Thursday, November 2, 2023

"I Don't Remember You Being So... Autistic."

Christina-Marie "CM" Wright, a.k.a. The Gonzo Mama "I Don't Remember You Being So... Autistic.",

Believe it or not, there are people in my world who still have a hard time accepting that I am autistic, because it doesn't fit with their memories of me in childhood or early adulthood. Some of those people have openly stated, "You never seemed autistic to me." Sometimes, I get the feeling they intend such a statement to be a compliment (it isn't). Other times, it seems to be more of a statement of doubt regarding my diagnosis.

There are others who are able to easily accept and understand that I'm autistic and always have been, but some have suggested that I've become "more autistic" over time. Is that even possible? I mean, being autistic isn't like being caffeinated. I haven't just been pouring myself an extra cup of The Autism every morning for the last few years.

Here's what I've come up with:

I'm exactly as autistic as I have been since birth. However, what those folks from my past remember as me being not-autistic or not-as-autistic is actually autistic me, in younger form, with more energy and desire to mask my neurotype and try to "pass" in an allistic (non-autistic) world. 

Whether they know it or not, what those people are saying is:

You used to put in more effort to make people like me feel more comfortable with you, despite the toll it took on your emotional, physical, and mental health.

The thing is, I never did "pass." I was always treated like an outsider by most of my peers, and the few people who did accept and value me knew exactly who and what I am. Maybe they didn't have a word for it ("autistic"), but they knew I was different than most people, and assimilation was not a requirement for their friendship. 

It took me a long time to realize two important things: First, the energy I spent attempting to appear like others was wasted... I would never be an insider to certain groups. Second, there are people out there who do not demand that energy as a condition for acceptance. 

Those two realizations were life-changing.

No one outside my home knew it, but I could barely get through the day at school when I was young. I would come home and completely melt down--often in violent, harmful ways. I didn't have the knowledge or tools to understand why it happened, and I wished so very much that I could control it, but I couldn't. 

When I went off to college, there was no "home" to melt down in. My campus was very active and involved, and cultivated a climate of connection, so there was a lot of pressure to be social at all times. By the end of the first year, I was so burned out I had to drop out. 

Entering the workforce as a young adult was much the same. I had to get through each day, engaging with coworkers and clients or customers, until I could break away and break down. My "melt down" actions took different forms, and self-destructive or risky behavior was often how I dealt with the emotional toll of feeling like I had to be "on" all the time. 

As we grow up, a lot of societally-enforced messages about socializing and interacting with others are either precisely and methodically taught, or reinforced through aversive responses. That is, we are taught to say "please" and "thank you" and to share our things directly, but we are indirectly taught things like forced eye contact ("Look at me when I'm talking to you!"), that we must refrain from oversharing about our special interests ("Give it a rest, already! No one cares that you like to read about serial killers!"), and that we must--at all costs--try to behave, dress, speak, and present like our allistic peers ("Maybe they wouldn't tease you so much if you made more of an effort to fit in.").

The result is that every interaction ("Good morning," for example) is dominated not by the external connection but by internal struggles and conflict. 

Am I making enough eye contact? Too much? Am I staring?
Am I talking too much? Not enough? 
Is it my turn to talk? 
Are they getting angry? Bored? Annoyed? 
Stop fidgeting! 
Look at them when they are talking to you! 
Don't talk about serial killers!
Act interested. It doesn't matter if you aren't.
What does "interested" look like?
Pay attention!
Don't stare!
Look at them when they are talking to you!

Add to that the pressure to make and have friends, when such relationships are confusing and confounding. Autistic kids and young adults are often taken advantage of because we are taught a lot of "rules" about making and having friends, and we assume that if we hold up our end of the deal (Be Kind. Share Your Things. Be Helpful.), other people will automatically be our friends. And when we think a person is our friend, we will often do what that person wants without questioning because we assume everyone follows the same rules about making and having friends. We may also make inappropriate overtures, such as gifting an expensive or personally precious item to someone who we think is our friend. The problem is, that person may or may not consider us a friend, and such overtures clue allistic peers in to the extent of our desperation for acceptance and make us targets for exploitation. 

The pressure to be accepted may never fully go away. I'm convinced of that. I'm 47 years old and it still hurts when I'm rejected by peers after I've followed the "rules" of making and having friends. It isn't so much that I truly need those relationships as it is that I've been conditioned to believe I need them, so the failure to cultivate them feels like personal failure. 

However, a couple years ago, I stopped trying so hard.

Despite the loss of a household member to COVID-19, the rest of the world shutting down proved to be incredibly healing for me. I no longer felt pressure to be "on" all the time, and my mental health improved.

I realized it was the culmination of an incremental process of letting go of my own expectations that I would be able to assimilate into allistic culture, as well as eradicating my tendency to capitulate to the expectations of others. I had slowly been putting less pressure on myself to hide who and what I really am, and learning to embrace my true self. 

Shockingly, I didn't fail to succeed. I honestly expected to, but I was so weary I didn't care. I'd grown up believing that if I didn't "at least try to fit in" and meet the social and communicative expectations of others, I would be not only alone, but also barred from any opportunity I might want access to. 

I went back to college during the 2020 shutdown, but I did it on my own terms.

I reached out to every professor before courses started and introduced myself. I told them I'm autistic, and what to expect from me in terms of communication and interaction. I told them my communication is sometimes considered blunt, but it is always honest. I stated eye contact is difficult for me, and lack of it should not be taken as lack of attention because I hear and learn more when I'm not forcing myself to maintain it. I told them what my needs are in terms of receiving communication and specifically, critique: Direct is best, because I won't pick up on suggestions offered gently. I told them what accommodations I qualified for through Disability Services, and accommodations I need that Disability Services can't offer me. 

I figured I'd just put it all out there, and take the pressure off myself to be or behave in any way that was inauthentic. If I was met with rejection, so be it, but I wasn't going to add the stress of having to "perform" as an allistic-passing person to the stress of being a non-traditional student who was already juggling parenting of multiple kids with newly added college commitments.

I wasn't rejected. 

Instead, I was thanked for the frank and productively critical disabled rights perspective I brought to classes. My work and talents were appreciated. Although I had a hard time relating to many of my classmates who were the ages of some of my kids, I found connection with several of my professors, and learned I am really, really good at a lot of things when I'm not distracted by forcing myself to behave or present in ways that are not natural for me.

I've even made a few authentic friends, and it's comforting to know and understand the parameters of those friendships. There are no surprise rejections because they began with me being open about who I actually am, rather than a forced, performative version of myself I will ultimately be unable to maintain, longterm. 

Living authentically and openly autistic has been personally freeing, and it has opened far more doors for me than trying to "fit in" with a culture that has overwhelmingly rejected me in the past.

It makes some people uncomfortable.

It makes some people think I've become "more autistic" over time.

It's distressing to some people that I don't do more to make them comfortable around me, as I have in the past. 

It makes some people think they are invited to critique my deliberate and conscientious decision to not cultivate in my autistic children the same lifelong pattern of self-abuse I developed. I am not interested in forcing them to mask their autistic behaviors, communication, and ways of experiencing the world. I don't teach them they need to change. Instead, I try to teach them about what I've learned about allistic people, and tips for engaging with them, when we must, without compromising or apologizing for who we are.

I received a letter from my mother-in-law last year, detailing all the reasons she thinks I am failing my children, and all the reasons why people "hate you... but would never say so." Most of the things she listed were to do with my (autistic) communication style and ways of being in the world, whether she realized it or not. Her assessment was that she thinks I need to "find Jesus." (Been there, done that... dig far enough into my blog or read my first book and you'll find it, along with some seriously misguided political beliefs that I've since disavowed.)

I've found myself, and it's enough.

I am enough.

I'm exactly as autistic as I have been since birth. That hasn't changed.

What has changed is my willingness to compromise my own well-being--and that of my children--in order to gain the acceptance of people who are never going to fully grant it, anyway.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Autistic Haiku of My Living Room

 Ben Edwards, Autistic Haiku of My Living Room

My bookshelf standing In a corner, housing all my Special interests

Oh, Brilliant! The 13th Doctor and Autism

 C.L. Bridge, Oh, Brilliant! The 13th Doctor and Autism,

(Contains spoilers for Series 11 and 12 of Doctor Who)

“Maybe I’m nervous. Or just socially awkward. I’m still figuring myself out.” If you’re autistic or have social anxiety, you can probably relate to these words in my Instagram bio. If you’re a fan of Doctor Who, you might recognize them as a quote from the 13th Doctor, whom I headcanon as autistic.

Like most autistic people, Thirteen gets very excited about things that interest her, however small those things may seem to NTs. She loves a laminator. She loves biscuits. She can be so enthusiastic about someone’s scientific projects that she doesn’t realize they have bad intentions until it’s too late. Then there’s the adorable “purple sofa” scene. When I finally got my very own apartment (a milestone that seemed out of reach for many years), my mind kept replaying the Doctor’s happy ramblings about how she’d love to have her own flat and a purple sofa to sit on. She’s trying to make small talk, though her companions think she is being a bit weird.

(Read More Here) 

One Last Autistics Speaking Day

AlyssaOne Last Autistics Speaking Day, Yes, That Too

I actually don't remember the start of Autistics Speaking Day (I'd just started my freshman year of college), but I've read about it.

I've participated a few times.

I helped with the Tumblr for it, I think 2014-2016?

But as time moves on, the ways people engage in communities have changed. Yahoo groups were before my time. I began engaging in the age of blogs. I saw #AutChat start. I think we're in the age of social media, now, more so than stand-alone blogs.

I'm not sure that's a good thing, but I think it's true. Facebook groups are where I'm most active, now.

I'm still speaking. Just... not usually orally, and not usually here.

(It's also relevant that I've been writing in places that aren't blogs or social media, but that's more the academic side of things than the everyday.)

Okay, I get it. But can we also...

 oneautisticperson, Okay, I get it. But can we also..., Tumblr

This day, the 1st November 2023 will be the last Autistics Speaking Day. This day started back in 2010 as a day for Autistic people to flood the internet with our messages and thoughts. While I have been very busy with my work, I thought I would contribute one last entry.

Okay, I get it.

Planning meals with me around is hard. I am so restricted in what I am able to eat and it is an annoyance. Good chance I can’t eat anything at that restaurant, I won’t eat anything from take-away shop etc. Guess what? It is an annoyance for me to. One of my workplaces has a work lunch coming up and I have to weigh up whether it is worth going. It is at a restaurant I have never been to and doesn’t seem to be located near places I know I can eat at so I can’t just get there early and grab something to eat somewhere else first. I would love not to have this problem. To not have to bring emergency food when I leave for a trip, to not have to eat beforehand when I go to most social gatherings.

But can we also…

Talk about the fact that when my best friend and I made pizza at her house for the first time, I nearly cried because I am rarely included in meals to that extent?

Mention the comfort that familiar foods bring me? If I am having a bad day, I know exactly what I need. It is not just eating the food but also the familiar smells.

Discuss that the same reason that makes food difficult for me brings me so much joy in other ways? My tolerance and enjoyment of show rides for example. Removing one would likely remove the other so I will take the good with the bad.

Okay, I get it.

I see you rolling your eyes when I try to talk about something that interests me. Show rides, neurodiversity, autism, Ned Kelly etc. You have heard me discuss this before and it is boring.

But can we also…

Mention that I have had to listen to you talk about basketball or other things a lot as well?

Discuss how great I feel when I find someone to discuss show rides, neurodiversity etc. with? Online groups in particular have been great with this.

Okay, I get it.

You find my tendency to withdraw rude. I spend too much time alone or with my cats.

But can we also…

Discuss that the noise is too much for me at times? Why must the tv, radio or Spotify always be on in the background? What is wrong with silence?

Discuss that my withdrawal also helps me socialise. It is a balance. I just don’t have the energy to socialise all the time. Withdrawing for a time means I get some recharge time and can socialise more afterwards.

Mention that being alone can be fun as well as beneficial?

Okay, I get.

You feel the need to tell me your perspective all the time.

But can we also…

Discuss my perspective. Discuss my strengths as well as my limitations. Discuss what makes me happy.

There has been attention on moving away from discussing deficits and instead discussing interests and strengths when working with autistic people. This needs to go beyond professionals and be common for families, friends and the wider community.

Autistics Speaking Day

AutisticIntrovert383, Autistics Speaking Day, The Autistic Introvert

        Autistics Speaking Day is an event held on November 1st every year. It is a day where we autistics speak up & advocate for ourselves. Being Autistic in the NT world is exhausting and tiring. It is like being a square peg and trying to fit into a round hole. This is a day for us to be loud and proud, and broadcast our narratives. We broadcast every narrative, and we showcase our Autistic experiences and perspectives to the world. When the NTs become silent and disconnect from all social media networks and forums on November 1st, let’s speak up, advocate, and fight for ourselves and our rights. 

        Autistics Speaking Day was started on November 1st, 2010, by two autistic adults in the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) and the Autism Women’s & Nonbinary Network (AWN). This day was started to protest Communication Shutdown. Communication Shutdown was a day for NTs to stop communication through social media and other networks and platforms for one day on November 1st to imagine the “problems” or “deficits” that we autistics have in communication. We don’t have communication “problems” or “deficits”. It is very hard and difficult for us to interact with NTs due to the double empathy problem. We protested Communication Shutdown because it was started by an organization in Australia that was connected to an ableist autism organization in the US. Enough with saying “deficit” and “disordered”. Enough with saying “different ability”. Enough with saying “HFA” and “LFA”. Enough with the ableist treatments. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

        On this day, we demonstrate to NTs that we are not broken, we don’t need to be fixed, we don’t need to be cured, and we don’t need to be treated. We are unique individuals who don’t need ableist treatments. We don’t need our square pegs to be forced into round holes. We must fight and advocate for ourselves. If we don’t advocate for ourselves, who will fight for us? We face so much ableism and bullying. We must understand our disability to fight and advocate for ourselves. Speaking up for ourselves allows us to fight for accommodations, adjustments and support. Accommodations and adjustments are not a burden. They allow us to function in the NT world. We need accommodations and support, not rejection. We need accommodations and support, not ableism. We show every sensory pain, every joy, every misunderstanding, every account of being bullied, every joyful moment, and every account of trying to advocate and fight for ourselves. 
        There are many events related to Autistics Speaking Day that are held on November 1st. At this time, social media platforms such as Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube, and blogging sites are flooded with posts describing our experiences of being Autistic. When the NTs stop interacting on this day, let’s flood the internet with our Autistic experiences, perspectives, and values. We need to speak up, fight, and advocate for ourselves in order to make a change in how NTs see us. We can advocate and fight for ourselves to get our accommodations and adjustments for our needs. 
        Since we are a marginalized minority group, we must fight, speak up, and advocate for ourselves. This helps us to get accommodations and support in school, college/university, the workplace, and in public places. We know what’s best for us. We need accommodations and support, not rejection. We need accommodations and support, not ableism. We autistics know everything about autism & being Autistic from our lived experiences. We need to speak up for ourselves without being drowned out and silenced by NTs. Each and every one of us is different in our own ways, but our lived experiences are valid. We need to boldly and courageously show the world: Nothing About Us, Without Us. 
        Autistics Speaking Day is an event by us, for us. It is an event where we autistics flood every social media site with our Autistic experiences, perspectives, and views to the world. We need to fight and advocate for ourselves and our needs, as this will allow us to receive accommodations and adjustments. We need to self-advocate for our rights, and we need to self-accommodate our own needs. Let’s spread Autism Acceptance and Autistic Pride, and let’s fight, speak up, and advocate for ourselves. Let’s start peaceful protests around the world not only on this day, but all year long. Let’s start peaceful protests all over the world where we say: WE NEED ACCOMMODATIONS AND SUPPORT, NOT REJECTION. WE NEED ACCOMMODATIONS AND SUPPORT, NOT ABLEISM. WE NEED REPRESENTATION, AND WE DON’T NEED TO BE SILENCED. Let’s celebrate Autistics Speaking Day with a statement to proudly, boldly, & courageously show the world: Nothing About Us, Without Us! :)

Happy Autistics Speaking Day everyone!



Reflecting on Autistics Speaking Day

 chavisory, Reflecting on Autistics Speaking Day, Chavisory's Notebook

I remember where I was when Autistics Speaking Day was born.

I hear people say this about JFK’s death, Princess Diana’s, 9/11, the moon landing, the Challenger explosion, the fall of the Berlin Wall.

But I remember where I was when Autistics Speaking Day was born, and I probably will forever. I remember the show I was working on and the rehearsal I was watching and the studio we were in. The TPGA Dialogues were also in full swing at the time and it was one of the first times I started openly participating in the online autistic community. I’d been tasked with watching music rehearsals that week that didn’t really require my involvement at every moment of the day, so I had a fair amount of time to follow along.

And so I remember precisely where I was when I saw the very first objections to the announcement of the upcoming event, “Communication Shutdown.”

Other people have written more and better than I have about why the concept for such an event was tragically out of touch with most autistic people’s realities. I didn’t really participate that first year; I’d only had both a blog of my own, and my diagnosis, for under two years, and I wasn’t terribly sure of my voice on the subject yet. But it was one of the first times I saw other autistic people in real time, as opposed to what was already in the archives, saying “Actually, we don’t have to let something that represents us badly go unchallenged just because it was well-intentioned.” Up until then, I’d been pretty used to just swallowing a vague sadness and feeling of disconnect when media or initiatives supposedly about autistic people just bore no relationship to my feelings or experience at all.

More and more often over the past few years, I’ve found myself not having the time to get something written for ASD, and I thought I probably wouldn’t again this year because of how things have been at work for me, but when I heard it would be the last, I couldn’t let it pass.

I’m sad to see it end, but I think it’s fitting that Autistics Speaking Day outlasted “Communication Shutdown” by a decade, effectively (to my knowledge, it didn’t even persist beyond that first year), and will certainly be longer remembered for its impact on autistic lives.

And it’s good news, in a strange way, that I haven’t had the kind of time to participate that I would’ve liked, because I’ve been so overwhelmed with work. Employment statistics for autistic people generally and autistic women especially have been and remain troubling, so much so that in one longitudinal study on patterns of employment and post-secondary educational achievement of autistic people from several years ago, none of the participating women maintained consistent employment over the course of the study.

I’m more and more consistently working this time of year, and still working in my chosen field (although issues of work/life balance and burnout in theater and stage management remain another story entirely, sadly).

But I miss the people I got to know in those days who I either haven’t been able to keep up with as much as I’ve wanted to, or who’ve dropped out of blogging or activism entirely, as much as I understand their reasons. Life happens.

I miss the blogosphere from before the rise of the social media networks and the relationships it fostered, as much as I’m thankful for the people who’ve come into my life and the connections we’ve formed because of Facebook and Twitter.

I hurt for those of us who’ve struggled with homelessness, chronic illness, long Covid. I ache for those of us who’ve died.

And yet, it’s good news, in a way, that a lot of us are overcome with family and work responsibilities, with homes and pets and children, degree programs, publications, and new jobs both in and out of autism or disability advocacy.

All the things we’ve been speaking all these years to have acknowledged that we should be able to have.

Celebrating 30 Years of "Don't Mourn For Us"

 Ira Eidle, Celebrating 30 Years of "Don't Mourn For Us"

In 1993, Jim Sinclair delivered a speech at the Autism Society of Canada’s annual conference in Toronto known as “Don’t Mourn for Us”. It was previously published in the first issue of Autism Network International’s newsletter under “Our Voices” in 1992. This was a very bold speech to give during a time where it was standard to treat an autism diagnosis as a tragedy. Research on autism was still in its early days and there was a much more limited understanding of what autism actually was at this point. Most of the literature on autism came from the perspective of non-autistic people. There were people like Temple Grandin and Donna Williams articulating their lived experiences to the public, though most of that wasn’t necessarily about the actual stigma surrounding autistic people and their personhood. Sarah Pripas-Kapit wrote a chapter in Autistic Community and Neurodiversity Movement that extensively analyzes the historical significance of “Don’t Mourn for Us”. I don’t want to be too redundant in that sense. Really, what I wish to discuss more is how far the Neurodiversity Movement has come since the thirty years since this speech was delivered and why it was so effective at sparking said movement. Autism Network International was a small group of penpals at this point. Jim has talked about how it was probably for the best that they grew at a relatively slow pace, given that the people involved were autistics and cousins. Cousins, by the way, was also coined at this conference by Xenia Grant, one of ANI’s cofounders. “Don’t Mourn for Us” sparked a lot of interest in ANI that really helped elevate its status as an organization. In the following years, a mailing list known as ANI-L was established, then ANI members were invited to collaborate in planning an autistic-led track for More Abled Autistic People (MAAP)’s 1995 conference, and the fallout of that event led to the planning of a Autreat, a conference that was by and for autistic people. So by the mid to late 90s, ANI had made a lot of progress in cultivating autism-specific spaces and conferences that were actually led by the population the conference was about. From this, there was further mobilization that came from the ideas discussed and experiences relayed at Autreat and on listservs. Eventually, with the proliferation of the World Wide Web, websites such as Autistics.Org and Neurodiversity.Net would crop up, acting as central hubs for information on all things neurodiversity, while also acting as ways of further mobilizing on issues related to autism and other neurological disabilities. There were also more listservs, like Martijn Dekker’s Independent Living on the Autism Spectrum (InLv), lists on Yahoo Groups like Frank Klein’s AutAdvo and AutisticSpectrumTreehouse, and websites on GeoCities. You also started to see the term “neurodiversity” tossed around, even seeing it in The Atlantic and New York Times. The turn of the millennium was an ample time for autistic people to organize and talk about autistic issues, as autism was starting to become more of a household name. Some of this was due to their work, but some of it was also because of the most influential autism organizations growing, and the formation of larger autism organizations like Cure Autism Now and National Alliance for Autism Research. A lot was being said about autism, but little of it meaningfully included the voices of openly autistic people. Not only this, but much of what was being said was not truly accurate and not based on particularly good science. It was definitely a moral panic. When autistic people and allies pointed this out, they were often faced with harsh criticism, dogpilling, and even stalking and physical violence in some cases. For some time, the autistic self-advocacy community mostly existed through listservs, WebRings, and blogs. There were a few formal organizations like ANI, and even nonprofits like GRASP, though neurodiversity was still a pretty fringe progressive movement. It certainly wasn’t mainstream by any means. This started to change once Ari Ne’eman and Scott Robertson started Autistic Social Action Committee, later renamed to Autistic Self-Advocacy Network. They facilitated the Ransom Notes Campaign in 2007, where they convinced the New York Child Study Center to remove stigmatizing ads they had about autism and similar neurological disabilities. Then they later became a nonprofit in 2011 and opened a national office in Washington, D.C.. ASAN and others involved with the Neurodiversity Movement hosted several public protests against Autism Speaks, which quickly became the world’s largest, most well-funded autism organization. Soon enough, autistic people who were involved with this movement started appearing in government organizations related to autism and disability such as the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee and the National Council on Disability. There was also lobbying being done with the American Psychiatric Association on changes to make to the DSM-V. More autistic-led organizations cropped up, including Autism Women’s Network (now known as Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network) and Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism. There was further mobilization against a decades-long campaign to close the Judge Rotenberg Center, evolving into the #StopTheShock campaign. Now in 2023, neurodiversity is a much more widely known word and concept, and the research and literature on autism and similar disabilities is beginning to become more accurate and respectful, though there is still much work to be done. There’s a lot I didn’t mention but could have-the Neurodiversity Movement has a rich thirty-odd year long history-but hopefully what I listed is a decent enough primer. “Don’t Mourn for Us” is truly the manifesto of this movement, and what really sparked all of what I just listed. The reactions to “Don’t Mourn for Us” over the years have greatly varied depending on who you ask. For many autistic people, it has been an affirmation that they are real people who deserve to exist just as they are. For many parents, it has helped them come to terms with the existence of their autistic offspring and shelf their pity, at least publicly. For others, autistic and non-autistic alike, it is disruptive and militant sounding. Some suggest that it is anti-parent. In a lot of ways, it shows how there have always been tensions between ACs and parents (though those groups are not at all mutually exclusive). There is definitely some frustration in Jim’s words, though I personally think said frustration is justified. A lot of this was a response to Jim’s observations of how autistic people were treated and talked about at the conferences xe attended and the St. John’s Autism mailing list, as well as xyr own lived experience. People like Rimland, Kanner, and Lovaas got to parade around their harmful and downright false theories and treatments that traumatized generations of autistic people with relatively little pushback. The “hope” that was given to parents was really a false hope that their offspring’s autism would go away, or that they should ideally be as close to indistinguishable as possible. Not because emulating non-autistic behavior is inherently a good thing, but because being visibly disabled and needing support was somehow unbearable. Jim’s idea of hope expressed here was different. It was hope that autistic people could grow up with people around them who were actually supportive of their existence, that they would be considered worth respecting the autonomy of regardless of their ability to perceive and replicate the same language as everyone else. Jim even says at the end “come join us, in strength, and determination, in hope and joy”. Xe was offering a chance at a better life and better world for both the parent and the offspring that would come with a change of attitude. To me, “Don’t Mourn For Us” means many things. It’s frustration, but it’s hope, it’s grounded in reality, yet comforting, it’s critical but it’s also understanding. It was a great way to spark a movement for social change. If its intention was to be all of those things, then it succeeded on that front. Jim’s advocacy as a whole really helped inspire multiple generations thus far of activists-including, but not limited to Mel Baggs, Lydia Brown, Ari Ne’eman, and myself. That means something. In fact, it means a lot. TL;DR: Jim Sinclair’s “Don’t Mourn for Us” speech is central to understanding the history of the Neurodiversity Movement. It was radical to deliver it to parents who thought their offsprings’ autism was the worst thing to ever happen to them. It helped spark the Neurodiversity Movement, which has seen lots of mobilization in the thirty years since the speech was delivered. People have reacted to “Don’t Mourn For Us” in a variety of ways, and I feel a lot of the conceptions people have about it are inaccurate. “Don’t Mourn for Us” is a lot of things at once, and its complexity is what really helped inspire generations of activists.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Closing Autistics Speaking Day

 It is to my utmost regret that I announce the end to Autistics Speaking Day. 

Nov 1, 2023 will be the last ASDay. 

The ASDay blog will remain online, but we will no longer be hosting the event on November 1st. 

Thank you. Thank you for every single entry and participant. Thank you for your words, your music, your stories and thoughts. 

Thank you for everyone who has volunteered and supported us over the years. 

Thank you for everything.