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Why Elon Musk Being Autistic Isn’t That Great For Autistic People

“Elon Musk oveseeing the construction of Gigafactory”  by jurvetson is licensed under CC BY 2.0[image: Elon Musk, wearing mirrored sunglasses and a reflective chartreuse safety vest.] Sarah Kapit twitter.com/SarahKapit Elon Musk announced to the world that he’s autistic on Saturday Night Live. Some people have claimed that this represents a noticeable step forward for autistic people in public life. But I’m not celebrating. My interest here isn’t to rehash all of the reasons why Musk is an obnoxious public figure who has done damaging things to his employees and the world at large—although I hold this opinion. Other people have already written about the litany of his misdeeds. Instead, I want to consider Musk’s shortcomings in the specific context of autism and disability politics. First, Musk did not describe himself as an autistic person. He said he had “Asperger’s,” which is a term that is rooted in ableism. In the U.S., “Asperger’s” is…

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Things Left Unsaid: “I Am Autism” 10 Years Later

[image: Screen capture from the Autism Speaks video I Am Autism, with an African American child sitting on a slide, facing away from the camera. The YouTube video toolbar is visible, above title text reading, “I Am Autism commercial by Autism Speaks”.] Zephyr Ash Ostrowski thefilmroom.org “Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.” –St. Francis of Assisi “There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.” –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe “Where ignorance exists, myths flourish.” Norman Begg and Angus Nicoll It doesn’t take long for a hurtful word or comment to make its way across the globe. The media eagerly reports on officials’ latest xenophobic remarks within minutes. Protesters will gather and complain for a corporation to sever ties with a controversial program or person. But this outrage somehow doesn’t happen with organizations that are directly tied to “helping” certain groups of marginalized people—and when…

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Forcing Friendships Doesn’t Equal Autistic Youth Gaining Social Skills

My son’s first friendships were with family. [Image of a hug between Mu and his adult big sister. His back is to the camera. His sister is smiling. Posted with the permission of the subjects. Image by their father, Nuri Cevik.] Kerima Çevik theautismwars.blogspot.com “How do I handle my child seeing the children of every new family who moves into the neighborhood surrounding us included in outdoor play knowing he is being excluded from the group?” I saw another parent posting this question as one of the most frequent questions autism parents ask as their kids become preteens and teenagers, and I cringed a bit. It is a common concern for all families with autistic youth trying to navigate a world where they are often othered and mistreated. My son and I also see them when we hang out on our deck or the backyard in the summer, or on…

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Stop Claiming Autistic People Who Commit Sex Crimes “Don’t Know Any Better”

Photo © Jan Olof Nygren | Creative Commons [image: Cropped photo of a shadow of two people, on grass. A foo t in a woman’s black flat shoe is visible on the lower right.] Zack Budryk twitter/@BudrykZack A show that ran as long as Law And Order is, naturally, going to have some off days. I’ll admit to occasionally tuning into the show’s seemingly never-ending basic cable blocks as a guilty pleasure. One of the telltale signs you’re about to watch one of the shitty ones is when the culprit is apprehended about 20 minutes in. When it’s taken care of that early, you know the trial portion of the episode is going to revolve around the perpetrator’s lawyer arguing that their client killing people is a medical condition or something similarly absurd. So you can imagine how irritated I was, to say the least, when someone decided to pull the same trick  in…

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Autism and Intense Interests: Why We Love What We Love and Why It Should Matter to You

Photo © Deanna | Flickr/Creative Commons [image: White child with short brown hair holding up a massive bunch of colorful Mardi Gras beads.] Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com If you know an Autistic person or are Autistic yourself, you are familiar with the intense interests and consuming passions that we can get so engrossed by that we forget to eat, sleep, or even use the bathroom. While not every Autist has one or more deeply-lived interests*, the laser-focus with which we can approach preferred things is generally considered one of the hallmark traits of autism. An Australian research study from 2016  demonstrated the tremendous value of going directly to Autists, by asking us about this tendency in order to discern our motivations. The researchers wanted to answer the question: why are Autists drawn with such intensity to the things that catch their interest? To that end, they developed a 20-item, self-administered assessment…

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How Visual and Literal Thinking Can Shape Autistic Experiences

Patricia George www.persnicketypatricia.ca Literal Thinking [image: Two stills from the movie Singin’ in the Rain: Top: Gene Kelly as the popular actor Don Lockwood being mobbed by fans, with white overlaid text reading, “Hey, Cos, do something. Call me a cab!” and bottom: Donald O’Connor as Cosmo Brown, speaking nonchalantly with white overlaid text reading, “OK, you’re a cab.”] Before starting school, and before Mom remarried when I was five, it was just me, Mom, Grandmother, Grandfather, and a few other beloved close family members (my biological father was out of my life before I could remember him). I didn’t know how different I was from other people back then, not really. I felt different somehow; I always have, as though the most important secret in the world was whispered in my ear the day I was born, plus I just knew stuff even though I couldn’t express that knowing…

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Why Belittling Self-Advocates Hurts Autistic People of All Ages and Abilities

Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com [image: Screenshot of Inigo Montoya and Vizzini from the movie The Princess Bride, with white overlaid block text reading, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.] Last week, the San Francisco Autism Society of America (SFASA) held its 16th annual conference at Stanford University. In her opening comments, Jill Escher, the president of SFASA, went through a few words and phrases, claiming to “defuse some autism vocabulary stinkbombs.” I disagree with so much of what she said about … well, about pretty much everything she talked about. But I want to focus in on one word that I feel she completely misrepresented on so many levels that it was mind-boggling: Self-advocate Escher chose to show a 20 second video clip of her son to the audience, to illustrate her lack of understanding of the meaning and expression of…

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How to Avoid More Cruel Injustices Like the Alex Spourdalakis “Involuntary Manslaughter” Verdict

Shannon Des Roches Rosa www.squidalicious.com Alex Spourdalakis [image: Smiling white teenage boy with shaved dark hair, wearing a coral colored tank top.] Alex Spourdalakis was brutally murdered by his mother and godmother three years ago. Somehow, those women were allowed to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter* and will likely be released with time served — even though they had been planning Alex’s killing for a week. As reported by Matt Carey at Left Brain/Right Brain: “When they carried out their plan, they poisoned Mr. Spourdalakis with sleeping pills. When this did not work quickly enough, the mother and caregiver stabbed him. Not once, not twice, but four times, including two stabs to the heart. When even this proved not fast enough, the mother and caregiver slit his wrist. Slit so deeply that reportedly his hand was nearly severed from his arm. When Mr. Spourdalakis finally passed, the mother and caregiver…

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Never Again: Why The Incoming U.S. Administration Is Dangerous For Autistic People (And So Many Others)

Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com “These are dangerous days / to say what you feel is to dig your own grave.” -Sinead O’Connor Sparrow R. Jones [image: Portrait photo of a white person with short dark gray hair, glasses, and a maroon button-up shirt.] I blame myself. I should have campaigned more strongly. I should have written about the political landscape and how it affects disabled people in general, and Autistics and those who love us specifically. But I have always been told that one shouldn’t talk about politics, sex, or religion in polite company. I’ve already broken the sex talk taboo so many times over that I was reluctant to tread on religious or political ground. And I didn’t really think he would win. I honestly didn’t. Everyone I’ve spoken with who voted against him has said the same thing: we didn’t see this coming. Wow, were we ever wrong. Donald…