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The Trouble With “Social Coaching” Tech for Autism

M. Kelter theinvisiblestrings.com MIT researchers recently announced that they are developing a wrist watch which analyzes a conversation, then provides feedback about the emotional content of the discussion. Though the watch is still early in development, MIT’s press for the device suggests it may one day provide autistics with a better way to grasp the subtle nuances of communication — basically, as a social coach. Photo © AndreaVallejos | Flickr / Creative Commons [image: Photo of a metal toy robot.] Similar efforts have emerged in the world of social robotics, where it is postulated that autistic children can learn to socialize with the help of mechanical “friends,”that is, robots programmed to teach kids to identify emotions, facial expressions, and so on. Like the watch, these coaching devices are envisioned as being able to bring autistics in line with conventional standards of daily social behavior. I have no doubt that the intentions here…

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Parents: Don’t Hide Your Children’s Autism Diagnoses From Them

Reid Knight Dear Parent who is considering not telling your child about their autism: Like many autistics, I found out about my autism through Google. Unlike many autistics, Googling didn’t lead me to a self-diagnosis of autism (though I view self-diagnosis as just as valid as a professional diagnosis). My parents only told me I was autistic after looking at my internet history, and finding out that I already knew. I was fourteen years old when, out of curiosity, I Googled the doctor I had been seeing for as long as I could remember — and discovered that the medication cocktail I had been taking since I was a toddler was actually an “alternative” treatment for autism. For twelve years, I was given 10 to 20 pills each day, without being told what they were for. I was also subjected to Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and other therapies without being…

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Why “School Choice” Is Problematic For Students With Disabilities

Kris Guin queerability.tumblr.com Photo © World Bank, Creative Commons License [image: Students of different backgrounds and abilities, reading books.] During the questioning phase of Betsy DeVos’s Senate confirmation process for U.S. Secretary of Education, DeVos, a “school choice” advocate, demonstrated a lack of knowledge about, and a lack of commitment to, enforcing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) — the law that requires schools to provide a free, appropriate education for students with disabilities. DeVos’s ignorance about IDEA has caused many individuals with disabilities and their families to become very concerned about their or their family member’s access to public education, and understandably and rightfully so. Individuals with disabilities and their families rely on robust implementation of laws like IDEA for equal educational opportunities. Stemming from this concern are calls from some to pull children with disabilities out of public education, and then homeschool them. I, and many other…

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Autism and the Burden of Social Reciprocity

Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com Breaking Down Walls That Shouldn’t Exist Photo © Gavin Stewart, Creative Commons license. [image description: People using a wooden ladder to climb over the Berlin Wall during its 1989 fall.] One of the images that comes up again and again in articles about autism and Autistic people are photographs of children behind panes of textured glass. Their hands are usually pressed against the glass and their faces are distorted beyond recognition by the swirls and ridges in the surface of the glass. The images are meant to symbolize how we are “trapped inside autism” just waiting to be broken free from our “prison.” Journalists and their editors love those images; Autistic adults tend to really hate them. Years ago, when I was struggling hard with a deep self-loathing that I had projected onto my autism diagnosis, I embraced those images as well. I had been terribly, sometimes…

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Tom Perez: The Political Leadership Our Disability Community Needs Right Now

Tom Perez, upholder of the ADA source: Wikimedia Commons [image: Tom Perez, a Dominican- American Man with a goatee and glasses, in front of a sign reading “Next 25 Years of the ADA”] The bigotry-rooted horrors of the first two weeks of the Trump administration have been coming at dismayed Americans almost faster than we can keep up with them. Those who are reeling, from today’s appointment of civil rights slackard Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, yesterday’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch—who has ruled that autistic students don’t deserve equal education rights—for the empty Supreme Court justice seat, or public schools enemy Betsy DeVos’s pending confirmation as Secretary of Education, may be wondering who we can rely on to protect our community’s rights. I have an answer for you: Tom Perez. Former Obama Labor Secretary Perez is running for chair of the Democratic National Committee, the organization that guides the Democratic…