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AWN’s Morénike Giwa Onaiwu has been named to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee

The Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network (AWN) applauds the July 7 appointment of Black autistic community leader Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, PhD(c), MA, to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC). The IACC coordinates federal activities concerning autism spectrum disorder and provides advice to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, JD, on issues related to autism. 

Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, PhD(c), MA (she/they) is an educator, writer, public speaker, parent, and global advocate, and is the Equity, Justice, & Representation Consultant for AWN. She now joins six other openly identified autistic members of the IACC, which is the largest cohort of autistic community advocates on the IACC. The IACC also includes 14 other public members with expertise in research, family, housing, and other relevant disciplines in addition to 23 federal members representing key federal agencies and departments that serve the autism community across a wide variety of areas, including justice, research, healthcare, education, and social services.

IACC Executive Secretary and Acting National Autism Coordinator, Susan Daniels, PhD, describes the cohort of new IACC members as having “...a wider representation of perspectives from across the autism community than ever before,” and this 2021 - 2024 IACC cohort, which includes new and returning members, is certainly the most diverse one to date. Its membership, which includes seven autistic members - Sam Crane, JD; Dena Gassner, PhD(c), MSW; Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, PhD(c), MA; Lindsey Nebeker, BA; Valerie Paradiz, PhD; Ivanova Smith, BA; and Hari Srinivasan (student) - include an individual with intellectual disability; augmentative adaptive communication (AAC) users; a minimally speaking individual; gender, sexual, and religious minorities; autistic and non-autistic parents of autistic children; individuals whose heritage includes Black, Latinx, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and other cultural groups. 

Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, AWN’s  Equity, Justice, & Representation Consultant, had this to say about the 2021-2024 IACC cohort:

"As a Black autistic non-binary woman, I feel that our incoming IACC cohort symbolizes huge progress with regard to representation for my communities. For too long the perspectives and needs of gender minorities and BIPoC individuals have not been sought out nor paid attention to in critical autism-related matters including those related to health, the justice system, education, and employment despite having noticeably concerning outcomes throughout the lifespan. The voices of Black and immigrant autistic people in particular are needed now more than ever. 

One important issue affecting the autistic community which AWN hopes the IACC will address is the systemic disenfranchisement our families face with regard to custody, particularly disproportionate involvement with child and adult protective services. These disparities, especially in families of color where one or more parents are autistic, are simply unacceptable. I look forward to working collaboratively with my peers to address these matters as a member of the IACC.”

AWN joins our colleagues in the autistic and disability communities in both applauding the announcement and calling for more, much needed change.

The first meeting of the new IACC will take place virtually on July 21-22 of 2021 and will be open to the public via webcast.

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