Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Busy Week in the Autistic Community

This has been a very busy news week already, and it's only Thursday. Who knows what may come on Friday?

Some highlights of this week:

1. The autistic community collectively celebrated Autistic Pride Day throughout the world on Wednesday (June 18). For those not familiar, Autistic Pride Day is an annual celebration of neurodiversity established by the autistic self-advocacy community in 2005. An article in New Scientist Magazine from that year describes how the day originated from an autistic organization called Aspies for Freedom. The day chosen for the event was the birthday of AFF's youngest member.

For my personal celebration of Autistic Pride Day this year I proudly wore my Autreat 2007 t-shirt ("Living Life The Autly Way") throughout my day-to-day activities. Perhaps more importantly, I reflected deeply on how far we've come in achieving understanding, acceptance, and support of autistic people in the past year, and how immense our challenges lie in the journey ahead of us.

In just the last year, we have:

* Successfully countered a rather heinous and horrid stigmization of autistic persons and other folks in the NYU Child Study Center's failed "Ransom Note" ad campaign

* Read with dismay of a teenage autistic blogger threatened with a lawsuit of copyright violation for simply parodying Autism Speaks' website. (Autism Speaks eventually dropped the lawsuit threats.)

* Pledged solidarity and compassionate support internationally for an autistic kindergartener voted out of class in Florida by his teacher and peers.

2. The U.S. House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee unanimously passed the ADA Amendments Act (which had also passed the Labor Committee by a vote of 43-1). This ground-breaking legislation seeks to affirm the civil right protections of people with disabilities and clarify existing definitions of disability described under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network's president, Ari Ne'eman, joined several other advocates from the business community and disability rights organizations in announcing the formation of the Employer & Disability Alliance, a collaborate effort between disability and civil rights advocates and business associations. The alliance will promote the act's benefits for the millions of Americans with disabilities.

I am very optimistic that the act will pass Congress with bipartisan support over the upcoming months. It is an essential step toward restoring protections for people with disabilities that have been increasingly reduced by misguided judicial decisions.

And unfortunately, this week has also seen one major lowlight:

A special education class in Roseville, California (that includes two autistic students) was entirely left out of their elementary school's yearbook. Parents of the autistic students have claimed the act was discriminatory, while the school is insistening it wasn't intentional.

Intentional or not, the school's principal and its district superintendant owe those students and their parents an immediate and sincere apology.

That's all for now.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Disability Forum & An Autistic Video Project

I wanted to fill y'all in on two major happenings in the autistic/disability communities:

* The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is a joint sponsor along with the Autism Acceptance Project of the National Forum on Disability Issues to be held Saturday, July 26, 2008 at the Conference & Technology Center of The First Church of God in Columbus, Ohio. Both major party presidential candidates (Barack Obama and John McCain) have been invited to attend the National Forum on Disability Issues. Click here to read more about the Forum.

* Autreach in the United Kingdom and The Autistic Self Advocacy Network in the U.S. and Australia are jointly organizing a new video project about autistic perspectives. The project is seeking two-minute video submissions from autistic people around the world that reflect how well autistic people can do in life when given support, encouragement, and understanding. Click here to read more about the project (PDF)

Introducing Neurodiverse Thinking

I created this new blog, Neurodiverse Thinking, while eating a Scott Hawaiian Special pita (ham, pineapple, lettuce, provolone cheese, Parmesan cheese, pickles, black olives, mayonnaise) from State College's Pita Pit tonight at midnight. (Note: The Scott Hawaiian Special is not an actual menu item at the Pita Pit.)

This blog will smoothly blend my perspectives, experiences, and analysis into a rich, seasoned salmagundi. It will incorporate science/research, happenings and activities in the autistic/autism and disability communities, and other goings-on in the world and my life.