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When Autistic People Have Epilepsy

Photo © Ivo Dimitrov | Flickr / Creative Commons [image: Illustration of a human brain, in profile, made of colorful cogs in various sizes and shapes.] Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com [Content note: This post discusses suicidality, mental health, and death.] In the early 1990s, I was engaged to a man with epilepsy. He had tonic-clonic seizures and he was a big guy, so I was always alert to the possibility of an episode. I knew there were stores we couldn’t shop in, and roads I couldn’t drive down. I caught his body and lowered him safely to the ground more times than I can remember. I guarded him from the pressing crowd of curious onlookers when he came around after a public seizure. And I worried, feeling helpless, when his medication levels were off, and he had seizure after seizure. I can’t know what it is like to have epilepsy or…

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On Hans Asperger, the Nazis, and Autism: A Conversation Across Neurologies

by Maxfield Sparrow and Steve Silberman How complicit was Hans Asperger with the murderous eugenic policies of the Third Reich in his role as the head of the Children’s Clinic at University of Vienna in the 1930s and 1940s? This painful question, which has vexed autism history for decades, has been reopened by the simultaneous publication of Edith Sheffer’s book “Asperger’s Children” and Herwig Czech’s paper in The Journal of Molecular Autism, “Hans Asperger, National Socialism, and ‘race hygiene’ in Nazi-era Vienna.” By unearthing new information from the municipal archives in Vienna that was mistakenly believed to be lost, Sheffer and Czech make the case that Asperger was more culpable than historians previously believed. They portray him as a calculating, ambitious young physician who never joined the Nazi party but was “prematurely promoted” over the heads of his Jewish colleagues as they were purged from the university in the increasingly…

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Autism Uncensored: A Dangerous and Spirit-Crushing Book

[Content note: Extensive discussion of restraints. Discussions of gaslighting, denying Autistic autonomy and competence, child abuse, autism profiteering, and similar goblins. Discussion of the 1960s medical view of autism as it continues to occur today.] You may have seen the recent Washington Post article titled “Bystanders were horrified. But my son has autism and I was desperate,” an excerpt from Whitney Ellenby’s new book, Autism Uncensored: Pulling Back the Curtain. True to the exposé tone of the title, Ellenby describes in livid detail the day she wrestled her panicked son, Zack, by clamping his 50 pound frame tightly between her thighs and locking her feet together. The two spent over half an hour in combat as Ellenby dragged him inch by inch toward the red curtain beyond which the Sesame Street puppet Elmo was performing. Zack’s piercing shrieks alarmed onlookers who screamed at Ellenby to stop, threw an iced drink…

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Why Is the Autistic Unemployment Rate So High?

Photo © Terry Chay | Flickr/Creative Commons [image: A colorful office workstation with two large computer monitors.] Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com In the United States, thirty-five percent of Autistic eighteen-year-olds go to college. Of those American Autistics with university diplomas, only 15 percent are employed. This 85 percent unemployment rate (among college-educated Autistic adults) is massive—the general population’s unemployment rate (at all education levels) is only 4.5 percent. There are some obvious reasons for this disparity. Just as with all Disabled people, workplace understanding and accommodations are a huge reason why Autistic people have such a hard time finding and keeping employment. Making it past an interview can be an insurmountable hurdle for many of us. While organizations and employer programs are popping up to help Autistic adults find and keep employment, with an estimated 50,000 new Autists entering the workplace every year, the few programs that exist cannot possibly keep…

Please Stand By is a Quietly Subversive Film

Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com Me too. Which is why I can’t wait until Hollywood starts getting that stuff right so I *can* just relax and enjoy a film about people like me. #PleaseStandBy — Unstrange Mind 🖖🏼 (@UnstrangeMind) January 28, 2018 [image: Twitter exchange: “I want to see Please Stand By but as one on the spectrum I don’t want to be hung up on the attention to detail and accuracy of the portrayal at the expense of actually enjoying the movie.” -@GlennHampson “Me too. Which is why I can’t wait until Hollywood starts getting that stuff right so I *can* just relax  and enjoy a film about people like me.” – @UnstrangeMind] That Twitter exchange sums up how I feel when I watch fictional movies that feature Autistic characters, like the recent release Please Stand By. I want to just sit back and let the experience carry me away to fantasy…

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Authoring Our Own Lives: How Autistics and the World Benefit from Auti-Biography

Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com Photo © barbara w | Flickr/Creative Commons [image: Hands on a typewriter keyboard, at a sunny wooden desk, next to a drink on a crocheted white doily, amidst some plucked green leaves.] The last decade has seen a blossoming of blogs, articles, books, and documentary films about autism, authored by actually Autistic people. This is an exciting time of growth for Autist-created content about autism, and I want to encourage all Autistic people to document their lives: whether in a private journal, or to share with the public. There are great personal and community benefits that come from Autistic people writing about our lives—especially when we write about emotions, victories, and challenges and not just the factual events by themselves, although any autobiographical writing is helpful to the writer as well as to others if they decide to share what they’ve written. Michel Foucault, the postmodern philosopher,…

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Why To Siri With Love Is a Wrecking Ball of a Book

Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com [Content note: possible triggers include: forcible sterilization of minorities including Autistic people, forcible gynecological experimentation on minorities, Judge Rotenberg Center, electric shock, stereotypes about Autistics lacking empathy or a sense of humor, stereotypes about Autistics or Black people lacking the ability to feel pain, snakes and feeding live rodents, harmful Supreme Court verdicts, dehumanizing of Autists, getting drunk, preferring drunkenness to talking with Autistic children, humanizing the author of a grossly dehumanizing book.] Come mothers and fathers / Throughout the land  And don’t criticize / What you can’t understand  Your sons and your daughters / Are beyond your command  Your old road is rapidly aging.  Please get out of the new one / If you can’t lend your hand  For the times they are a-changin’.  -Bob Dylan [image: Book cover: A blue background with informal font white text reading, “To Siri With Love,” with a photo of a…

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Coping with a Crisis When You Have Unreliable or Intermittent Speech

Maxfield Sparrow Unstrangemind.com Photo © Marcia Furman | Flickr/Creative Commons [image: White person with tousled medium brown hair slumped over at a restaurant table, face hidden, with sunglasses resting on the top of their head and hair.] Autistic people already know how alarming and overwhelming a crisis can be. But when we have unreliable and intermittent speech, a crisis can go beyond stressful, even becoming deadly. I’d like to share a few tips on how I’ve managed to stay alive despite intermittent speech. Sections: What is unreliable and intermittent speech? People With unreliable and intermittent speech can help others in emergencies What to do when you are in a crisis and need to contact someone  Text someone you know or a professional helper Use TTY/Relay to contact someone Use an AAC over the telephone Use the Text Crisis Line How to interact with others during a crisis Decide whether and…