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“I think we all need people in our lives who share our identities”: The Power of Autistic Mentorship

Photo courtesy Anne Borden [image: Two white people: A boy with medium-short dark blond hair, and a woman with short dark brown hair, posing for the camera. They are sitting on a wooden bench next to a large bush.] Anne Borden and Raya Shields live in Toronto, where Raya is an autistic mentor to Anne’s son Baxter. Both Anne and Raya are members of Autistics for Autistics (A4A), an autistic self-advocacy organization. In this conversation, they discuss autistic mentorship: what it is, why it’s important, and how we can forge new approaches to autism through autistic-led and directed projects. —- Anne: Raya, how would you describe what you do? Is it autistic mentorship, or what term would you use? Raya: I refer to myself as a mentor and to the work that I do with children and young people as mentorship. I also have my Bachelor of Arts in Child…

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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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You Can’t Have Neurodiversity Without People With Intellectual Disabilities

How The Self Advocacy Movement Is Integral to the Success of the Neurodiversity Movement Ivanova Smith. Photo courtesy author. [image: A Latvian-American person with short dark hair and glasses. They are smiling and posing near a house on a shoreline, at dusk.] Ivanova Smith @lauralovesian1 With all the anti-neurodiversity stuff going around right now, I’m going say this: Intellectually disabled (ID) Autistics have been left out, that is true. But how? When people want to take away forms of communication like Facilitated Communication (FC) and Rapid Prompting Method (RPM), which is what anti-neurodiversity people want, that is is a form of silencing. That is how autistics with ID have been left, out because their form of communication has not been respected! Saying AAC users’ communication is not real and is fake is what is really silencing people. By not supporting behavior as communication, that is how people are being silenced. By…

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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…

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Parents: Don’t Hide Your Children’s Autism Diagnoses From Them

Reid Knight Dear Parent who is considering not telling your child about their autism: Like many autistics, I found out about my autism through Google. Unlike many autistics, Googling didn’t lead me to a self-diagnosis of autism (though I view self-diagnosis as just as valid as a professional diagnosis). My parents only told me I was autistic after looking at my internet history, and finding out that I already knew. I was fourteen years old when, out of curiosity, I Googled the doctor I had been seeing for as long as I could remember — and discovered that the medication cocktail I had been taking since I was a toddler was actually an “alternative” treatment for autism. For twelve years, I was given 10 to 20 pills each day, without being told what they were for. I was also subjected to Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and other therapies without being…

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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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Holly Robinson Peete on Including and Understanding Autistic People Like Her Teen Son RJ

 Holly Robinson Peete | Photo: Gatepath [image: Candid photo of actress & author Holly Robinson Peete] Actress, author, and philanthropist Holly Robinson Peete spoke at a Gatepath event near San Francisco last week. She talked about her new book Same But Different: Teen Life on the Autism Express, which she co-wrote with her autistic son RJ and his non-autistic twin sister Ryan, about understanding and including autistic people, about supporting autistic kids with high support needs who don’t have the resources her family does, and why “We need to spread the word about how neurodiversity is another form of diversity.” TPGA’s Shannon Rosa talked with Holly after the event, which was nifty because Shannon worked with the HollyRod foundation during the earliest part of the iPads for Autism movement, including developing a spreadsheet of recommended autism apps, had interviewed Holly, and had featured her writing here on TPGA — but…

Disability: Considering Insider vs. Outsider Perspectives

Amanda Forest Vivian adeepercountry.blogspot.com This post was originally included in our 2011 Dialogues series. But we think it deserves separate attention, and are republishing it with the author’s permission.  —- This is just a theory, so be gentle. But I think a lot of problems between non-disabled people and disabled people might have to do with the fact that for most born-disabled people, their disability is ego-syntonic (integrated with their self-image). One! Ego-dystonic is an psych term for an aspect of a person that doesn’t fit their self-image. For example, if someone lost their legs in an accident, they would probably wake up the next day and see a body that didn’t seem to them like their real body. On the other hand, if someone is born without legs their disability is usually ego-syntonic, so they feel as attached to their body as anyone else.  They don’t feel the same…