I recently read your article on Yahoo news - titled “When Science Doesn’t Count”. It is the latest in a choking wave of hatred towards the Autistic community that has overflowed since the Newton massacre last Friday. I am tired. In fact, I am exhausted. But your article inspired such fear in me that I knew I had to respond.
Autism is not a mental illness. It is a neurodevelopmental disability that causes issues with sensory processing, social interaction and communication. None of those lead to methodical, premeditated violence such as the shooting that occurred in Connecticut on Friday, regardless of the sources you provided. The vague references to “aggression” in the studies you referenced are broadly defined. Aggression is, after all, in the eye of the beholder, and some Autistic people engage in behaviors like self-harming out of frustration or for sensory reasons. “Aggression” can be inwardly as well as outwardly directed. And a study conducted recently by Danish epidemiologists shows that Autistic people are, in fact, nearly twenty times less likely to be violent than the general population.
Autistic people can have co-morbid conditions, conditions that exist alongside with autism. These conditions run the gamut, and can sometimes include mental illnesses like psychosis. Yes, autistic people can be psychotic, just like neurotypical people. Autistic people can also be influenced by violent video games, the media, and all other things in our society that could lead to someone thinking it would be a good idea to shoot up an elementary school. They are not monsters who are the embodiment of our fears, nor are they angels in plastic bubbles who are protected from the worst our society has to offer. They are, quite simply, people like you and me.
How do I know this? Why do I care? Because, although I am not autistic myself, I am neurodivergent - I have cerebral palsy and several mental illnesses, all of which affect the way my brain functions. And Autistic people are my friends. No, not “friends” in that after-school special sense, where I am forced to interact with them or I talk to them out of pity or some misguided sense of heroics. They are actually, truly my friends. I can think of at least ten off the top of my head and I know there are many more. They are fun, funny, witty, and awesome - just like my non-Autistic friends. Not one of them would dream of ever hurting another human being deliberately. And lest you respond that the relatively small (in the grand scheme of things) percentage of Autistic people I know does not represent the Autistic population as a whole, I remind you that the small percentage of Autistic people you blogged about who you held up as examples of the link between aggression and autism do not represent the Autistic population as a whole either.
My Autistic friends run the gamut. Some have limited verbal skills, where others are quite verbose. Some were diagnosed as children, others as adults. Some have co-morbid conditions such as epilepsy, while others do not. They are of all backgrounds, races, and ages. They are as diverse as any cross-section of the population, except for the one fact they have in common - they are all Autistic.
It’s not all unicorns and rainbows either. I’ve witnessed an Autistic friend have a meltdown in the middle of a Metro station. I’ve seen Autistics who will literally wander out into traffic. And I’ve encountered the fear that parents of Autistics face - the fear that they will not be able to keep their children safe. None of these parents fear for themselves - instead they fear for their children. In the wake of a society which deems autism an “epidemic” and a “tsunami”, Autistics are being actively persecuted. No one who even seems Autistic is safe. Your article marks parents (mostly mothers, for some odd reason; Autistics do have fathers too, you know) as the victims of a cruel “domestic violence”, but the truth is, in liberating parents, you shackled their children. By suggesting that Autistic people are violent, you have influenced the people of our society, who treat online news media like it’s the new Bible, to fear and despise a whole community of people. Are you proud of that fact? Because it sickens me. Autistic people are tortured. Autistic people are murdered. Because people are terrified of autism. Autistics have been fighting for so long to be heard, to push past the irrational fear of autism that stems from a fear of difference and disability. This latest incident has set back those few creeping advances indefinitely, and you have directly contributed to it. You suggest that Autistic people should be institutionalized. Hitler had institutions too. They were called concentrations camps. And disabled people were some of the first to be warehoused and later murdered there.
I am not Autistic. Sadly, that simple declaration earns me more respect than my Autistic peers, because I am deemed worth listening to. But if you really want to listen, you’ll talk to actual Autistic people, who are actually fearing for their lives right now. I’d be all too happy to direct you to the blogs of many Autistic people I love and respect. I can only hope you’ll take my advice. You may not think science counts, but Autistic people do. They have a voice. And they are finally speaking.
Sincerely, Cara Liebowitz
Very well said.
OHAI SOMEONE SHARED SOMETHING I WROTE!!!! thanks y’all!
I like how in TNG eating Klingon food was this terrible psychological ordeal that Riker was just going to have to power through and endure if he wanted to win the Klingons’ respect, and by DS9 everyone’s all, “Oh, there’s a new Klingon restaurant on the Promenade! Let’s go there for our first date!”
That’s really all you need to know to get how TNG’s treatment of multiculturalism differs from DS9’s. TNG is basically a bunch of humans with a very eurocentric focus on their species’ culture (Shakespeare! classical music! Sherlock Holmes! Cyrano! …and absolutely nothing from the African Confederation where Geordi was born) ~tolerating~ alien cultures. Meanwhile, DS9 is humans and Trill and Bajorans and Ferengi and Klingons and Emissaries and mutants and Changelings and former Cardassian oppressors drinking Klingon blood wine in a Ferengi bar during a Bajoran Festival before catching a baseball game in the holosuite.
Integrating Disability by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg, Content Intern
There is some great work out there that integrates disability into venues in which most of us have been taught to not expect it, especially in the areas of dance and performance art. Most people think of these art forms as…
“Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.”—
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (via soo-rin)
Meh, I don’t listen more than I talk. I think that might be the ADHD taking over. But other than that, this is accurate.
“Go be that starving Artist you’re afraid to be. Open up that journal and get poetic finally. Volunteer. Suck it up and travel. You were not born here to work and pay taxes. You were put here to be part of a vast organism to explore and create. Stop putting it off. The world has much more to offer than what’s on 15 televisions at TGI Fridays. Take pictures. Scare people. Shake up the scene. Be the change you want to see in the world. You’ll thank yourself for it.”—Jason Mraz (via theglasschild)
I’M SORRY SO MANY TEXT POSTS BUT THIS IS IMPORTANT
there’s a post going around of some girl linking to a “picture of her prom dress” when the link leads to a picture of a gif’d mutilated face and screaming. i imagine that this could be very harmful to both people with epilepsy or those with anxiety problems and the like. it happened to alarm me a lot.
please boost so no one gets hurt! we don’t want any seizures or panic attacks!
FRIENDLY REMINDER THAT WHEN YOU CALL PEOPLE WHO COMMIT ACTS OF TERROR “CRAZY” WHAT YOU’RE ACTUALLY DOING IS MAKING THE WORLD SHITTIER FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED PSYCHIATRIC CARE. THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE DOING. EVERY TIME
And where are the sober spaces? We often talk about “building safer spaces”, and yet our fundraisers are not safe for people that have a current or past history with addiction. They are not safe for people that have experienced abuse because of alcohol/drug dependent partners or family members. And they are definitely not safe for everyone if there is a possibility of police interference. Consent violations also occur more often in non-sober spaces. Don’t we want to ensure the safety of event participants after the event has ended? Including alcohol limits who can attend, what conversations can occur, and who wants to organize. These events usually end with no advancement of our movements, and do not build long lasting, genuine connections.
I am interested in building and sustaining more sober spaces, bridging intergenerational gaps (especially in the queer community), and being accessible to ALL peoples, not just college kids. I am tired of people throwing around the word “community”, when what we really mean is our close group of (amazing and supportive) friends and acquaintances.
I have a disability. It’s called cerebral palsy, and I’ve been living with it for the entirety of my existence. In those twenty-one years, I’ve come to a startlingly pervasive conclusion regarding the condition: it can be seen by some as analogous to hair.
“When parents say, ‘I wish my child did not have autism,’ what they’re really saying is, ‘I wish the autistic child I have did not exist, and I had a different (non-autistic) child instead.’ Read that again. This is what we hear when you mourn over our existence. This is what we hear when you pray for a cure. This is what we know, when you tell us of your fondest hopes and dreams for us: that your greatest wish is that one day we will cease to be, and strangers you can love will move in behind our faces.”—
—Jim Sinclair, autism rights activist
This is such an important quote and can be applied to other identities/disabilities other than autism as well.
I am reminded that I can’t use most of the washrooms that exist, because even though most days I have the privilege of being able to walk to steps to the regular stall, I can’t leave my walker unattended EVER, because I know people steal mobility aids. I know people steal mobility aids so they can…