7163523163_b36591a330-3482697

The Meaning of Self-Advocacy

Image © Gioia de Antoniis  | Flickr / Creative Commons [image: Black and white photo of a person with long dark hair holding their arms straight out towards the camera, with palms facing outward protectively.] Mel Baggs withasmoothroundstone.tumblr.com Too often people define self-advocacy in narrow terms. They define it in terms of formal groups like People First or Autism Network International. They define it in terms of the ability to use standard language in a specific set of ways. They define it in terms of a specific method of going through the legal system, or other usual channels, to get specific kinds of things done. These are all valid kinds of self-advocacy, but they set people up to believe that only certain kinds of people could ever become self-advocates. When one inmate in an institution fights back against the staff in defense of another inmate who is being brutalized, this…

dangerousson04-150409ca02d25d5438ca770421e5e013f05136f9-s1500-c85-6907196

A Documentary About “Scary” Kids Scares Me—On Behalf of the Kids

One of the families featured in A Dangerous Son (Source: HBO) [image: A white family of four, with two young kids, on a couch together.] Kit Mead kpagination.wordpress.com Content note: Discusses violence and abuse regarding children with mental illness and disability, and the Newtown shootings. I’m not going to watch “A Dangerous Son,” the HBO documentary that tells “a story about families with children who have psychiatric disorders that lead to violent behavior.” I’m going to avoid it mostly because I have already read all of those stories. Again. And again. And again. And I have found them incredibly disturbing each time—on behalf of the children who are being written off and exploited. Especially because, as Mel Baggs points out: Across violent and abusive sets of environments, we—the kids—are the only ones seen as having a violence problem. And those environments are so very often the context for “violent outbursts.” Like…

screen2bshot2b2021-07-222bat2b11-45-102bam-7587917

What Makes Institutions Bad

Mel Baggs ballastexistenz.wordpress.com Buffalo State Hospital, closed in 1974. Photo © Shannon O’Toole[image: A dilapidated interior hallway of a former state hospital.] Most people don’t have the foggiest clue what’s bad about institutions. What’s bad is something you pretty much never hear about, which is the violence it does to people’s insides at a very deep level. And that can’t be stopped by just removing the things that LOOK bad and throwing a layer of glamour on top. Please, please, please everyone who talks about this in the past tense—STOP. This is still going on. Everywhere. I think too many people get the wrong kind of idea. They will think that this is over. It’s not. They will think that the awfulness and cruelty of an institution is measured by the size, the shape, the physical beauty or lack thereof, the amount of money funneled into it. And those things are…

22374307299_c6e82c781f-7584838

Going to IMFAR 2016? Read These Articles About Autism Research And Presentations First

Photo © Bobby Wade/Flickr [image: White woman with long brown hair and glasses, giving a presentation at a TEDx autism conference.] Our editors Carol and Shannon are spending the latter half of this week at IMFAR, the International Meeting for Autism Research, which is May 11 – 14 in Baltimore, MD. If you’re going, say hi! You can also follow us on Twitter at @ThinkingAutism, @ShannonRosa, and (Carol) @AspieAdvocate. IMFAR has improved a lot: We are glad to see the annual conference welcome increasing numbers of autistic speakers and attendees, so that autism researchers can listen to the people whose lives they are studying (and ideally trying to benefit), and vice versa. But since our editorial roles include being autism research ethics gadflies, we have to note that IMFAR is still mostly about the medical model view of autism and disability (curing and fixing), rather than the social view (understanding…

15811491971_e3d9bf7313-5143525

I See All These Amazing Programs for Children

TPGA is observing Autism Acceptance Month by featuring accounts from autistic people about the differences accommodations (or lack thereof) make in their lives. Today’s story is from Mel Baggs, about the assumption that all kids should be able to work and play in groups — and that kids who can’t cope with group scenarios are just being difficult. Mel Baggs I see all these amazing programs for children Like really, really cool stuff, stuff that looks fun and educational at the same time, stuff that looks far more educational and far more rewarding than the school system, etc. I see them in documentaries, in videos online, in articles, etc. But then I’m always stopped short by something. Photo © Norton Gusky. Creative Commons License. [image: Schoolchildren of various races talking while gathered around a table.] Unless something fundamental changed about children between then and now. And in how children are…