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A Letter to President Biden on Disability Policy

We initially published this letter in June 2020, while President Biden was campaigning for the office he now holds. On this joyous inauguration day, we’re republishing it with renewed enthusiasm and hope for how the Biden Administration can best serve its autistic and disabled constituents. January 20, 2021 Dear President Biden, We would like to reaffirm our June 17, 2020 letter to your campaign: Your campaign’s new disability policy makes us hopeful about the future for our autistic children with high-support needs. Thank you for taking the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), disability rights, inclusion, and quality of life issues seriously, and also for addressing how the COVID-19 pandemic impacts the disability community. Many of our children are already adults, and many require full-time supports, which means we share your campaign’s concerns. We also want to emphasize areas in which the campaign can deepen and reaffirm its commitment to disabled…

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Notes From Your Friendly Neighborhood Inclusionista

Shannon Des Roches Rosa twitter.com/shannonrosa I want to make this as friendly as possible, so I think it’s important to start by clarifying terms: Inclusion, my lovelies, is a real and basic human right, and it simply means autistic and other disabled people have the right to be out and about in the world, and not segregated or hidden away as used to be the default for their community members. Inclusion does not mean forcing people like my high-support autistic son to be in places they don’t want to be, that aren’t set up for them, or in which they aren’t welcome. But even when we embrace inclusion as a disability rights baseline, my son still doesn’t get to do all the things—but that’s because of accessibility barriers, not because inclusion itself is a flawed concept. Even though The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) installed accessibility as the law of our…

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Renee’s Ringtone: Celebrating PIXAR’s Loop

[Image: The logo for PIXAR’s animated short film Loop. The word “loop” is written in rainbow-gradient lowercase script, on a white background.] Content note: Flashing graphic below Almost exactly one year ago, PIXAR released the short film Loop as part of its SPARKSHORTS program. In Loop, Renee and Marcus, “a non-verbal, autistic girl and a chatty boy are partnered on a canoeing trip. To complete their journey across an urban lake, they must both learn how the other experiences the world.” Marcus and Renee [Image: Still from PIXAR’s animated film Loop. A Black teen boy and girl are seated in a red canoe together. The boy is holding a paddle.] Renee is PIXAR’s first-ever autistic character, and is voiced by autistic actress Madison Bandy. Loop was also developed in close consultation with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, which provided “feedback on what to them was feeling real, what felt funny and sad and…

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Teach Social Skills As Values, Not Like Computer Programs

Photo © 2C2K Photography | Flickr / Creative Commons [image: Black-and-white photo of two young embracing Black children, one with a shaved head, light button up shirt, and dark pants, the other with a  white horizontal-striped tank dress and long box braids.] Finn Gardiner expectedly.org Applied Behavioral Analysis’s simplistic definition of social skills does both autistic people and the general public a disservice. Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) taught me that social skills were context-free rules I had to follow: forcing my hands to be quiet, staring back at eyeballs that bored into mine, contorting myself to make myself look less autistic at the expense of my happiness and overall well-being. I wasn’t allowed to be who I was, so I didn’t see the benefit in making a good impression on other people.  I easily understood abstract concepts such as justice and equality as a child, but I didn’t understand social skills…