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Friday, September 13, 2013

Up from the ashes

Today we in the United States mourn the deaths of thousands of innocent people murdered at the hands of a small number of desperate terrorists on September 11, 2001.

I too lost someone that fateful morning, she died in the Pentagon.  She was my psychologist Dr. Norma Lang SteuerleWe had a regular weekly appointment for 8 years.  Dr. Steuerle was on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon; a little over a mile from where I live I heard the explosions. She was flying to Okinawa, Japan to visit her daughter Kristin a naval doctor who was stationed there. Since her death, I have connected with no other psychologist or psychiatrist as I did with her, as most Autistics are I too am not good with change.
 
For all of victims, of the September 11, 2001, both living and dead,
especially Dr. Steuerle and her family.
 
Instead of dwelling on her loss today I will instead celebrate her life through the life I have now.  I am a proud Autistic woman, even though she had not fully pieced it all together back then (was formally diagnosed on the Spectrum in March of 2009), she would be very proud of who I have become today.  She helped me to believe more in myself.  I now have a handful of friends.  Christmas-time, in fact the whole month of December, is still an exciting time for me, from the carols to the twinkling lights to warm cracking fires and so is the month of my birth.  As anyone who knows me, knows these two times of year are when I get the most excited out of all others.  Dr.  Steuerle knew this as well, so the week of my birthday each year we instead had our weekly appointment at McDonald’s, a celebratory lunch.  I may not work very often, but when I do it is purposeful and enjoyable, plus it is always nice to earn money.  I serve on two boards, one that is a general disability-related one and the other that is all about Autism and have been invited to join a national advisory committee for an Autism organization.  I organize a group for my fellow Autistic adults locally, etc.  I am generally a happy person with a smile naturally at home on my face.  My smile infects others, not my Autism (Autism as you know is not contagious!), and have seen its effects first-hand on the subway and walking down the streets near where I live.  One simple smile shared with a stranger can brighten their day as it has mine on many an occasion when I have received one. 

Published September 11, 2013 on Google+

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Rallying Cry for Justice for Issy!

An update on Issy Stapleton... 

According to a recent post on her father's Facebook page, that has been reposted in various newspapers today and online, "A posting on Matt Stapleton's Facebook page says Isabelle is breathing on her own, walking, talking, and out of the critical care unit at a Grand Rapids hospital after doctors decided Friday to remove her from a ventilator."   

I am so very happy that Issy survived this heinous crime.  This proves that Issy is one tough little girl, not all victims of attempted murder are as lucky.  I can only hope that her mother, in addition to her current charge of attempted murder, also gets charged with a hate crime.   

The current federal law regarding hate crimes deals with crimes where the offender is motivated by bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or ethnicity/national origin.”  Issy was attacked because she is Autistic, this does constitute a hate crime under Michigan and federal law and should be prosecuted as such, Issy deserves no less. 
 
I therefore appeal to all who live in Michigan, and those who do not as well, to contact the Michigan Alliance Against Hate Crime, on Issy Stapleton’s behalf and on behalf of all future Autistic victims of potential hate crimes, and push for a hate crime charge to be added: 

Michigan Alliance Against Hate Crime
c/o MDCR-Community Relations Division
110 West Michigan Avenue
Capital Tower Building, Ste. 900
Lansing, MI 48933 

Statewide Crisis Response: 1-800-482-3604
Main Line: 517-335-3165
Fax: 517-241-0546 

mdcrcrt@miaahc.com - for general inquiries 

VictimSupport@miaahc.org - to reach the Victim Support Sub-Committee 

CommunityResponse@miaahc.org - for the Community Response Sub-Committee

Saturday, September 7, 2013

End the violence!

Stop killing or in the case of our most recent victim, a 14 year old girl named Issy Stapleton, attempting to kill, my fellow Autistics!  On Tuesday Issy's mother tried to kill her and then herself, but Issy did not die she is still in the hospital and has not yet regained consciousness.  We Autistics are not expendable, murder is murder.  No amount of spin in the media or on blogs can diminish that fact.  We are human and deserve respect!  This is a hate crime and should be charged as such.  Please sign the following petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/united-states-department-of-justice-charge-mother-who-tried-to-murder-autistic-child-with-federal-hate-crime

 
Published September 6, 2013 on Google+

Autistic March on Washington

 
We came, we saw, we marched!  Yes ladies and gentleman a small and very passionate group of Autistic adults attended the first event of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, on Saturday August 24th, to highlight the needs of the Autistic Community.

The week-long anniversary celebrations kicked off on Saturday and featured speakers of the likes of Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King, III.  The anniversary festivities began at 8:00am with a rally at the Lincoln Memorial which included a speaker from Planned Parenthood, various reverends from across the country, and other individuals highlighting Civil Rights issues, all of whom electrified the assembled masses along both sides of the Reflecting Pool.  Following the rally there was a march to the newly erected Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

As you know, I organize a group for my fellow Autistic adults in the Washington, D.C. area it is called the Adult Autism Spectrum Friends; some of our membership attended this momentous event.  We braved the over-crowded subways, co-mingled with the smells of perfume, cologne, and humanity, and the many road-closures, to be a part of history and I even suffered a touch of heat stroke, but our Autistic voices were heard!

The Washington Metro Transit Agency counted just over 450,000 subway rides during the kickoff festivities on Saturday and that number does not even include the hundreds of buses that brought some attendees to the march, this will give you an indication what we braved for the Autistic Community, the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington was HUGE!

On the main website for the anniversary march Disability Rights, more specifically Autistic Rights, was not among the reasons listed for why people should march.  I thought that this was an important Civil Rights issue that needed to be addressed, it should never have been left out in the first place!, so we marched.  With 2-sided poster board signs held high above our heads and wearing badges that stated that we were Autistic we entered the fray.  Each side of our signs bore a crucial message: one side stated Autistic Rights ARE Human rights, the other Autistics Deserve Equal Rights.  We pressed through the masses.  Onlookers chanted the slogans audibly as we passed.   It was very exciting!

At no time did anyone say anything derisive to us, instead it was always, “my son is Autistic”, “my granddaughter is Autistic”, etc.  People shouted things like “YES!  You are right!” and “That is so true!” when they read our signs.

A goodly number of March on Washington attendees photographed our signs, some of whom requested that we pose for photographs while holding our signs, even the mother of an Autistic child had her son pose with us, although I am not sure he wished to be photographed with strangers just because they too were Autistic.

Anytime we felt that the word “disabled” or the word “Autistics” deserved to be part of a speaker’s oratory, we passionately shouted its addition.  When it came time for one of the speakers to talk about getting rid of minimum wages and instead replacing them with living wages, I shouted that we first need to end the practice of subminimum wages, my fellow Autistics agreed whole-heartedly.

Many disabled people have been taken advantage of all due to Section 14(C) of the Fair Standards of Labor Act of 1938 which legally allows employers the right to pay their disabled workers less than minimum wage, in 1938 it was believed to help the disabled, but it certainly does not now, the standard of living does not allow for people to survive on a pittance.  H.R. 831: Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2013 was introduced this year and calls for the “phase out [of] special wage certificates under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938”, it is those special wage certificates that allow for the disabled to legally be paid subminimum wages by their employers.

In addition to be being photographed at the march, a couple of us were even photographed away from it, just because we were carrying our signs and being our normal Autistic-selves.  What with all of this minor celebrity we started to feel a bit like a cardboard cutout of the president that tourists wanted to have their photos taken with.  After every photograph was taken people felt the need to touch us, in that stroking “you are so brave”, “you poor dear” sort of way or attempted to hug us, none of us could figure out why they felt the need to do so, but if we were to dwell too much on this it would surely diminish the success we shared.

All in all our Autistic March on Washington was a rousing success; more people have our needs in mind!  And this further proves that it is not the size of the group assembled that determines the success of the action, but the weight and strength of the message they wish to share.

I close by saying, always remember that Autistic Rights ARE Human Rights and that Autistics Deserve Equal Rights!  Also, I urge you to ask your congressmen to push for the deletion of Section 14(C) of the Fair Standards of Labor Act of 1938 by asking them to support H.R. 831: Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2013; even the disabled deserve a Living Wage!  Like any other minority group, Autistics have Civil Rights that must be fought for and upheld.


 
Published September 1, 2013 on Google+

You're a firework...show 'em what you're worth!

I want to share the lyrics of a song that I feel can be inspiring for Autistics everywhere, I heard it for the first time last night, I know it has been out for a couple of years, but they say things come to us when we are ready or need them and I guess I was ready last night.  Let it inspire you as well!  Let's all be fireworks and allow our true potential to shine bright both day and night.  :)  Just click on the link.

Katy Perry's Firework
 

 
Published August 17, 2013 on Google+

It's Time to Break the Chains!

This past week the United States of America celebrated Independence Day, the day on which in 1776 we declared our independence from Great Britain, the birth of our nation.  Independence is one thing that we Autistics strive for whether we are verbal or nonverbal, whether we are living in the United States or anywhere else in this world, we all deserve a chance to be truly part of society. 

Independence comes in many forms, but the most basic of which is to live in the community, not be relegated to “institutions” or “facilities”, cut off from the rest of humanity only to venture out when our “keepers” say we may, this is not independence in any stretch of the word.  As adults we deserve independence on our terms.  Slowly organizations with our “best” interest at heart are starting to understand that segregating us to keep us “safe” or to “shelter” us, etc. does us more harm than good. 

We never truly become members of society at large when we are relegated to life on the fringe of it.  Allowing us to be part of the decision-making process is key, when if comes down to it, whatever is decided effects us more than it will effect you.  Living within communities is the start toward independence, finding work that pays a living wage is the next step. 

We Autistic adults, whether we be verbal or nonverbal, should never be barred, excluded, etc. from weighing in on decisions that effect us, we each have something to offer.  Autistics and other disabled people in the United States can legally be paid less than “normal” people, but what is normal?, all due to the unfair portion (Section 14(C)) of a law that is still in existence, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, at the time it was believed to help the disabled, but it certainly does not now, the standard of living does not allow for people to survive on a pittance.  In the Developed World our most vulnerable should not be taken advantage of.  How can we truly achieve Independence if we are being paid a legal subminimum wage? 

The time has come for this Act to be brought into the 21st Century.  I urge you to contact your legislators and push for them to delete Section 14(C) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 which allows companies who employ disabled workers to pay those workers subminimum

wages; we wish for Independence for our Autistic-selves, for our/your Autistic children, relatives, and friends and for all Autistics yet to come!
 

 
Published July 11, 2013 on Google+

 
 
 
 
 

Autistic Pride Day 2013

Today we Autistics celebrate Autistic Pride Day, if you are unfamiliar with this amazing celebration, I will now tell you a little bit about it.  Autistic Pride Day was started by Aspies for Freedom and first celebrated on June 18, 2005.  It is a positive day of celebration in response to the shame we are made to feel most days of our lives, the shame that many, but not all, Neurotypical people make us feel with their stares and critical words when we stim (rock or hand-flap) or talk too loud or when we bounce and jump around with excitement, etc. in other words when we are being our TRUE Autistic-selves.  No one should be made to feel ashamed for who they are, we are human just like you.  Ignorance is no excuse for prejudice or murder. 

I bring up murder due to the fact that many in the Autistic Community are still reeling from yet another act of extreme hatred perpetrated on one of our own, another Autistic was murdered this past week just because he was Autistic, and his name was Alex Spourdalakis.  His murder is not a rare occurrence in our community, if one takes the time to comb the virtual landscape one may unearth many more, Autistics are murdered all the time.  We are not “diseased”, we need no “cures”, and we are not expendable.  We are indeed normal and deserve to be treated as such. 



Take time to get to know us, verbal or nonverbal, we have much to share.  If we are unable to express words verbally do not push us to do so or become intensely frustrated that we cannot, instead introduce us to a form of Augmentative Alternative Communication, everyone has a need to be “heard”, it is a human right.  There are many forms of Augmentative Alternative Communication, give us a “voice”.  We are not less than you, we are just different and different is what makes this world an interesting place, if we were all the same this world would be very boring. 

Instead of pointing your finger at or laughing at someone who is acting “differently”, why not instead take a moment to understand them.  Understanding leads to Acceptance and Acceptance will make a better world.  Do not spend all of your energy and money (do not give to Autism Speaks) trying to “cure” us, or “fix” us in order for us to be more like you, instead get to know us on our terms and learn to accept us for who we are and how we are.  We are not the enemy, nor is our Autism.  Embrace differences do not push them away or exclude them.  Ours is a hidden disability.  Many in my community, verbal and nonverbal, are quite proud of their differences; as you know I am. 

Do not demoralize us or defame us or dehumanize us, instead accept us and appreciate us.  Celebrate our successes no matter how small they may seem.  What is needed is for society as a whole to accept Autistics for who we are, verbal or nonverbal, stims and all.  If we all work together we can make a better world. 

If you are not already Autistic and Proud, today is a great day to start!  Happy Autistic Pride Day everyone!

Something fun, join music therapist Veronica May (A.K.A. “Miss Veronica”) to learn about being proud, a BIG part of what Autistic Pride Day is all about!
Autism Kids Video: Learn the Emotion "Proud" from Miss Veronica

Here is a video made by an Autistic self-advocate - Some Random Autistic - in honor of Autistic Pride Day.
Autistic Pride Day

Published June 18, 2013 on Google+
 

Global Anti-Bullying Autism Campaign

Please support Kevin Healey's Global Anti-Bullying Autism Campaign, whether you live in the U.K. or not, this is something that needs to be addressed world-wide.  I too have been bullied from childhood to adulthood.  Please watch the following video and then sign the petition, I did, so should you.  Bullying is wrong and needs to stop.  Here is a link to the petition:  https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/national-and-international-governments-autism-bullying-laws-to-change-anti-autism-bullying-laws-to-be-changed-nationally-and-internationally

Published May 21, 2013 on Google+

I Am Not a Token Autistic!

I Am Not a Token Autistic
Samantha Bodwell
Autism Pride Shop link *

My name is Samantha Bodwell, I am the sole Autistic on the board of the Autism Society of Northern Virginia and due to my suggestion and further urging my board voted unanimously in November of 2011 to rename April Autism Acceptance Month!  :)  I am not a token Autistic, like some are on majority Neurotypical boards, but a full contributing member!  :)  This is the second annual celebration of Autism Acceptance Month here in Northern Virginia. In honor of Autism Acceptance Month I have made a sign and posted it in our front yard.



Happy Autism Acceptance Month everyone.

*My Autism Pride Shop, a portion of the purchase price will be donated to organizations that promote Autism Pride and Autism Acceptance!  Please check out my wares and if you have any ideas for things I can design don't hesitate to suggest them!


Posted on Thinking Person's Guide to Autism blog 11 April 2013.

Published April 11, 2013 on Google+


Ideas for How to Celebrate Autism Acceptance Month

Some ideas for how to celebrate Autistics during Autism Acceptance Month:

Host a story hour at your local library or school and read a book about an Autistic child to the assembled children and discuss it.

Host a book group and feature a book written by an Autistic adult and discuss it.

Screen a movie or tv show (documentary or fiction) in your home or at your local library that features an Autistic adult or child in a positive role.

Get creative. Autistics are part of a Spectrum, make a craft including all the colors of the rainbow and attach photos of your favorite Autistic person or people.

Listen to Autistics, they are the true voice of Autism; ask them what they need instead of telling them.

Include Autistic adults in “the conversation” about Autism, do not exclude them.

Help end the hurtful stereotypes that usually appear during April by instead posting positive things about Autistics in your schools, local libraries, on your Facebook page, on your Twitter feed, on your blog, etc.

Treat your Autistic child to a special outing.

Consider hiring an Autistic adult for your new job vacancy.

If you have an Autistic child in your class invite him/her to sit with you at lunch or to play with you on the playground, no one like to be excluded.

Make a poster that announces and celebrates Autism Acceptance Month and display it in your classroom, outside of your home, etc.

If you know an Autistic adult, invite them out for a coffee this month and treat them to their favorite dessert.

String multi-colored lights or multi-colored balls in your front window or on a bush/railing outside your house in celebration of the Autism Spectrum.

Encourage your friends and family to do something positive for Autism in their local communities during April – Autism Acceptance Month.


Published April 3, 2013 on Google+





Autism Acceptance Month Part Deux

It is April again and we are celebrating the second year of Autism Acceptance Month in Northern Virginia, thanks to my continued efforts on the Acceptance front!

As you recall, due to my suggestion and further urging the board of the Autism Society of Northern Virginia, my board, voted unanimously in November of 2011 to change April to Autism Acceptance Month.  This is a milestone in Autistic History.  An Autistic on a board of Neurotypicals was able to change their minds and real tangible change has come out of it.  All other Autistic led movements were born/exist on the Internet, this one never was.  I am proud to have suggested Autism Acceptance Month and seen it come to fruition.

Autism Acceptance Month is a time to celebrate and embrace our Autistic differences.  It is so much more than you accepting your Autistic diagnosis or your child’s, it is instead about society as a whole accepting Autistics for who we are, verbal or nonverbal, stims and all.

Look how far other civil rights movements have come.  Blacks are now CEOs of big companies, the president of the United States, elected officials, etc., etc.  Gays are getting married in many states, elected officials, etc., etc.  Both minority groups are no longer seen as second class citizens.  People with physical handicaps are now able to work wherever they like, given building accommodations, etc.

The rights of Autistics are also civil rights.  We have rights too, but Autistics are still seen as second class citizens, we are continually discounted by society because we are not “normal”, but what is “normal” anyway.  Our Autistic youth are continually experimented on in hopes of “curing” their Autism from shock “therapy” to chelation “therapy” to bleach enemas to crazy diets to new drugs with horrible side-effects to the latest quack therapy having them ingest the eggs of parasitic helmith porcine whipworms to who knows what!  Autism is not something that can be “cured”, it is not a disease!  We as a society need to stop all of this quackery masquerading as science!  Stop experimenting on our Autistic youth!  No other community, disability or not, has been continuously treated this badly!  We are hated and feared; the news media of late has only made to exacerbate the situation, not improve it.  When it comes to Autism confusion about us is the norm. We need Acceptance!  Parents and caregivers murder us and society does not even bat an eye, nor do they shout that such atrocities must cease.  They instead say that the caregiver or parent had to struggle because of that Autistic adult or Autistic child and that it is understandable that they committed murder; it is never about us, only just them.  They try to rationalize it, but murder is still murder plain and simple.  No one speaks for the innocent murdered Autistics; we are just seen as expendable.  We are not expendable, we are just has human as you are, we too deserve respect.

There is so much that the Neurotypical world can learn from us, we have much to share, our brains work differently from yours, but that does not mean that we are “flawed” or “broken” or “damaged”, it just means we are different and may have a unique way of looking at things.  Give us a chance to show you, you might just be surprised.  We do not need to be “fixed” or “cured”, that is not what we need, what we need is Acceptance, pure and simple.  Other groups have gotten it, but we need it more.  Ours is a hidden disability that many times gets mistaken for insanity, especially when an adult is having a meltdown in public.  We are restrained like prisoners and experimented on, we are not lab rats here to help advance science, your quest to improve us pharmaceutically is unfounded, we are not “diseased”, etc.  One looks for “cures” for diseases, Autism is not a disease.  If I blew on you, you would not catch my Autism.

Statistically Autistics are either underemployed or unemployed, that does not mean we have nothing to offer to the workforce or that we are not employable, it just means that the workforce is not always welcoming to us.  Offices and other workplaces have noises, distractions, unfriendly lighting, social demands, smells, etc. that we Autistics can not handle, it is not in our “design”.  Other disabilities are given ready accommodations, but unlike, for example blindness, one set of accommodations does not fit us all, we are all unique in our Autistic strengths and weaknesses.  The solution is not for Autistics to become more like Neurotypicals, no other disability has been made to do that.  There is no way that we Autistics can become Neurotypical, we are wired differently.  The internet is littered with stories and blogs about Autistics who stepped onto the stage of life and tried their hand at “playing” Neurotypicals.  Autistics struggle through life, from sensory difficulties to communication problems, etc. the additional stress of trying to be a Neurotypical does not help, it instead hurts us.  We have our ups and downs, the downs are the worst, but the ups make it all worthwhile.  What happened to those Autistics who “played” at being Neurotypicals, did it work you ask?  No, it did not, in the end those same Autistics who valiantly tried to work in a way that they were never meant to have burned out.  It is not healthy for us to be anything other that what we are.  We are Autistic.

What we need is for society to welcome and embrace our Autistic differences and not shun us or try to “fix” or “cure” us.  April as you know is Autism Acceptance Month, it is a month to celebrate and embrace our Autistic differences, those of our friends, our children, and family members.  Autism Acceptance is about society as a whole accepting Autistics for who we are, verbal or nonverbal, stims and all.  During the month of April I especially ask, beg, and plead that you work toward Autism Acceptance in your local communities, for your Autistic selves, your Autistic children, and all of the Autistic generations yet to come.  As I have mentioned in other entries, every great movement starts with a spark, now is your chance to be that spark!  Be proud of who you and we are.  We are unique and beautiful and do not need to be changed!  Nonverbal or verbal, we Autistics have much to offer society, from a smile to a brilliant discovery; all we need is a chance to do so.  We need love and Acceptance.  One can only be who he/she is, no one else.  Be you, the only YOU, you can be.  Do not try to blend in, instead be true to yourself.  No matter how hard things get we Autistics should not be dissuaded in our efforts, we need to keep working to make the world a welcoming place, encouraging others to Accept us is the way to do it.  We need more self-advocates working within the system to change things for us.  If we all do our part, we will make a better world.  Be Autistic and Proud, I know I am and I would not want to be any other way.

A VERY happy Autism Acceptance Month to one and all!!

 

Published April 1,  2013 on Google+



 

Autistic Rights are Civil Rights!

Today, Inauguration Day 2013 and also Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, civil rights were a big part of President Obama's Inauguration speech, let us all remember that Autistic Rights are civil rights and that we as citizens of this great nation deserve all that it has to offer as much as any other minority group. Let us all pledge to work toward the advancement of rights for Autistics, we can do this by talking to our Congressmen and Senators, talking to our friends and relations, etc., it all comes down to working together for this common goal of Acceptance, Autism Acceptance. Every movement starts with a catalyst, now is your chance to be a spark!
 
 
Published January 21, 2013 on Google+

Happy New Year!

On this the first day of 2013, the first year not to contain a repeated digit since 1987, please add to your resolution lists that you will strive to welcome people who are different than you are into your social circle or at the very least share a smile with a passerby who seems different. We Autistics are like snowflakes, no two are alike, but we would all love to be welcome.  A Happy New Year to one and all from the Autism Acceptance Digest!

Published January 1, 2013 on Google+

A VERY Merry Christmas!

A very Merry Christmas to all who are celebrating today!  The one gift that we really need is Acceptance!
Published December 25, 2012 on Google+

No connection between Asperger’s Syndrome and violence

If you have not already read/heard, a great tragedy was perpetrated by a lone gunman last Friday in Newtown, Connecticut, it has been suggested that he had a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, without going into specific details of the tragedy, one can easily find those on the internet, I wish to address the fact that Autism was discussed in conjunction with extreme violence. Being Autistic does not predispose one to commit heinous acts of murder, etc., please keep in mind that this is the second time this year that the association of Asperger’s Syndrome and violence has been discussed in the media, the first was after the mass-shooting at a movie theater in Colorado, the gunman was also suspected to have Asperger’s. The Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (G.R.A.S.P.) and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (A.S.A.N.) have issued statements about the Autism/violence connection. Here are links to their statements.  


Below is an article published by the Associated Press that further illustrates that there is indeed NO connection between Asperger’s Syndrome and violence. By virtue of our Autism, we Autistics are not predisposed to commit premeditated violence/murder. I urge you to read the AP article and share it widely with your friends and family, by doing so you will aid in breaking down horrible stereotypes about our community and aid in the cause of Autism Acceptance. Thank you.
 



Autism experts say no evidence of link between Asperger’s and violence like in Connecticut

Dec 16, 2012, Associated Press

NEW YORK — While an official has said that the 20-year-old gunman in the Connecticut school shooting had Asperger’s Syndrome, experts say there is no connection between the disorder and violence.

Asperger’s is a mild form of Autism often characterized by social awkwardness.

“There really is no clear association between Asperger’s and violent behavior,” said psychologist Elizabeth Laugeson, an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Little is known about Adam Lanza, identified by police as the shooter in the Friday massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. He fatally shot his mother before going to the school and killing 20 young children, six adults and himself, authorities said.

A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the unfolding investigation, said Lanza had been diagnosed with Asperger’s.

High school classmates and others have described him as bright but painfully shy, anxious and a loner. Those kinds of symptoms are consistent with Asperger’s, said psychologist Eric Butter of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, who treats Autism, including Asperger’s, but has no knowledge of Lanza’s case.

Research suggests people with Autism do have a higher rate of aggressive behavior — outbursts, shoving or pushing or angry shouting — than the general population, he said.

“But we are not talking about the kind of planned and intentional type of violence we have seen at Newtown,” he said in an email.

“These types of tragedies have occurred at the hands of individuals with many different types of personalities and psychological profiles,” he added.

Autism is a developmental disorder that can range from mild to severe.

Asperger’s generally is thought of as a mild form. Both Autism and Asperger’s can be characterized by poor social skills, repetitive behavior or interests and problems communicating. Unlike classic Autism, Asperger’s does not typically involve delays in mental development or speech.

Experts say those with Autism and related disorders are sometimes diagnosed with other mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

“I think it’s far more likely that what happened may have more to do with some other kind of mental health condition like depression or anxiety rather than Asperger’s,” Laugeson said.

She said those with Asperger’s tend to focus on rules and be very law-abiding.

“There’s something more to this,” she said. “We just don’t know what that is yet.”

After much debate, the term Asperger’s is being dropped from the diagnostic manual used by the nation’s psychiatrists. In changes approved earlier this month, Asperger’s will be incorporated under the umbrella term “Asperger’s Syndrome” for all the ranges of Autism. 

Published December 17, 2012 on Google+

A Call to Ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Today is the 20th Anniversary of International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) as recognized by the United Nations.

Tomorrow Senators will vote on the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), it is a very important treaty, there is still time to ask your Senators to support ratification. I encourage you to telephone them and ask them to VOTE FOR RATIFICATION, even if your Senator's office is closed, you can still leave them a voicemail, please do so today!

Here is a link to the U.S. Senate listings:
http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

To learn more about the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities please click on the following link:
http://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml

Published December 3, 2012 on Google+

I am a spark! :)

Do you remember my saying that every movement starts with a catalyst and asked you to be a spark? It turns out I am a spark!! Last night, one of my fellow board members told me that he was so inspired by my push for Autism Acceptance that he in turn told his nephew in England, who in turn was inspired and made the following video for Autism Acceptance. The people in the video are Autistic and Proud. It is so very exciting to have inspired someone who in turn inspired another and see the results. Everyone can be spark! Go out and inspire. :) Enjoy the video. http://vimeo.com/41877313


Published May 18, 2012 on Google+

I live and breathe Autism Acceptance every day!

Autism Acceptance means so very much to me. I have spent a great deal of time drawing your attention to the accomplishments and work of others that I have failed to acknowledge my own. I will therefore step outside my normal comfort-zone and acknowledge what I have done thus far.

Greetings one and all, I am Samantha Bodwell an Autistic adult, diagnosed in my mid-30s and the Autistic keeper of this page.

I am the sole Autistic on the board of the Autism Society of Northern Virginia; I was elected to that board in April of 2011, due to my local involvement in the Autism Community. As a result of my suggestion and further urging the board voted unanimously in November of 2011 to rename April, Autism Acceptance Month, in Northern Virginia and it was all due to my efforts. Autism Awareness has been achieved, almost everyone is “aware” of Autism; the next true step for, my community, the Autistic Community is Autism Acceptance! I am very proud of the change. On April 28th in Fredericksburg, VA, I read a speech I had written about Autism Acceptance at the Autism Society of Northern Virginia’s first-ever Autism Acceptance Walk.

In addition I was instrumental in the renaming of an annual Autism day, in April, at the National Aquarium in Washington, D.C. I wrote to the chairman of the local parents group that hosts the event there and put forth my suggestion, she in turn put it to her board and they voted unanimously to rename their event Autism Acceptance day, at the aquarium. This event is unlike any other Autism event because no money goes to any outside organization; it instead stays at the aquarium where it can be used for educational purposes and upkeep.

Finally, I wrote to all of the local school districts in my area and told them that April is now to be referred to as Autism Acceptance Month; I heard back from a goodly number and received very positive feedback. Now that it is May I have written back to the school systems and have asked what they did during April and I am starting to receive replies.

The rest of the world discriminates against us, ours is a hidden disability and therefore when we are acting as our true selves we are ridiculed or feared. Many Autistics who can “pass as a Neurotypical person” are doing so; they are hiding their true nature to conform, expending so much energy trying to fit in that they have been known to burn out from exhaustion, there are many blogs that attest to this. Some refer to themselves as being “closeted” or “in the closet”; they want no one to know they are Autistic for fear of reprisals. This is not the way anyone should have to live. A friend, who is a lesbian, and I made an interesting conclusion several years ago. The word “passing” harkens back to what many light-skinned Blacks did in the majority White work-force prior to and up to the passing of the Civil Rights Amendment. The word “closeted” or describing oneself as being “in the closet” is a phrase used by the Gay Community to say that one is not open about their sexual orientation, we use it in terms of our Autism, another word, borrowed from the Gay Community, used by Autistics is “out”, as in “I am an out Autistic”, which of course I am, there are many correlations that can be drawn between the Civil Rights Movement, the Gay Rights Movement, and what Autistics are working for today. We deserve the same respect and rights as other disabled people.

I live and breathe Autism Acceptance every day; I try to tell more people about it. Autism Awareness has been achieved, almost everyone is "aware" of Autism; the next true step for the Autistic Community, my community, is Autism Acceptance! Autism is life-long; it is not just about children. Autism is not a disease; there is no "cure" for Autism. Autism Acceptance is anti-cure at its core, it is about Neurodiversity. Autism Acceptance is about more than just you accepting your diagnosis or the diagnosis of your child; it is instead about our society as a whole accepting Autistics for who we truly are stims and all. By sharing what I have done, I hope that I will in turn inspire you to do something, even if it is something little, that will lead to our end goal of Autism Acceptance, everyone can do his or her part, all you have to do is change one mind and in turn that mind will change another, the chain will go on and on. Every movement starts with a catalyst, now is the time to be a spark.

 
Published May 13, 2012 on Google+


 

Autistic First, Person Second!

Recently Autistics I know have been talking more and more about "person first" language and how they as Autistics feel about it, whether they consider themselves a "person with Autism" or "an Autistic person", I consider myself to be the latter and prefer that others refer to me as such. I am an Autistic person, my Autism is part of every aspect of who I am and how I see the world. I know that I am different, to be like everyone else would be boring! To further address "person first" language, I would like to introduce you to Jim Sinclair an Autistic self-advocate and organizer of Autreat, a yearly retreat run by Autistics for Autistics. In 1999 Jim wrote a piece about “person first” language. I shall now let that piece speak for itself.



Why I dislike "person first" language by Jim Sinclair
I am not a "person with Autism." I am an Autistic person. Why does this distinction matter to me?

1) Saying "person with Autism" suggests that the Autism can be separated from the person. But this is not the case. I can be separated from things that are not part of me, and I am still be the same person. I am usually a "person with a purple shirt," but I could also be a "person with a blue shirt" one day, and a "person with a yellow shirt" the next day, and I would still be the same person, because my clothing is not part of me. But Autism is part of me. Autism is hard-wired into the ways my brain works. I am Autistic because I cannot be separated from how my brain works.

2) Saying "person with Autism" suggests that even if Autism is part of the person, it isn't a very important part. Characteristics that are recognized as central to a person's identity are appropriately stated as adjectives, and may even be used as nouns to describe people: We talk about "male" and "female" people, and even about "men" and "women" and "boys" and "girls," not about "people with maleness" and "people with femaleness." We describe people's cultural and religious identifications in terms such as "Russian" or "Catholic," not as "person with Russianity" or "person with Catholicism." We describe important aspects of people's social roles in terms such as "parent" or "worker," not as "person with offspring" or "person who has a job." We describe important aspects of people's personalities in terms such as "generous" or "outgoing," not as "person with generosity" or "person with extroversion." Yet Autism goes deeper than culture and learned belief systems. It affects how we relate to others and how we find places in society. It even affects how we relate to our own bodies. If I did not have an Autistic brain, the person that I am would not exist. I am Autistic because Autism is an essential feature of me as a person.

3) Saying "person with Autism" suggests that Autism is something bad--so bad that is isn't even consistent with being a person. Nobody objects to using adjectives to refer to characteristics of a person that are considered positive or neutral. We talk about left-handed people, not "people with left-handedness," and about athletic or musical people, not about "people with athleticism" or "people with musicality." We might call someone a "blue-eyed person" or a "person with blue eyes," and nobody objects to either descriptor. It is only when someone has decided that the characteristic being referred to is negative that suddenly people want to separate it from the person. I know that Autism is not a terrible thing, and that it does not make me any less a person. If other people have trouble remembering that Autism doesn't make me any less a person, then that's their problem, not mine. Let them find a way to remind themselves that I'm a person, without trying to define an essential feature of my personhood as something bad. I am Autistic because I accept and value myself the way I am.

Copyright (c) 2010 Jim Sinclair

Published May 3, 2012 on Google+

My Autism Acceptance Month Speech

I am an Autistic adult and the sole Autistic board member of the Autism Society of Northern Virginia. 

Autism is not a disease; there is no “cure” for Autism.  So much time, effort, and money has been devoted to “curing” Autism, when it should have been put toward how to truly accept Autistics into our society, assuring that all who seek/need supports have access to them regardless of their “functional” level.  Functionality is a relative term, everyone has strengths and weaknesses, we are not all alike, even within specific diagnoses, and different people function differently in different situations, I stress again that we are not all alike.  Autism is a spectrum, within it there are differing hues of color and each individual who is diagnosed is unique.  Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, PDD-NOS, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Rhett’s Syndrome, we are all part of one community, the Autistic Community.  It is within this community that we find our strength.  Until I was finally diagnosed, prior to that I had a handful of diagnoses, including learning disabilities, but no one had properly connected the dots, I truly thought that I did not belong anywhere, now I know I do and I will fight for my community, Acceptance is what I and others are fighting for. 

Autism is a Developmental Disability and like any other disability Autistics deserve respect and acceptance. 

Many on the Autism Spectrum have felt like they were “from a different planet”, that they have never fit in, we never should have been made to feel that way; we are all unique and special, we should be accepted as such, stims and all. 

Autistic people are not less than Neurotypical people, we are just different and it is OK to be different.  Being like everyone else is boring!  ;) 

We are just like you in more ways that you can imagine. 

We may feel things more deeply in many cases and we react to them in ways not of the norm as we do to sounds, smells, lights, touch, etc., but we are just as human as you are. 

Some of us may not “speak” as I am now, but that does not mean that we have nothing to say.  The internet is filled with Autistics “speaking” every minute of everyday.  The internet for many is an easier medium in which to communicate thought, etc., whether you are non-verbal or not it is a haven where Autistics can truly be themselves without judgment or criticism due to stimming or handflapping, etc. by our society at large.  It is in the internet that we truly shine. 

The rest of the world discriminates against us, ours is a hidden disability and therefore when we are acting as our true selves we are ridiculed or feared.  Many Autistics who can “pass as a Neurotypical person” are doing so; they are hiding their true nature to conform, expending so much energy trying to fit in that they have been known to burn out from exhaustion, there are many blogs that attest to this.  Some refer to themselves as being “closeted” or “in the closet”; they want no one to know they are Autistic for fear of reprisals.  This is not the way anyone should have to live.  The word “passing” harkens back to what many light skinned Blacks did in the majority White work-force prior to and up to the passing of the Civil Rights Amendment.  The word “closeted” or describing oneself as being “in the closet” is a phrase used by the Gay Community to say that one is not open about their sexual orientation, we use it in terms of our Autism, another word, borrowed from the Gay Community, used by Autistics is “out”, as in “I am an out Autistic”, which of course I am, there are many correlations that can be drawn between the Civil Rights Movement, the Gay Rights Movement, and what Autistics are working for today.  We deserve the same respect and rights as other disabilities. 

Other disabilities are accepted in our society, from blindness to Down Syndrome and individuals are given the supports they need to take part, we deserve the same acceptance. 

Autism Acceptance is not all about you accepting your diagnosis or the diagnosis of your child it is instead about our society as a whole accepting Autistics for who we truly are stims and all, instead of excluding us.  Autism Acceptance is not about seeking cures, it is anti-cure at its center, and it is all about Neurodiversity.  We have a unique set of characteristics that provide us with many rewards and challenges.   The desire for a “cure” means that we are broken somehow; we are not, we all have something to offer society, from a brilliant discovery to a smile and should be allowed to express it. 

Within the Autistic Community people have been talking about Autism Acceptance and how we can make it happen in the wider community for years now.  Days like Autism Acceptance Day, an all online event, started by Paula Durbin-Westby in April 2011: celebrated on April 2nd, Autistic Pride Day started by Aspies for Freedom in June 2005: celebrated on June 18th, and my suggestion with further urging for the renaming of April, in Northern Virginia, to be called Autism Acceptance Month, etc. have all been born out of this desire to have positive images and expressions about Autism to combat all of the horrible images associated with it, slowly we are making a mark, but this is merely a start, in order for such things like Autism Acceptance Month, etc. to really make an impact we have to reach beyond these designated months and days and make Autism Acceptance a priority in our communities every day. 

This is what April is all about here in Northern Virginia, as you know the Autism Society of Northern Virginia has renamed the month formally, we as a chapter board voted unanimously in November of 2011 to make a crucial step in the right direction.  April in Northern Virginia is now known as Autism Acceptance Month, and I played an instrumental role in making this come about.  Everyone is “aware” of Autism, the next true step for the Autistic Community, my community, is ACCEPTANCE. 

As I have previously stated, Autism Acceptance should not be thought of one day or one month a year, it is something that we as a society need to strive toward each and every day. 

I ask that you work toward Autism Acceptance in each of your given communities every day, if we do not all work toward this common goal, for our Autistic selves and our Autistic children, there will be no hope for future generations.

I hope that you and your families have had a good Autism Acceptance Month!

 
Speech was read at first-ever Autism Acceptance Month Walk in Northern Virginia on April 28, 2012

First Autism Acceptance Month in Northern Virginia!

The month of April has been known as Autism Awareness Month for some years now, many within the Autism Community have dreaded April because of the damaging statistics and images that tend to accompany it, due to them Autistics have pushed for change, we desire more positive images and representations of Autism to counteract the bad ones.

Due to my efforts, April is now called Autism Acceptance Month in Northern Virginia; I was instrumental in shifting minds and I am very excited!! Everyone is "aware" of Autism; the next true step for my community is ACCEPTANCE.

Autism Acceptance is about more than just you accepting your diagnosis or the diagnosis of your child; it is instead about our society as a whole accepting Autistics for who we truly are stims and all. Autism Acceptance is not about seeking "cures", it is anti-cure at its center, it is all about Neurodiversity. We have a unique set of characteristics that provide us with many rewards and challenges. The desire for a "cure" means that we are somehow broken, we are not, we all have something to offer.

Within the Autism Community people have been talking about Autism Acceptance and how we can make it happen in the wider community for years now. Days like Autism Acceptance Day, an online event, started by Paula Durbin-Westby in April 2011 (April 2nd), Autistic Pride Day started by Aspies for Freedom in June 2005 (June 18th), and my push to change April to Autism Acceptance Month in my area, etc. have been born out of this desire to have positive images and expressions about Autism to combat all of the horrible images associated with it. Slowly we are making a mark, but this is merely a start, in order for such things like Autism Acceptance Month, etc. to really make an impact we have to reach beyond these designated months and days, and make Autism Acceptance a priority in our communities every day.

Autism Acceptance should not be thought of one day or one month a year, it is something that we as a society need to strive toward each and every day. I ask that you work toward Autism Acceptance in each of your given communities every day, if we do not all work toward this common goal, for our Autistic selves and our Autistic children, there will be no hope for future generations.

I wish everyone a very Happy Autism Acceptance Day and for the rest of the month, a very HAPPY AUTISM ACCEPTANCE MONTH! :) :)

            Autism Pride Shop link

Published April 2, 2012 on Google+