Autism in 2012: What We Have Done

I have written about my year in autism self-advocacy. I have a lot to celebrate and a lot to be thankful for. I think 2012 was a year of great accomplishments for our community, despite moments of deep sadness, moments of fear and moments of injustice toward us.

Some days were so sad, many of us could barely keep breathing.

Autistics continue to be murdered by family members, only because they are autistics.

Others are still abused, neglected, denied life saving measures and dying, sometimes because they cannot, or will not, speak.

The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) continues to defend the shock “treatment” on disabled people as if this is not torture.

Autistics are still the go-to diagnosis when uninformed and biased people try to justify mass murder.

“Science” continues to come up with absurd theories for causes of autism, while being lazy about research for improvements in our quality of life.

Schools are still denying inclusion to disabled students who are eager to learn.

Some parents and some organizations insist on portraying autism as a deficit-only disability, while still denying the existence of happy autistics.

The mainstream media is still refusing to listen to autistic voices, still refusing to grow up.

Congress still doesn’t get it.

But we did not remain silent.

We did not stop questioning, demanding, petitioning and coming together to respond to those sad and unjust events. Sometimes we joined, or were joined by, other disability communities. And we have many neurotypical allies standing with us.

In 2012 we took the time to celebrate the disabled victims of murder, in response to the media that often chose to ignore their lives. Following one self-advocate’s idea, we organized vigils, because their lives were, like ours is, worth living.

We came together to fight the end of torture of the disabled at the JRC and to end the excessive and dangerous practice of restraint and seclusion of disabled students.

These fights are not over and we are not giving up.

We also protested the wrong claim that autism and violence, like planned attacks, are not related. This is a difficult fight but the response from autistics, parents and allies showed that more and more people are comfortable with being autistic, being a parent of autistics, being friends with autistics.

All the “experts” and all the bad science behind the studies on causes of autism made us laugh. On the serious side, there are many autistics and at least one parent who are very knowledgeable and can debunk all the self-serving articles.

Young self-advocates are coming out and fighting for their basic rights, like the right to be included. Young autistics like Henry, showing maturity, knowledge, intelligence and resolve. And Henry won!

We did not allow some organizations and some parents to be the only voice in the autism conversation. These parents say that the only autism is the autism of screams, pain, inability to speak, inability to eat independently, and anything else perceived as deficit. But they were the ones showing lack of social skills, and disrespect, when they behaved as if mocking us, while some of us were speaking.

In 2012 many of us reached out to the mainstream media to complain, respond and educate them on autism. We even had a few successes. We will not stop now.

For the first time, autistic voices were part of a congressional hearing (10,11). We fought to be included, and we won. It is now on the record, where policies are made, some of the things that are important to us. And it was also made clear that we resent being seen as, and called, “burdens”; and that we see our acceptance and inclusion as a civil rights issue.

This is not all.

2012 was the year autistics talked more about acceptance. April is not autism Awareness Month anymore. It is Autism Acceptance Month.

We had another Autistics Speaking Day – and we spoke everyday.

There are new organizations and their websites have good information for parents who want to learn more about autism from an autistic perspective, like the Autism Women’s Network. Some of these organizations did not start in 2012, but have grown a lot in the past 12 months. And if they were not started by autistics, they are more and more including autistic, and other disabled, voices.

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) and Julia Bascom developed the Loud Hands Project and published “Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking,” a great book.

Other autistics wrote their own very creative books.

More autistic bloggers are writing about their experiences and about acceptance. We are educating other people and hopefully helping the future generation of autistics. And more parents are listening to us, supporting us and joining us.

More autistic voices, including non-speaking autistics, are being heard. We are writing books and presenting in conferences, our thoughts and ideas being valued and respected.

We did so much. I cannot list all the great things that happened (even when they were a little painful) to us, for us, by us. We were everywhere, all the time, always participating, being citizens and activists, each of us in our own way, in the way we can do it better.

I think of two words when I write about our community: acceptance and awesome.

Acceptance, because it seems to be a cause that unites us.

Awesome, because it is how I feel about the autistic community.

I learned, in 2012, to type Eeeeeeeeee! for happiness.

So, I say: Eeeeeeeeeeeeee! We are awesome!


Amy Sequenzia, AWN Contributing Writer  About the Author, Amy Sequenzia.


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