I happened to lose my cat Peter, who was nineteen, had arthritis, mostly blind and deaf, losing control of his bodily functions, and gave me so much love and support over the past years. Through all these things that I have said, I continue to be inspired by the stories others have told me, including fictional ones, and tell mine in the hopes you all will realize the power your own have. I have also happened to uncover more plots and devices affecting autistic people from self-aggrandizing groups and people who I have dealt with before as far back as Warrensburg and JCCC as recently as my lunch break yesterday afternoon.

My New Year's Resolution: hold close to the people who best understand me and support me, judging for myself who those people are, and learn to quit going out of my way to accomodate those who cannot understand me or accommodate me as well, kindly yet firmly if I can, whether they be family, friends, or caring individuals, I will know when the time comes; not bother when one cannot understand why I am the way I am or do things my way, not to keep being the one to pay each and every time they make the same mistake. History has taught me how a smaller, not larger number of people have changed the course of the world for the better, and when it comes to friends and allies, it IS QUALITY, not quantity that matters, never mind money, influence, or political backing. I know there are others who do not want to see me suffer, but they can stubborn and obtuse also, and I refuse to be weighed down by them any longer.