Thursday, August 28, 2008

Upcoming SABE Conference in Indianapolis

The annual National Self Advocacy Conference, presented by Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE), will be held on September 4-7 in Indianapolis, within reasonable driving distance of the Southwest Ohio area. There is still time for those who are interested in the conference to sign up for it by visiting the SABE conference website.

SABE is a national self advocacy organization of people with disabilities. Its goals are to empower self advocates throughout the United States, to ensure that people with disabilities know their legal rights, and to replace institutions with meaningful community supports for Americans with developmental disabilities.

Friday, August 15, 2008

New Ohio Advocacy Blog

The Ohio chapters of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network now have a joint blog that will focus on issues of statewide concern, as well as national and international ASAN announcements.

Our local chapters will continue to blog about local issues and to post general information of interest to our members and readers.

Click here to visit the new blog.

Monday, August 11, 2008

ASAN Public Service Announcement

In response to the controversy regarding the use of offensive language in the upcoming movie Tropic Thunder, ASAN has produced a public service announcement that addresses the power of words:

For more discussion of the disability community's response to Tropic Thunder, visit Patricia E. Bauer's disability advocacy blog.

Many thanks to Christschool for creating the video.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Clearing up a few misconceptions

Dayton Daily News staff writer D.L. Stewart wrote a column denouncing the offensive remarks recently directed at autistic children by a certain talk radio host who, according to Mr. Stewart, is so "cruel and tasteless" that he is not even worthy of having his name mentioned.

Mr. Stewart's willingness to speak out in defense of autistic children and to advocate the use of respectful language is most commendable. However, although the column was clearly well-intentioned, it contained a number of common misconceptions about autism, as discussed in the following letter:

Dear Mr. Stewart,

I am a member of the Southwest Ohio chapter of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN). ASAN is an international organization that seeks to improve the representation of the autistic community in public policy discussions, to advance the autistic culture movement, and to raise awareness of civil rights issues that affect the autistic population.

I appreciate your taking the time to write a column condemning the recent hate speech against autistic children. However, I would like to clear up a few common misconceptions about autism that I noticed in the column. First of all, autism is not a disease or illness, and an autistic person should not be described as "sick." Autism is a developmental disability that is characterized by delays and/or differences in speech and communication.

While I recognize that the parent quote mentioned in your column does not necessarily reflect your personal views, please be aware that sensational phrases such as "...looked into the eyes of a child with autism and seen the heartbreaking emptiness" have the unfortunate effect of perpetuating disability prejudice. A child with a speech delay should not be presumed to lack intelligence or awareness of his surroundings; he simply hasn't learned how to talk yet.

Research has shown that about 90 percent of children on the autistic spectrum develop speech by age nine (C. Lord et al, "Trajectory of language development in autistic spectrum disorders," in Developmental Language Disorders: From Phenotypes to Etiologies, 2004). As for the small minority who do not develop speech, many learn to communicate with others through sign language and/or typing, in much the same way that a Deaf person who could not speak would communicate.

Please consider providing a correction to your article to clear up any potential misunderstandings among your readers.


Meg Evans

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Response to a Disappointing Series

Redbook magazine recently printed a three-part series on autism describing the experiences of a mother, Nicole, who discovers that her young son is autistic. A member of ASAN Southwest Ohio wrote a letter to the editor expressing her concern about misleading statements and damaging assumptions in the articles:

Redbook Magazine
Editorial Offices
300 West 57th St.
22nd Fl.
New York, NY 10019

Dear Editor:

I am a 25-year-old autistic woman. I have closely followed your series on autism; and, to be honest, I was disappointed.

People are afraid of what they do not understand, and the way autism is portrayed worsens the panic. The isolation Nicole felt was a product of this fear, of the idea that autism is something foreign and mysterious and horrifying. Autistic people and their families are isolated much more by fear than we ever were by autism.

The article seems to say that autism has only two possible outcomes: A cure, or a tragedy. This is not true. I am autistic, and I am happy. I contribute to society. I have always loved my family, even when I wasn't good at saying it. Autism is a part of my personality; without it, I would not be myself.

We do not need to be "saved from autism"; we need what every other person needs--a chance to learn. Teach us to communicate; teach us to interact; but above all, accept us and our differences.

Yes, we think differently; we act differently; but they are differences that anyone can understand if they just take the time to listen to us. Fundamentally, we are simply human, like anyone else.