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Field Notes From an Inbox: Four Years of Autistic-Led Advocacy in Canada

[image: Neurodiversity flag at Toronto City Hall, April 2019. Photo by Anne Lesserknaus.] Anne Borden King twitter.com/againstcures twitter.com/a4aontario a4aontario.com In the summer of 2017, five of us launched an autistic-led advocacy organization in Canada, called Autistics for Autistics (A4A). Our mission was to fight for the rights of autistics to have safe childhoods, communication rights, inclusive schools, trauma-free housing, fair employment, accessible health care and community equality. We centred both children and elders in our work, following the UK model. We took a grassroots approach, eschewing hierarchies in favour of a multifaceted strategy, working to make as much change as we could. What we lacked in funding, resources, and relationships, we’ve made up for in vision and persistence. In one of our first meetings with a Member of Parliament, she told us that our group “should just represent the autistic adults,” and leave the matter of children’s rights to Ontario’s…

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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…

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Conflicts of Interest in Early Autism Intervention Research: A Conversation with Dr. Kristen Bottema-Beutel

Photo courtesy Dr. Bottema-Beutel [image: Formal photo of Dr. Bottema-Beutel, a smiling white woman with medium-length side parted brown hair.] Advocates of early autism interventions often claim such approaches are “evidence based,” whereas critics have long pointed out individual flaws in cited studies. We were glad to learn about Dr. Kristen Bottema-Beutel’s analysis of general conflicts of interest in early autism research, and talk with her about how her findings complicate assertions about being early autism interventions being evidence based, and what else she and her team discovered. —- Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism: Can you tell us why you decided to pursue this analysis of conflicts of interest (COIs) in early autism intervention research? Bottema-Beutel: The short answer is that I’ve been following Michelle Dawson on Twitter (her handle is @autismcrisis). Michelle is an autistic researcher who has been sounding the alarm on undisclosed COIs for more than a decade—before I…

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Autism Is Not “Behavioral”

Cal Montgomery Photo © Teresa Alexander-Arab | Flickr / Creative Commons [Image: A green buoy on the surface of a body of water on a sunny day.] Autism is not behavioral. Atypical behavior is not autism. It is a consequence of autism. It is surface markers by which what is underneath may be suspected, diagnosed, and investigated. Altering behavior doesn’t alter autism. Everything we recognize has surface markers. Fear, for instance, may look like a cold sweat, breathing hard, and dilated pupils, but that is not what fear is. ABA, the most popular monopoly for interacting with autistics, denies the “underneath.” It says that the surface markers are all that matter. It is profoundly dehumanizing. It is also a worldview that is almost impossible to maintain. When you call autism a behavioral disorder—and I am not touching the “disorder” part right here but I also do not accept it—you are focusing…

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It’s Time to Prepare the World for Your Child

Photo: woodleywonderworks | Flickr/Creative Commons [image: Young white child with short dark brown hair embracing an enormous globe of the earth.] Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com Ray Hemachandra recently published an essay on his blog that reads like a love letter to/about his adult Autistic son, Nicholas. In the essay, Ray muses about how quickly time slips by, and how suddenly it seems that his son is transitioning from school to adult life and all the possibilities and struggles that includes. “For an adult child, parents and families soon no longer have school IEP meetings to fight for rights, accessibility, and inclusion. But many of the same questions we wrestled with in the school setting extend into adulthood and society: Will he or she be isolated or included? How do we foster more inclusive communities broadly, but also more specifically take steps to ensure our child feels a part of the world,…

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On ABA: They hate you. Yes, you.

Amanda Forest Vivian adeepercountry.blogspot.com Content note: Includes discussion of discrimination and abuse by teachers and ABA practitioners, and a photo of a child in ABA therapy receiving an electric shock. —- I always think about Danny, who was not really named Danny. It’s too bad I can’t use his real name because it’s one of my favorite names. I’m sure he’s forgotten me, but I can remember his name, his face, his favorite subway train, and the words he made up. He was a kid I met this summer at the school where I interned. I have written about him several times, sometimes at length. And although he was my favorite kid at the school, that isn’t why Danny is always surfacing in my mind, tiny in his big t-shirts, flinging himself around and reciting things. It’s through Danny that I found out for sure, this stuff is about me.…