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Helping Autistic Children Understand Death and Dying

Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com Photo © Benedic Belen | Flickr/Creative Commons [Image: Black-and-white photo of an Asian woman comforting a small crying child who is wearing a tiara, and has their hands over their face.] The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism asked Autistic adults to fill out a survey about death and dying to create a resource for people who need to explain death to Autistic children. The response was tremendous—in less than a week the survey had 50 responses, mostly from Autistic adults. What follows is a summary and analysis of the responses. We hope it is useful to you, your child, your family, your clients, and your students. Please note that some of the responses discuss difficult material, including suicide, and suicidal ideation/threats. Bullet Point Summary Autistic adults were surveyed about death and dying. Most learned about death through observation of people, animals, and plants. Learning about death was…

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The Good Doctor: One Autistic’s Review

Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com Freddie Highmore as “The Good Doctor” | photo via IMDB [image: Young white man with short dark hair and dark eyes, wearing a surgeon’s cap, with a surgical mask around his neck. Before last night, the only fictional Autistic surgeon I had seen on television was Dr. Virginia Dixon, the heart surgeon portrayed by Mary McDonnell, who appeared in three episodes of season five of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. As Lynne Soraya described Dr. Dixon, “the way the character was written was exploitative, unrealistic, over the top, and insulting.” I completely agree with Soraya’s assessment of Dr. Dixon. So it was with great trepidation that I sat down to watch the first episode of ABC’s new show, The Good Doctor, starring the perennially boyish Freddie Highmore as Dr. Shaun Murphy, a new resident at St. Bonaventure Hospital in San Jose, California. Despite my resistance, I did enjoy the…

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Don’t Let Congress Dismantle the ADA: How You Can Take Action

Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com Photo © Stephen Melkisethian | Flickr/Creative Commons [image: Black-and-white photo of disability rights protesters at the U.S. Capitol: some using wheelchairs, some not.] We educated our legislators. We wrote letters and made phone calls. We worked hard to get the message across, yet the House judiciary committee has chosen to take the next step to dismantle the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA): H.R. 620 will go in front of the entire House of Representatives for a vote. We have no idea yet when that vote will be, so we need to renew our efforts to educate and persuade our lawmakers, so they will act to protect the ADA, and reject H.R. 620 and its agenda to confuse and limit the ADA. As I wrote back in May, “Unless we educate our legislators about the harm of notification bills like H.R. 620 and similar state-level legislation, the ADA Title…

Book Review: There’s More Than One Way Home

Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com A mother’s worst nightmare: That’s what Anna thinks she might be facing at the beginning of Donna Levin’s spellbinding novel There’s More Than One Way Home. It’s 2004 and Anna has accompanied her Autistic son, Jack, as a class chaperone on a field trip to Minotaur Island near San Francisco. When four children—Jack among them—turn up missing, Anna fears the worst. Everyone pulls together to comb the island, and the boys are found.  One is dead after all, but to Anna’s guilty relief, it is not her Jack. Thus begins a mother’s second worst nightmare, as Jack is accused of murder. The story unfolds from there: Jack’s loving but authoritarian father’s hands are tied with respect to the case, since he is the district attorney and thus has a conflict of interest. Free-spirited Doctor Valentine helps keep Jack out of the crushing institutionalization of the combined penal and psychiatric…

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Why Everyone Should Read The ABCs of Autism Acceptance

Patricia George www.persnicketypatricia.ca The ABCs of Autism Acceptance [image: Book cover, with white text reading “The ABCs of Autism Acceptance” on a background of multicolored representations of letters of the Roman alphabet, above black text on a white background, reading, “by Sparrow Rose Jones.”] I’ve been an avid reader my whole life, so when I was asked to review The ABCs of Autism Acceptance by Maxfield Sparrow, and saw that it was “only” 152 pages, I thought, “this won’t take long to read, so sure, I’d love to!” 

I was wrong. This is the largest 152-page book I’ve ever read. In fact, I wrote more notes for this book than I did for a 500-plus page book I reviewed in 2015.

 The book’s title is straight-forward: Maxfield uses the Roman alphabet as a way to educate the reader about autism acceptance from an autistic person’s point of view, while interlacing…

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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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Autistic Inertia: An Overview

Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com Image description: a photo of the Mason Dixon line from about 20 miles away, taken by Sparrow Rose Jones at the Maryland/Pennsylvania border near Clear Spring, Maryland on October 4, 2016 I was talking with my boyfriend yesterday about autistic inertia. I was describing how it affects me and bemoaning the fact that it’s so clearly a real thing that exists but I never see researchers or educators talking about it — just us Autistics. We know it exists, we know it’s a real thing, but it’s not in the official literature and no one is researching it. After I described it a bit, my boyfriend remarked upon how similar it sounds to what people with Parkinson’s experience. Upon reflection, that didn’t surprise me too much since Parkinson’s is linked to dopamine and I’ve read autism research that talks about irregularities in dopamine and seratonin in the…