Sunday, July 12, 2015

With Liberty And Justice for All: Will Chuck Forget?

..."With Liberty And Justice For All" hopes to be a guest blogger series by Autistic teen voices against catastrophic violence to their neurodivergent peers that happens when preventable bullying events are ignored and escalate. Autistic teen activist Henry Frost leads with this moving post. A version of this article was previously published in Ollibean. kç

Will Chuck Forget?

Chuck is terrified to go to school. He has stuttering. Others laugh when he says something.
 He has a breakdown at school.

Some boys do feel bad but have no courage to tell and stand up for him. The teacher pretends nothing is wrong.

Chuck went missing.


Who is responsible?
What can his friends do if he is found?
What does it mean to watch and look the other way?
Will his teachers take initiative and how?
What can his family do?
Will Chuck forget?

End of  the story.

I wrote this story when I was in Austin with Soma in October 2013. It is part of a book of  stories for discussions.  Two Houses is one of the stories. There is another in Halo’s Voices and more.

 "If you are bullied, tell someone. It is not you who should feel shame. "


 Henry Frost: In 2012 Henry faced disability based discrimination when he was denied entry to the middle school across the street from his home. Then 12 year old Henry started “I STAND WITH HENRY” to take action against the segregation and low expectations he encountered and to empower others to stand together and demand full access to equal education in their neighborhoods. Henry’s international social media campaign garnered tens of thousands of supporters and he was allowed entry into his neighborhood school after months of negotiation. Henry went on to excel not only in General Education but it Advanced Honors and Gifted classes.He was the 2013 Recipient of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network's Award for Service to the Self-Advocacy Movement. You can find Henry @istandwithhenry on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Annual Day Of Mourning 2015

This post is in support of the Annual Day of Mourning for People with Disabilities Murdered by their families or care providers. Follow this link to the Autistic Self Advocacy Network's Vigil Page:

ASAN Annual Day of Mourning Poster 2015 credit Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Click here for the link to the virtual vigil: Remembrance
Tracy Latimer, age 12, 1993, gassed by her father 
• Charles-Antoine Blais, age 6, November 1996, drowned by his mother 
• Casey Albury, age 17, 1997, strangled by her mother 
• Pierre Pasquiou, age 10, 1998, pushed into the sea by his mother 
• Jim Helm, age 27, November 1998, killed by his mother in a murder-suicide 
• Daniel Leubner, age 13, September 1999, burned alive by his mother 
• James Joseph Cummings Jr, age 46, November 1999, stabbed to death by his father in the institution where he lived 
• Justin Malphus, age 5, April 2000, beaten and drowned by his mother 
• Gabriel Britt, age 6, March 2001, suffocated by his father 
• Matthew Sutton, age 28, April 2001, killed by his parents 
• Johnny Churchi, age 13, 2001, strangled by his mother 
• Mark Owen Young, age 11, September 2001, poisoned and then pushed off a bridge by his mother in a murder-suicide 
• Brahim Dukes, age 18, December 2001, starved by his stepmother 
• Lilian Leilani Gill, age 4, March 2002, strangled by her adoptive mother 
• Mitchell Dickson, age 10, June 2002, slashed to death by his mother 
• Dale Bartolome, age 27, July 2002, killed by his father in a murder-suicide 
• Jason Dawes, age 10, August 2003, suffocated by his mother 
• Maggie Caraballo, age 38, August 2003, beaten to death by her sister 
• Angelica Auriemma, age 20, December 2003, drowned by her mother, who first tried to electrocute her to death 
• Scott Olsen, age 29, December 2003, starved to death by his sister 
• Eric Bland, age 38, March 2004, starved to death by his sister 
• Scarlett Chen, age 4, July 2004, drowned by her mother 
• Patrick Markcrow, age 36, March 2005, drugged and suffocated by his mother 
• Tiffany Pinckney, age 23, April 2005, locked in a basement and starved to death by her sister and brother-in-law 
• Sarah Naylor, age 27, September 2005, shot by her mother in a murder-suicide 
• Ryan Davies, age 12, April 2006, drowned after his mother caused him to fall off of a bridge in a murder-suicide 
• Christopher DeGroot, age 19, May 2006, died of severe burns after he was locked in his parents’ apartment alone during a fire 
• Katie McCarron, age 3, May 2006, suffocated by her mother 
• William Lash III, age 12, July 2006, shot by his father in a murder-suicide 
• Lakesha Victor, age 10, August 2006, starved by her mother 
• Marcus Fiesel, age 4, August 2006, wrapped in heavy blankets by his foster parents and left in a closet to suffocate while they went out of town 
• Ulysses Stable, age 12, November 2006, throat slit by his father 
• M. E., age 13, November 2006, starved and deprived medical care by his parents 
• Brandon Williams, age 5, March 2007, poisoned and beaten to death by his mother 
• Criste Reimer, age 47, August 2007, thrown from a balcony by her husband 
• Jared Greenwood, age 26, September 2007, died of infected bed sores after being left in place and neglected by his mother 
• Francecca Hardwick, age 18, October 2007, locked in a burning car with her mother in a murder-suicide 
• Naomi Hill, age 4, November 2007, drowned by her mother 
• Shellay Ward, age 7, November 2007, starved and neglected by her parents 
• Maxwell Eyer, age 2, December 2007, beaten to death by his father 
• Maia Comas, age 2, December 2007, left to drown in a blow-up pool by her parents 
• Xiao Fei, age 20, 2008, poisoned and suffocated by her mother 
• Calista Springer, age 16, February 2008, chained to a bed and abandoned in a fire by her entire family 
• Courtney Wise, age 17, February 2008, starved to death by her mother 
• Ethan Scott Kirby, age 3, August 2008, beaten to death by his mother's boyfriend
 • Jacob Grabe, age 13, September 2008, shot by his father 
• Tom Inglis, age 22, November 2008, died after his mother administered an overdose of heroin to him 
• Christian Clay Jenkins, age 14, 2008, given an overdose of oxycodone by his father 
• Kyle Dutter, age 12, November 2008, shot by his father in a murder-suicide 
• Lexie Agyepong-Glover, age 13, January 2009, left in a frigid creek by her mother and died of drowning and exposure 
• Terrell Stepney, age 19, February 2009, poisoned by his grandmother in a murder-suicide 
• Jeremy Fraser, age 9, 2009, died of recurrent leukemia after his mother withheld the medication that would have saved his life 
• Shylea Myza Thomas, age 9, April 2009, " starved to death by her aunt, who then hid her body in order to continue to collect money she received for Shylea's care" 
• Pamela Camille Hall, age 59, April 2009, stabbed by her son-in-law 
• Lloyd Yarbrough, age 62, May 2009, fed an overdose of prescription medication through his feeding tube by his wife 
• Jeremy Bostick, age 11, September 2009, gassed by his father 
• Peter Eitzen, age 16, July 2009, stabbed by his mother 
• Tony Khor, age 15, October 2009, strangled by his mother 
• Betty Anne Gagnon, age 48, November 2009, tortured to death by her sister and brother-inlaw 
• Walter Knox Hildebrand Jr, age 20, November 2009, died of a seizure induced by his brother's physical abuse 
• Laura Cummings, age 23, January 2010, raped tortured to death by her mother and brother 
• Jude Mirra, age 8, February 2010, forced by his mother to overdose on prescription medications 
• Ajit Singh, age 12, February 2010, forced by his mother to drink bleach 
• Gerren Isgrigg, age 6, April 2010, died of exposure after his grandmother abandoned him in a remote area 
• Leosha Barnett, age 17, May 2010, starved to death by her mother and sister 
• Glen Freaney, age 11, May 2010, strangled by his mother 
• Payton Ettinger, age 4, May 2010, starved by his mother 
• Christopher Melton, age 18, June 2010, gassed by his mother in a murder-suicide 
• Rylan Rochester, age 6 months, June 2010, suffocated by his mother because she believed him to be autistic 
• Kenneth Holmes, age 12, July 2010, shot by his mother in a murder-suicide 
• Zain Akhter, age 5, July 2010, strangled with antenna wire by his mother, who first tried to make him drink bathroom cleaner 
• Faryaal Akhter, age 2, July 2010, strangled with antenna wire by her mother, who first tried to make him drink bathroom cleaner 
• Emily Belle Molin, age 85, August 2010, hit and run over with a car by her son 
• Rohit Singh, age 7, September 2010, beaten to death by his father 
• Zahra Baker, age 10, October 2010, murdered and dismembered by her stepmother and perhaps her father 
• Chase Ogden, age 13, October 2010, shot in the head by his mother 
• Karandeep Arora, age 18, October 2010, suffocated by his parents 
• Donald Parojinog, age 83, January 2011, starved by his daughter 
• Chad Jackson, age 25, July 2011, starved and neglected by his mother 
• Julie Cirella, age 8, July 2011, poisoned by her mother 
• Joseph Conant, age 11, July 2011, and Nacuma Conant 
• Noe Medina Jr, age 7 months, August 2011, thrown 4 stories by his mother 
• Benjamin Barnhard, age 13, August 2011, shot by his mother in a murder-suicide 
• Jori Lirette, age 7, August 2011, decapitated by his father 
• George Hodgins, age 22, March 2012, shot by his mother in a murder-suicide 
• Daniel Corby, age 4, March 2012, drowned by his mother 
• Malea Blakely-Berry, age 16, June 2012, starved by her mother 
• Alayah Savarese, age 8, June 2012, starved and denied medical treatment by her mother 
• Matthew Graville, age 27, July 2012, tortured and beaten to death by his half-brother 
• Melissa Stoddard, age 11, December 2012, suffocated in restraints that her father and stepmother routinely used 
• Darnell “DJ” Hunter Jr., age 18, February 2013, fatally neglected by his father 
• Robert Gensiak, age 32, March 2013, starved by his mother and sisters 
• Susan Walter, age 47, March 2013, beaten to death by her caregiver 
• Gerald Lakes, age 24, May 2013, starved and denied medical treatment by his parents 
• Alex Spourdalakis, age 14, June 2013, poisoned and stabbed by his mother and godmother 
• Matthew Hafer, age 28, July 2013, poisoned by his mother 
• Mary Swierzewski, age 59, July 2013, shot by father 
• Marian Roberts, age 57, August 2013, shot by her father in a murder-suicide 
• Jaelen Edge, age 13, September 2013, poisoned by his mother along with his sister Faith 
• Tamiyah Audain, age 12, September 2013, starved, abused and neglected by her cousin 
• Nathalyz Rivera, age 3, September 2013, starved and died of neglect by mother/father 
• Dameian “Luke” Gulley, age 14, November 2013, strangled by his stepfather 
• Randle Barrow, age 8, December 2013, drowned by his mother in a murder-suicide 
• Mickey Liposchok, age 52, December 2013, shot by his father in a murder-suicide 
• Damien Veraghen, age 9, January 2014, poisoned and suffocated by his mother in a murder-suicide 
• Vincent Phan, age 24, January 2014, shot by his mother in a murder-suicide 
• Gloria Martin, age 55, January 2014, stabbed to death by her nephew 
• Ayahna Combs, age 9, January 2014, neglected by her mother, who then wrapped her in a blanket and stuffed her corpse in a refrigerator 
• Garnett Spears, age 5, January 2014, poisoned by his mother who allegedly put salt in his feeding tube 
• Lucas Ruiz, age 17 months, March 2014, poisoned by his mother who fed hand sanitizer and perfume into his feeding tube 
• Michael Sudkamp, age 53, March 2014, abused and murdered by his caretaker/roommate 
• Anayah Williams, age 21 months, March 2014, beaten to death by her father 
• Billy Ray Young, age 52, March 2014, starvation and neglect 
• Raquel Espinoza, age 17, March 2014, starvation and neglect 
• Aidan Edward Bossingham, age 13, March 2014, starved by his mother 
• Jonathan Samuel, age 13, March 2014, shot, stabbed, and hacked with a machete by his brother 
• June Lang, age 75, April 2014, shot in the head • Max Clarence, age 3, April 2014, smothered by mother 
• Ben Clarence, age 3, April 2014, smothered by his mother 
• Olivia Clarence, age 4, April 2014, smothered by her mother 
• Robert Robinson, age 16, April 2014, fed lethal dose of pills by his mother 
• Caitlin Wentzel, age 12, April 2014, suffocated by her mother 
• Rebecca Cotten, age 22, June 2014, neglected, abused and starved by her mother 
• Samantha Marcus, age 17, June 2014, strangled by her father 
• Jarrod Tutko, age 9, August 2014, starved and dehydrated by his parents 
• Dayne William Hathman, age 6, August 2014, shot by his caregiver 
• Isaac Robitille, age 13, August 2014, poisoned by his mother who put alcohol in his IV 
• Linda Kelley, age 18, August 2014, neglected and denied medical care by her parents 
• Joan Stack, age 82, September 2014, shot by her husband 
• Frank Stack Jr., age 48, September 2014, shot by his father 
• Mary Stack, age 57, September 2014, shot by her father 
• Nancy Fitzmaurice, age 12, October 2014, fluids withheld under court order 
• London McCabe, age 6, November 2014, thrown off a bridge by his mother 
• Daryne Gailey, age 29, November 2014, throat slit by his mother, who then murdered his infant daughter 
• Katherine Lavoie, age 49, December 2014, shot by her husband in a murder-suicide

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

An Activist's Wish List For Yearlong Gift Giving

On New Year's Day 2014, I wondered if I could make some changes to how I lived my life that would benefit others while adding knowledge, joy and beauty to our lives. I decided to make a conscious decision to assess my buying needs well and shop  through neurodivergent vendors whenever possible.  I called it my Buy Neurodivergent challenge. I saw it as a new step in the Amplify project.

 In this effort to support micro businesses run by neurodivergent people and their allies, I thought it best to go beyond the term "buy autistic" and include everyone who has divergent neurology. I tried to live as frugally as possible and saved up for a series of lovely purchases. Books, photographs, art, and artwork on customized t-shirts, in short all things that were created by neurodivergent artists, photographers and authors, seemed a great place to start.

During this process, I wanted to get something amazing for my husband, but I wanted to follow my own commitment to making this a buy neurodivergent purchase. I reached out to Alyssa at Because Patterns and asked if she could create a poster of her now famous Autism Acceptance pattern. This is the result:
Image of a large poster with fractal pattern in the shape of a globe with stylized humans
colored navy blue standing on it circumventing it and in the upper right hand corner a larger human
figure in orange with flapping hands on a sky blue field with stylized clouds  all framed in silver art
©Alyssa Hillary

When the theatre ad sized poster was hung it could be seen by anyone walking past his office door.
same poster is hanging in an open office. A bookshelf, teal office chair, tan desk and
charcoal chair can be seen as wellas a partial view of two black flat screen computer monitors. 
What one can't see from the photograph is that the colors are so vibrant that people stop to stare and as a result read the inscription on the bottom of the pattern:

“Much like the bright orange Autistic person flapping here, Autistic people stand out. We’re completely distinguishable from our peers, as we’re meant to be. We don’t need to be just like everyone else, but be accepted as the unique people we are. Accept Autistics”  -- Alyssa Hillary

The size, colors, quote and overall beauty of the piece is having a greater impact on those who see it than any action I could take as an activist could. Viewers are engaged, informed, and also mesmerized by an arresting pattern. My husband loved this the first time he saw it and I had been wanting to purchase it ever since. We are now wishing we had commissioned one for the house as well. It is that arrestingly beautiful.

I have some other wonderful purchases I'll probably speak about as well in time. But the thing that struck me the most about what happened this year, is the reaction to what my family purchased. More people asked me what "Autistic Giraffe Party" and "Neurodiversity" meant than have read my blog posts. I realized books laid out on a coffee table or bookshelf grab the eye and cause curious people to flip through pages. What people wear does say a great deal. So I thought I would take things up a notch.

Beginning with this holiday season and hopefully for all of 2015, I want to encourage everyone to share my final wish, that we all try to buy and promote neurodivergent goods and services as much as we are able to afford it. This is a positive act of activism that helps our community and reaches out to those seeking knowledge and understanding.  It grabs their attention, their hearts and minds.

For anyone who wishes to do some last minute holiday shopping, as well as those who want to give my activist's Buy Neurodivergent Challenge a try in 2015, PACLA (Parenting Autistic Children With Love and Acceptance) has made a holiday shopping guide.
To view it, click here.

I think the guide could be expanded and include more books, gifts and services for parents as well as things like gifting say a few lessons at  Aikido Shusekai, from Nick Walker Sensei and Azzia Walker Sensei  , or gifting a sensory friendly concert from The Musical Autist. I would have loved to see music from KripHop Nation. Michael Scott Monje, jr's books were great to see there. More diversity in offerings would have been welcome. It is good to see start ups like Stimtastic listed. Music producer Mike Buckholtz has both a book and a nonprofit, I would have liked to have seen a way to include this as well.

Author and photographer Jane Strauss's (Jane's photography site, Jane's Prints is feature in PACLA's shopping guide)  effort, Buy Autistic, can be found here. Whatever list is built, I hope that spoken word poetry, baked goods, and neurodivergent speakers services are included.

I will be updating this to add more to the listing and eventually consolidate this all into a year long list of places where art, books, crafts, clothes, other goods and services can be bought for our own enjoyment that can also send a powerful educational message to those around us while helping our community prosper. Happy Holidays, blessings and peace to all.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Moment in Self Advocacy by Ondrea Marisa Robinson

This is an update to Ondrea's guest post on The Autism Wars about her fight for accessible transportation and the eventual positive outcome. Amplify Autistic Voices allows the publication of unfiltered, unedited, autistics speaking.  To read her first post on this topic click here.

Image description: RIPTA RIde vehicle #0141 in downtown Providence

I really didn't want to sign another RIde application to get on the paratransit service, because I felt like it wasn't worth fighting for, and at first, I felt like I was being forced against my own will by Monica, the Business Relations Supervisor, and Joe, my case manager, at the Office of Rehabilitation Services. But I did sign my name where I needed to sign.

 A day later after signing the application at the meeting, Monica called me and asked me who would be my emergency contact, and I told her that it was my mother Martha. That was fine. However, the next question she proposed to me was not appropriate, and that was if I was overweight. I asked if the question was on the application, and she said it wasn't, but she wanted to know if I was able to get on the bus. I answered that I wasn't overweight, but it was a personal question, didn't she think? (I took it personally, because I'm a curvy girl, and I'm very sensitive when it comes to people questioning my weight.)

 I addressed the overweight issue with her supervisor Ron, who did speak with her. He told me that her intentions were good, but they were inappropriate. And then on top of that, I wrote a letter to Ron to address the situation in full, along with sending Monica an e-mail about what she did. Did I receive a reply from the letter and/or the e-mail? No, I didn't. I am not going to force an apology from either one of them. And I hope that someone else doesn't get asked if he or she is overweight, because he or she might be devastated (or maybe not). A couple of weeks later, I opened my mailbox to see that I received a letter from RIPTA, regarding the RIde Program. I was thinking it was another rejection letter, saying that I was not approved. But when I opened it up, I felt a sigh of relief. I was shocked. I was glad to be approved for paratransit services. I did understand why Monica asked what she asked, but it could have been put in a different context. And I thanked her for doing her best to get me on the program, but she said there was no need to thank her.

 I tell you, God is good all the time, and He's worthy to be praised, because sometimes you have to speak up in order to be heard. And even if some people may not like it, oh well. You're doing your best.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Seven Questions: Because Patterns

Alyssa Hillary is an Autistic college student who blogs at Yes, That Too and runs Because Patterns. This is all the biography she would allow and is entirely too modest.  Amplify is beginning a series of interviews of really amazing people. Alyssa's is the first in the series. All artwork appears with permission of Alyssa @ Because Patterns. Enjoy!

1. Thank you for doing this interview! It is a very brief one. My husband and I have fallen in love with Because Patterns. There is something fractalicious about them.

What is your creative process when coming up with a design idea?

image of a mirror image pattern shapes
in black, and ice blue and purple on a green
 field flanked in light green all on a turquoise
background. Atop the apex of the pattern stands
a stylized neurodivergent human figure in orange,
apparent because the stylized hands are flapping
© Alyssa Hillary
*Big smile*

So my process is actually pretty simple. I grab a sheet of graph paper- I've got a few pads of 50ish sheets that are 10 squares per inch, so I generally have plenty of paper around. Then I decide how big a design I want to make. When I first started in 7th grade, designs were usually 8x8, 16x16, or 32x32 squares, and I only did lines at 45 degree angles. Now I do more than just squares in power of two sizes, and I do a lot more different angles, though it's still straight lines from one intersection of graph lines to another. Then I just make symmetry- there's generally either two or four axes of symetry: four for a square, the diagonals and then the midsegments, while for a rectangular one it's just the midsegments.

I don't usually go in with a specific thought in mind, but sometimes I'll grab elements I liked from older patterns and build something new around them.

2. Your Autism Acceptance design blew us away. The flapping hands and the color choice was spot on. Did you see the end concept as a whole completed work or did you build on a thought?


Um, the Autism Acceptance design was at least partially an accident. I was trying to fill a funny-shaped space in a completely different design and realized that it looked kind of like a person with hands raised. This happened last March or February (no I don't remember), so Autism Acceptance Month was coming up and I realized I could try to make it flap. Then I made an octagonal world to put 8 people on and looked around in my piles of patterns I hadn't done anything with yet to see if I had anything good for an octagon of that size. Which I did! So I drew that in.  

After I had all the lines done, I started thinking about colors. The first color I decided was orange for the Autistic person, because that's the opposite color of blue and light it up blue is run by a pretty terrible organization. Then I decided that the world should be in greens mostly with maybe some blues because that's what it tends to look like from space, greens and blues. Different blue for the sky and a really, really light blue-gray for clouds was also meant to be semi-realistic. I made the allistic people (those lacking autism) purple because it didn't stand out too much and I really like the color purple. It's my favorite color, but I didn't want to make the Autistic people that color because it's adjacent to blue.

3. If the world could could be described in single colors, what color was the world the day you were born?

I don't really think that way so I'm just going to say purple. It's my favorite color, anyways, so I'd like it if it were purple just for me!

4. What music runs in the background of your creative life?

That varies hugely, but there is generally music stuck in my head. Amy MacDonald's “Poison Prince,” State Radio's “Knights of Bostonia,” and The Saturday Nights “People of the Sun” seem to wind up on repeat in my head pretty often.

5. If you could have an art show of your patterns, and you could have a light scent piped through the gallery as each exhibit was viewed, what scent or scents, if any, would you choose?

My first thought is “I want to be sensory-friendly, no scents!” My second thought is “Um scents?
Image of a fractal like repeating pattern in purple,
leaf green, & yellow-green with a sky blue background © Alyssa Hillary

How do I scents?” Because I don't think that way, really. I don't know if it's a sensory processing thing or if it's because my nose was always stuffy when I was a kid, but my sense of smell isn't that great and I tend not to notice or think in terms of scent. I guess I might do an ocean scent for the Autism Acceptance one because it's of the world and most of the world is ocean?

6. You find yourself standing in an elevator with Joss Whedon, who says hi and smiles at you. You realize you have the chance to say something about neurodivergence and self advocacy. What would be your elevator pitch to him about what autism is and how he could help how neurodivergence is viewed? Who would you want listening in that elevator to your statement?

I kind of wish I knew the name of some of the folks who wrote for Eureka, because oh my goodness did they mess up with the one (temporarily) autistic character they had. Yes, I might have blocked his name from my head over that. (They had him repair a time machine and send a few other people back in time, and then when they got back to the present day kid was magically not autistic!)
So I think my pitch would be something along the lines of “So... the kinds of specific and intense interests that everyone in Eureka has? Totally a common thing in autistic people. We're not always the world expert in our field, who always is, but some of us will be that level of good and if Eureka really existed there'd be a decent pile of autistic people around. And maybe an ASAN or AWN chapter that totally lies about all it's activities because it clearly can't reveal classified stuff to the national level group.”

7. If you were given the chance to write for a television series and take any character in a that series and reinvent it as a neurodivergent person who would it be and how would you do it? Feel free to expand on the presentation of autistic characters in entertainment and print

image of a magazine cover with the title
Parenting Autistic Children With Love &
Acceptance. Supporting and accommodating
Autistic children respectfully, advocating for
neurodiversity & learning from Autistic voices.
Cover art © Alyssa Hillary
If I'm not required to stick to current shows, I'd grab the temporarily autistic kid from Eureka whose name I kinda blocked over that and make him stay autistic. Because for real, he would have been great representation. He's Black, he's being raised by a Black single mother who is very good at what she does (which varies some by continuity, see also: time travel.) As he gets older, he becomes friends with Officer Carter, who is the main character (average guy trying to be the police officer in a town full of geniuses who might not intentionally break the law much but goodness does chaos ensue anyways.) Imagine if we'd gotten to see a teenage Black Autistic boy growing up and being friends with the main characters and learning to hunt with them and it being treated like a normal thing!

If it had to be a show that was still running, I'd probably grab Sherlock from, well, Sherlock, because I just don't know that many current shows and the questionably autistic super-detective who never or rarely shows the difficulties that come with being autistic is a really icky trend. So I'd rewrite him to actually show autistic traits even when they aren't convenient for the plot. Disabled characters should be disabled always, not just when it's convenient for the plot.

Which is kind of a thing I see a lot. They're disabled when we need them, and then they either pass or they get shoved off to the side. There's a reason that a lot of Autistic people identify more with the characters who are never explicitly identified as neurodivergent: for me, it's Alanna of Trebond from Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness and Trisanna Chandler from Tamora Pierce's Emelan universe I tend to go to first, though Hermione from Harry Potter, Dina from Dumbing of Age, and Emily from Questionable Content are all on my list of characters I read as autistic. What do all of these characters have in common? None of them are identified as autistic in canon. (Dina has no diagnosed anything per word of author, but the statement was not diagnosed neurodivergent as opposed to not being neurodivergent and as of my freshman year of college I wasn't diagnosed either so...) There should be enough good characters that we don't need to ignore or stretch canon to get representation. But there isn't.

image description: Avatar for
This Is Autism twitter and tumblr sites:
three orange stylized autistic people
atop a purple white green and black
fractal patterned world surface against a
turquoise blue background.
©Alyssa Hillary

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Autistic Writer and Activist Puts Representation Ahead of Awareness, Acceptance

The right thing to do during a month designated for autism is to support talented neurodivergent authors, artists, and people who create change by producing works that transform attitudes and perceptions about autism. Outstanding author and activist Michael Scott Monje, Jr. has just launched a funding campaign for his newest project, Imaginary Friends, a web serial. I'll let him tell you about it! Remember to  click on the link below the video for information on perks for donations.

I've posted the press release verbatim with attribution because during the discussion the author states why he places representation ahead of awareness and acceptance. We throw these words around and don't really consider that attitudinal change is only achieved in a society through valid representation. The whole purpose of Amplify Autistics to let the voice of the neurodivergent change maker speak without filtering directly to the world. So without any more commentary here is Michael Scott Monje, Jr. :

"Autistic Writer and Activist Puts Representation Ahead of Awareness, Acceptance


 PRLog (Press Release) - Apr. 1, 2014 - KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- Local writer and disability activist Michael Scott Monje, Jr. has announced a funding campaign for Imaginary Friends, a web serial that is to be distributed freely as it is written this summer.

The new series will feature Clay Dillon, the protagonist from Michael's first novel, Nothing is Right, and it will focus on the relationship between Clay and his mother as she attempts to push him through catechism in an attempt to make sure that he receives his first Holy Communion “on time.”

“I'm writing about a lot of the things I experienced as a kid,” Michael said when asked about his recurring character. “I wasn't diagnosed as autistic until my adulthood. So that part of Clay's character is about me. And I was raised Catholic.”

“It's not all about me, though. Clay is a parable about the problems people in our community have when they try to participate in the everyday institutions of our society. Church, school, the workplace... the stories about him are not just about me. They're about the way the world looks to people like me. I do my best to be widely representative.”

The launch of Michael's project this week coincides with Autism Awareness month, which is sponsored by large organizations like Autism Speaks. The event has become controversial in recent years, with autistic activists campaigning for Autism Acceptance month and calling attention to Autism Speaks' lack of autistic representation in its leadership. Recently, this has been highlighted by the resignation of its sole autistic spokesperson.

“Awareness isn't enough,” according to Michael. “Neither is acceptance. We need representation. We need to be the heart of stories, not just the quirky friend, the family's problem child, or some parent's burden. We're not all super detectives. Some of us are just trying to build relationships and keep our families together, and doing it in a world that seems like it was built to frustrate our brains is challenging.”

More information about funding the campaign can be accessed through Michael's blog, Shaping Clay, at The blog also contains his last book about Clay Dillon, Defiant, which dealt with workplace and healthcare access issues, as well as poetry and essays about neurodiversity.

Michael Scott Monje, Jr."

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Gift: An Autistic Expression Story

Our autism community has been talking a great deal about a particularly beautiful work of body art worn by friend, activist, and autism dad Steve Summers. So AAV invited Steve to tell us how he came to own this one of kind tattoo and tell us a bit about himself as well. Gentle readers, in his own words, Steve:

The Gift

This past summer, I was treated to a tattoo as a birthday present from my wife, Amy.
Image description: 3 views of an ornate letter A tattooed in black in an indigenous style image © Amy Summers

The tattoo artist, Isaiah Dela Pena* is very talented. He did this tattoo free hand, without any stencils. He listened to my life story and designed a tattoo that is uniquely for me. The various elements represent things from my life. Nobody else will have the same tattoo.

About the tattoo's design and meaning:

Isaiah incorporated an "A" into the tattoo to represent many things for me; "A" for Autism because I am Autistic; "A" for my Awesome wife, Amy Summers; "A" for Amy's life-long friend, Annette Martin who went out and got an Autism tattoo in support of us; "A" also stands for Aloha. Aloha has several meanings relating to caring, kindness, and love as well as hello and goodbye.
Isaiah also tattooed four Hapu'u fern symbols to represent my four children, 'ohana surrounding me.
Body Artist Isaiah Dela Pena at work on Steve's gift photo ©Amy Summers
The entire piece is fluid to represent water and my love for the ocean. The points coming up along the top represent the tips of sails.
There are Spiritual elements incorporated into the tattoo. There are shark teeth to represent sharks, protection, and regeneration. Dots are spread throughout the piece to represent stepping stones. There are block shapes to represent building blocks.
Bird tracks represent that you need to walk before you fly. There are elements that represent the old style Polynesian tattoo tools/needles to honor the original beginnings of tattoo in Polynesia. There are various meanings represented by all of the elements of the tattoo.
This tattoo is not meant to be a static representation of my life up to this point in time, it also looks forward to the future.
I am very happy with the results! Thank you Isaiah!
*Isaiah's work can be followed at @tattoosbyzay on Instagram and by clicking here.

About Me

I am an Autistic Dad with four children - one Autistic, two ADHD and one NT. I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (part of the Autism Spectrum) as an adult. I was diagnosed following one of my son’s getting diagnosed with Aspergers.
I am happy to have my diagnosis. It was like a light being turned on that illuminated my entire life in a new way. Now I understand why I never really ‘fit in.’ It is like having a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders to have my diagnosis.
I don’t feel that people should make divisions between parts of the Autism Spectrum. I am autistic and I want to work to make the world a better, more understanding and accepting place for all autistic people. We need to work together for the benefit of all on the Autism Spectrum. Disability Rights are Human Rights.