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Autism in Kenya: An Autistic Advocate’s Perspective

M. Kelter, Interviewer theinvisiblestrings.com Content note: mentions of restraint, ableism Netplus Kenya has been hosting an online series of moderated discussions in an effort to address high levels of stigma against people with disabilities there, stigma associated with long-standing cultural practices. This series is called the Watoto Wetu Initiative. It’s next installment is this Saturday, August 28th, and will feature autistic activist Karen Muriuki sharing perspective on the urgent need to minimize life-threatening stigmas so that families can begin improving outcomes and quality of life for autisic people and other vulnerable communities.  I communicated with Karen to ask about this speaking engagement and about the challenge of sharing information in areas where traditional beliefs define how many perceive and react to autistic differences. M: What is the main theme of this event and who is the audience these presentations are intended to reach? Karen: The event is about the need…

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How Finding Autistic Community Leads to Self-Acceptance

David Gray-Hammond, photo courtesy author [image: A white man with short brown hair, a beard, and glasses. He is wearing a teal shirt and light brown pants.] David Gray-Hammond @emgntdivergence Developing skills in self-advocacy can often seem confusing and frustrating. It requires us to be aware of our needs in a detailed way, while also being able to communicate them in a world that so often seeks to silence us. I have always argued that self-acceptance is the first step to self-advocacy, but in order to accept ourselves, we must first know ourselves. When I found the autistic community, I found thousands of people who understood my experience in a way that others simply could not. It was in this understanding that they taught me the vocabulary that I needed to describe my strengths and struggles (in fact, I did not even know the words to describe my most basic…

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Dangerous Assumptions

Photo © Lucy Downey | Flickr / Creative Commons [image: Two Canada geese swimming with a fluffy baby gosling.] Julia Bascom juststimming.wordpress.com There is this thing that happens sometimes. Parent has an autistic child. Autistic child doesn’t speak, or their speech isn’t an accurate window into what they are thinking. Autistic child is presumed to be very significantly intellectually disabled. Years later, a method of communication is found that works for the child, and it turns out that they are in fact very smart. Very smart! The parents are overjoyed. They begin talking about presuming competence, the least dangerous assumption, that not being able to speak is not the same as not having anything to say. They are so, so excited. And they start talking about all the incorrect assumptions they had. If we’d known, they say, we wouldn’t have done X. If we had known they could read, think,…

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Against The Autism Parent Feedback Loop of Woe

Kerima Cevik http://theautismwars.blogspot.com “Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity.” -James Baldwin The Fire Next Time Photo © Kerima Cevik, posted with subject’s permission [Image: The author’s biracial nonverbal autistic son,  at about age five, expressing shock through the  gestural language he created.] San Francisco Autism Society Board Member Stephen Prutsman recently posted an opinion piece* to his organization’s blog, and while browsing newsfeeds on social media, I read it. The blog post disturbed me so much I posted a brief response in the comment section (which they did not publish). Mr. Prutsman headed his article with two images, a rainbow infinity symbol image he meant to represent the neurodiversity movement, and a disturbing photograph previously posted by his ASA chapter president (now removed), alleging to show property damage to…

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I’m Not Just Socially Awkward

Photo courtesy the author [image: Blurry photo of a pink ride-on bouncy balloon with an animal face and two “horns” for handles. Overlaid white text reads, “I’m not just socially awkward.” Smaller white text in the lower right corner reads, “@oufoxgloved” and “Autnot.Wordpress.com”] Rhi Lloyd-Williams autistrhi.com When I tell people I’m autistic, it usually goes one of two ways; either they can’t make me fit into their idea of what autism is and completely reject it, or they mark me down as “socially awkward” and leave it there. Autism explains my lack of constant contact, it explains my monologuing about things that interest me, it explains why on social occasions I move around a room like a loose cog in a machine—catching on things, getting stuck in places, jarring against this and that before being knocked into a corner and staying there. Those are the things about me that you…

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At Home in Ourselves: A Mindful Acceptance of My Autistic Son

Photo © Stuart Anthony | Flickr/Creative Commons [Image: Two backlit people attempting to jump over a horizon-adjacent sun.] Leslie J. Davis www.dharmamamas.com “When I practice breathing in and I say, ‘I have arrived,’ that is an achievement. Now I am fully present, one hundred percent alive. The present moment has become my true home. When I breathe out I say, ‘I am home.’ If you do not feel you are home, you will continue to run. And you will continue to be afraid. But if you feel you are already home, then you do not need to run anymore. This is the secret of the practice. When we live in the present moment, it is possible to live in true happiness.” –Thich Nhat Hanh, “No Death, No Fear: Comforting Wisdom for Life” Every Monday night I sit with my meditation group and practice breathing in and out in an attempt…