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.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Black Voices: Writer/Activist Patricia Elaine (Rose) Chandler

This post is part of a series of posts in protest of John Elder Robison's "The Myth of the Black Aspergian" two part article, in which Mr. Robison engages in speculation on the existence of people of color with Asperger's Syndrome, and further implies disturbing reasons as to why they do not seem prominent or vocal in the community. They are here with strong voices,  Mr. Robison is just not listening. Patricia, who is an activist and writer, in response to Mr. Robison's articles said :

"In keeping with what is Real, Authentic and True, I would actually like to Dedicate little Essay to Mr. Elder-Robison to Open His Mind, Heart and Senses so he too can be educated about what a Spectrum IS! And invite him for a Real Conversation!"

 Gentle people, in her own words, Patricia Elaine Chandler on the singular experience of being in the ebb and flow of The 2011 Newark New Jersey Peace Education Summit. Enjoy

There Is No Box!
Patricia expresses who she is in a powerful photographic statement
that combines jewelry and body art ©Patricia Elaine Chandler
Attaining Universal Peace, which is the Single Heart-Beat of Every Human Being, and what makes US One, is like Sand-Pebbles in a Sand-Box, representing all the Souls on Earth. In the Sand-Box are 7 Billion individual Sand-Pebbles, 6 billion are Black on one side and White on the other, and 1 billion are on the Endless Spectrum, in Color.
The Black and White ones really Hate being Who they are because they Know in their Hearts, Being in Color is the Way the Source intended it all along, though they cannot seem to reconcile with Real Change; because they have been Black and White for So long, becoming "Comfortable" and unfortunately, "Complacent", in their existence of Being Simply Black and White. They know nothing is Simply Black and White. And this is why the Color Sand-Pebbles must work harder than ever before. The Colorful Ones Know that All Beings are "In Color", which is Being Truly In Love with Self, first, and their Hearts Bleed, non-stop, for the Black and White Ones because they know they are just simply Color-Blind, in their Hearts.
Knowing this, the Color Sand-Pebbles Must Strive into Action, relentlessly, fearlessly, unwavering, magnificently, boldly, loudly, uncomfortably, disruptively, humbly, triumphantly, physically, mentally, emotionally, Spiritually, to Show the Way back home to Being In Color, In Love, for PEACE through Leading By Example; every single moment like every time we take a Breath of Sound, the 1st Element of Life. Can you truly iMaGINE how difficult it must be, trying to Show Humanity as a Colorful Sea of Peaceful, Loving Souls, to just even 1 Black and White Soul who is Color-Blind? There's a 1 in 7 Billion chance it will happen and though the odds are stacked against the Color Sand- Pebbles being swallowed up and lost in the Sand-Box, among the Black and White Sand-Pebbles, “Where There is the Will, There is the Way!”
The booklet cover art of the 3 days of Divine Events of “The 2011 Newark New Jersey Peace Education Summit”, sumed up, for Me, Peace is not Color-Blind, as the Souls of Newark NJ represented their True Colors to a World that only sees the Issues and Challenges of Newark as Black And White. Nothing is ever just Simply Black And White. I believe Technology was given to us as a Temporary Fix, to Wake Us Up, providing Bold, Brilliant, Colorful Beings, which created Sound, to bring the Earth Back together, so we can All go back to Playing in the Sand-Box, Together, where Black and White and Color does not actually exist, Only PEACE and LOVE, in the Hearts of 7 Billion Souls! That is why, I believe, the Tele-Vision went from Black and White to Techni-Color, 40 years ago. We needed to be Shown, All Souls exist on the Same Spectrum and that Spectrum is simply LIGHT, Bright and Brilliant.
Whether Black and White or Color, you cannot see or know anything, especially Peace, in the Dark. We must do everything in our individual and collective Power to make sure the Earth exists on the Light Spectrum and PEACE is the Only Way to The Light. Hope for Peace possible for Tomorrow, is evidenced in the picture I took at the end of
the summit, after seeing and meeting Miss. Jeanette Seabrooks of Dayton Street School in Newark NJ and their beautiful tribute to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, created by her students. I see them as Peace Warriors of Today, to become Peace Leaders for Tomorrow, and this is their Homage to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the honored guest of the Summit for PEACE. They are Doing Today, for Tomorrow.
Autistic or Not, This is Why I Will Be a Teacher, too! Thank You Ganden Thurman, of Tibet House NYC, from the top, center and bottom of My Heart, for providing this Real opportunity to be in Peace and Play Nice in the Same Sand-Box with my Fellow Sand-Pebbles for 3 Divine Days, which will stay with Me and Push Me on into Action for the rest of my Life.
It was a true, divine experience for Me, and I will be eternally grateful and humbled by this experience, to be among the Peace Leaders of the World, Today and Tomorrow, and I Felt His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Blessing for My continued Journey to Peace, Love and The Light! I think God created the Sand-Box, and as our Souls grow, so will the Box, and the Space between each Sand-Pebble, because in God's Eyes and Heart, There Really Is No Box! Growth is Infinite, so we Begin, Again, at 7, today!
I AM just a Single Sand-Pebble on the Autism Spectrum of Autistic Light, in Support, Care and Love in Peace, for All the Other Autistic Sand-Pebbles on the Spectrum of Light! I AM Patricia Elaine Chandler, A future Student-Teacher-Singer-Advocate-Activist of Yours sincerelyX, authenticallyX, divinelyX, spirituallyX and Unconditionally LovinglyX!

Patricia Elaine (Rose) Chandler
|Brooklyn, New York |USA|7Jun2013

Monday, June 3, 2013

Black Voices: Author LaVonnya Gardner

LaVonnya Gardner is a powerful voice for autism. She is a contributing writer to Autism Now, a speaker on autism and aac, an autism mom, and an overall great person I was happy to meet online. I love her vlog on youtube, so I thought I would share that as well. One note about language. This is LaVonnya's voice, and it was important to me to make it clear she is typing this on her own and is quite a capable woman of color. Therefore I did not edit the content. Gentle people, in her own words, the amazing LaVonnya Gardner speaking.

LaVonnya resplendent in Red at the NFB
MY NAME IS LAVONNYA. I am an autistic adult, who uses my iPad to communicate. For as long as i can remember, I was bullied, by staff and students, at the school that i went to.  i am still bullied, part of it is do to misinformation about autism. This is not to say that misinformation was the only reason. some bully me for fun. they take an, I know everything stance. and when things don't work as they want, somehow, it's my fault when people don't understand me,, they tend to make up stuff about me, rather than asking me. which is plain stupid. given the fact that we are put in therapy when we don't ask questions people also love to gossip about me, weather i am there or not. and insist that I can control my autism, and that i want attention. screw the fact that, i try my best to keep what I am GOIN through to myself.  they pay that no mind. adults are the worst. even after admitting that they know nothing about autism. while i was and am still bullied, i think that some of it has to do with me not giving a hamburger about what others want me to do. when it comes to changing me bullying doesn't stop just  because we become adults am I afraid of interacting with people? yes I am. and here's why.
first, i am not given a fair chance at most relationships. most of the time, i am miss understood, then acused of things i not only didn't do, but most of the time, i have no clue what is going on. something else that happens is, I am told to say what is on my mind, but when I do, I am told to stop putting myself down, or told that I have low self esteem, or that I must be depressed. and we must not forget , people who meet me first, and dump me when they find better friends. the other thing is that, people will talk to me when they are board, an lonely and they can' get to their real friends or are in a fight with them. so, i just do things on my own, rather then wait for others to have time for me. or for them to think that I'm enough of a real person to include me. i like people. they  just treat me like they don't want anything to do with me, if they cannot control me. as if i am just an object. I love going on you tube, and seeing all of the autistic adults, talking about autism because, non autistics can learn more from autistic people then they can from people who are not. and autistic people Learn best from each other. i also like going to these to peer to peer groups. but I am the only one who uses other methods of communicating. their are others like me. i would love to meet some of them. this way i can Succeed socially for a change. one of the things i learned at group is that, autism has more Symptoms than i knew. on the higher end of the spectrum, they can read body language, and faces. and there is no way i can.  i can only look at a person's lips so that I can read them.  Also, my attention span is too short to even look at a person that long. other things that you might think about are, that , just because an autistic adult may use other methods of communication, doesn't mean that we need to be verbal. there is nothing wrong with our communication. another thing is, just because we might be able to do some things  sometimes does not mean that it will always work that way. words are more like incomprehensible sounds to me. i also only hear in 1 ear. that makes things really interesting, at times. on the phone, i use a few methods. just as i do in person. on the  phone, i use a t t y, video relay, clear caption, i p relay, and when I am calm, sometimes i can call without any of it, but then i understand very little. in person, i use my iPad, Dynavox, flash cards, sign language, or some combination. i would never want to be changed. i am happy just the way i am. autism is not a Disease.. it will not kill me. i live on my own, and do just fine. I spin, jump, flap my hands, rock, use sign language, and my i'pad, to communicate, cover my ears when it is too loud, shut my eyes when it is too bright, ware what won't freak me out, don't touch things that will, stay away from foods, and smells that will make me barf, and live life. i have learned to explain my autism to people, in comprehensable ways. i know what i can do, what i cannot do, as well as what needs to be adapted, or where i will need help. I can do this because, i got to know myself. getting to know ourselves, is the only way we will be able to speek up for ourselves. on the  phone, i use a t t y, video relay, clear caption, i p relay, and when I am calm, sometimes i can call without any of it, but then i understand very little.


This is part of a series of posts in protest of John Elder Robison's "The Myth of the Black Aspergian" two part article, in which Mr. Robison engages in speculation on the existence of people of color with Asperger's Syndrome, and further implies disturbing reasons as to why they do not seem prominent or vocal in the community. They are here with strong voices,  Mr. Robison is just not listening. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Photographer Jane Strauss

I am continuing my presentation of powerful autistic voices, by next introducing an artist and powerful  parent advocate creating beautiful photographs while raising a neurodivergent son. I hope to be able to ask Jane to share faith, parenting an autistic child, and maintaining her focus on her work in an interview coming soon. 

Jane Strauss is a woman who makes photographic art in a way that is uniquely neurodivergent. There is a meticulous attention to detail that makes the world according to Jane rich, sharp, open, and breathtaking. Please see her photographs at janesprints or follow her fan page on Facebook here.

In her own words, here is Jane:

I have been interested in art since forever. I first picked up a camera in the late 1960s on the East Coast,
photo courtesy of the artist all rights reserved
Jane rocking braids  © Jane Strauss
when at the age of fifteen I learned to shoot and develop 35 mm black and white film. I’ve been enamored of graphic arts ever after. Since then, I have tried to be practical, pursued multiple academic courses of study, relocated to the Twin Cities in the mid-1970s, raised a family, worked with community organizations, nonprofits, and in the practice of law, before returning to my first love, art.

Before 2009, I had no formal training in digital photography, other than one course in use of Adobe Photoshop . I had very limited, informal training in the technical aspects of film photography years ago, limited to use of the darkroom for black and white film developing and printing. My formal art training consisted of general art and drawing classes in high school and at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA, in the 1960s.

My work has been shot with an Olympus D-SLR for the past several years. Recently, I have begun to produce more images of nature, as we spend increased time on 49 acres in the Ozarks.

My art flows from who I am, a person placed on the autistic spectrum in midlife who has often wondered why I see detail many folks miss. I look at the trees and the forest, and see the geometric shapes between and within them. I wait for the animals to settle, and come right up to them for a look. I notice small details and parts of things that for the usual person blend in with their surroundings. I look up to the sky when many would look down or straight ahead. I focus on reflections. Once images are digitized, I use Photoshop to crop, enlarge and adjust them to reflect what I saw, rarely using other aspects unless they substantially strengthen the primary image, or provide a strongly-contrasting accompanying image. 

I make images of nature, architecture, classic cars, and human artifacts.
© Jane Strauss

One of my fans puts it this way:

"Jane Strauss captures images with her camera that most of us would never take the time to look close enough to see - the detail on an old car's hood ornament, the lush growth along a flooded waterway, the frosted roses as winter approaches, and the delicate tendrils of wildgrass. Her images are sharp, crisp, and sigh-inspiring, making the viewer wonder how much beauty and detail they have missed by not looking closely enough at our environment. It is a wonderful gift to be able to see these details and hidden images through Jane's eyes. Her renderings using digital software allow her to bring certain elements to light so that what might seem to others like the simplest subject - a bird on a tree, or old tools, turns into true art."

I will be presenting a Jane Strauss original to a lucky winner during the month of June. Stay tuned to The Amplify Autistic Voices Blog for more summer beauty through autistic eyes.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Black Voices: Ondrea Marisa Robinson

Author and Autistic Self Advocate Ondrea Marisa Robinson is one of many outspoken Black Autistic Voices for Autism not well enough known in our community. She is trying to find her way among ableist and racist backlash and critics who try to diminish her accomplishments by implying she is using her impariments as a crutch. This is something we all fight each day, whether we are autistic disabilty rights advocates, or parent advocates. Ondrea's candid book about her life will be featured this month, but I wanted to introduce her to our community. Please amplify her voice and help her continue her success. Her biography in her own words:

Photo ©Ondrea Marisa Robinson
Hi. I'm Ondrea. Here is my biography:
Ondrea Marisa Robinson was born in Woonsocket, RI, on February 11, 1981. When she was three years old, she taught herself how to read and write, but she would not speak in full sentences or make eye contact. She was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified at the age of 3, but she did not realize she had autism until she was 18 (even though she knew she was different). Even though she was very smart and loved doing school work, especially English, Computer Science, French, and Spanish, she was picked on, and she was not a happy camper at times, because some of the students and even some of the teachers were not that understanding. But thankfully, she made it to the Honor Roll every quarter during her 6th to 12th grade years (allowing her to be on the National Honor Society, graduating 22nd of her class in 1999) and attended Sawyer School for a one-year program in Business and Office Information Systems/Word Processing, graduating in October 2000 with a 3.90 (B-plus) grade point average. Then in May 2011, she obtained her Associate's Degree in Liberal Arts-English at the Community College of Rhode Island with a 3.44 (B-minus) grade point average. She is also an autism advocate, and she has spoken about her life experiences around the state of Rhode Island, including at the Community College of Rhode Island, the University of Rhode Island, and Rhode Island College. Even though she has been told by some people that she was using autism as a crutch or that she spoke about it too much or that she could be healed from autism, she has autism, but autism does not have her. 
A review of her book Living with Autism, will be coming up in before Summer's end.

This is part of a series of posts in protest of John Elder Robison's "The Myth of the Black Aspergian" two part article, in which Mr. Robison engages in speculation on the existence of people of color with Asperger's Syndrome, and further implies disturbing reasons as to why they do not seem prominent or vocal in the community. They are here with strong voices,  Mr. Robison is just not listening. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Poet Activist Amy Sequenzia

The original version of this post was published in The Autism Wars blog and can be seen by clicking here.

The Autism Wars is hosting writers, poets, artists, photographers, actors, and musicians who are neurodivergent.  Our Facebook page will feature giveaways of their works. We are doing so in the spirit of continuing the theme of Autism Acceptance Month (celebrated this past month for more information click  here, here, and here). We hope by sharing these great talents from our community with you we will foster the principles of Paula Durbin-Westby's  International Autism Acceptance Decade, 2010-2020.  So we are very excited about our first author and activist, Amy Sequenzia. In her own words:

Amy in her creative element
I am a non-speaking autistic activist, writer and poet. I also have epilepsy and mild cerebral palsy
In 2012 I became part of the Board of Directors of Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology (FAAST). I was a presenter at the conference “Reclaiming our Bodies and Minds” at Ryerson University in Toronto and at the “Hear Our Voices”, CARD Conference in Orlando, FL.
My essays have been published in blogs and websites: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, The Shift Journal, Think Inclusive, Autism Now Center, The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), Autism Acceptance and Spectrum – the film.

Some of my works are part of an anthology published by the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN): “Loud Hands – Autistic People, Speaking”
Some of my poems are part of a Poetry Anthology published by the Community Access to the Arts

I blog for Ollibean and The Autism Women’s Network
I have published three small books of poetry.
I like having my voice heard and I try to be a good advocate for my community

Her beautiful book of poetry was our first Rafflecopter giveaway:
Photograph of the book My Voice: Autism, Life and Dreams by Amy Christine Sequenzia

Our readers got their raffle on! Our book winner is enjoying her lovely prize.