Archive for the ‘PDD’ Category


You know what I just realized? I write a lot about disability and advocating for disabled individuals. I write a lot about acceptance in disability, whether you’re a parent, friend, coworker, or even someone who has never met someone with a disability (that you know of); and yet I’m not sure that I’ve ever explained in the simplest of terms what a disability is.

I just get so fired up.

Disability is a physical, neurological, or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities. It may cause impairments, infirmities, and disadvantages, to performing activities in society due to the barriers that exist.

What I try to address is this:

Barriers exist not because someone is disabled, but because society as a whole hasn’t figured out how to:

  • Fully accept disabilities as normal and nothing to be ashamed about
  • Fully accommodate all disabilities and invest in the people who have them
  • Incorporate Universal Design so that ALL PEOPLE may participate in ALL ACTIVITIES equally

And those things are important because people who have disabilities are PEOPLE. People who are deserving of being treated with dignity, respect, grace, and equality to be viewed as valued members of society that contribute as equally as anyone else can.

This is a lesson that you’ll learn well when you become disabled through an accident, illness, or age if you’re not presently disabled. 🙂

 

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There’s a meme going around with an ancient quote from a sixth century philosopher, Lao Tzu, so-called father of Taoism. It reads:

If you are depressed, you live in the past.
If you are anxious, you live in the future.
If you are at peace, you are living in the present.

I know this is meant to soothe or be, you know, wise. I know that some therapists use a similar approach with their patients.

The more I see this float around Facebook and other social media… the more I see this in my support groups… especially the ones where so many of us have anxiety and depression in addition to our physical disabilities… the more this quote makes me realize how much it’s adding to the stigma and misinformation about Depression and Anxiety Disorders.

It insinuates heavily that we can choose our state of peacefulness, anxiety, or depression. Granted this quote is from the sixth century when they didn’t have the knowledge we have now about neurological differences and disorders like Major Depressive Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Bipolar Disorders, Schizophrenia, Traumatic Brain Injuries, Intellectual Disabilities, Emotional Disorders, Mental Health Disorders, Behavioral Disorders, and more neurodiversity. Even if Depression and Anxiety aren’t the primary diagnoses, they can still be a secondary diagnosis and still be significant. There’s a biological basis for these concerns.

In other words, you’re born with it. You don’t choose it.

Depression has nothing to do with living in the past. Anxiety has little to do with living in the future. And let me tell you, living in the present is not usually a picnic but is in fact very often what causes anxiety and depression if we’re talking about situational depression and anxiety.

If we’re talking about situational depression and anxiety, talk therapy and using tools learned in therapy and coping mechanisms learned by experience in life can help ease the symptoms. Talking down, getting sunlight, exercise, proper diet, and all of those mood boosting things that we endorse (I do, really I endorse them because they’re helpful) are wonderful for situational depression.

If we’re talking about Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety, if we’re talking about other neurologically based depressive disorders and anxieties tied to them, there’s no control involved. There’s no talking it through. It’s not rational. Talk therapy may help, medical treatment may help more.

But it’s not a choice. And this meme… this meme of this quote is damaging to those of us who aren’t just going through Seasonal Affective Disorder or are sad because our boyfriend is cheating. We can’t just buck up and get over it because it’s not situational. It’s biological and we can’t turn it off. We have to let it cycle. A situation or mood may trigger it, but there’s usually a lead up with signs pointing to it. We can’t always see them or recognize them.

Please, if you see this meme with this quote, pretty lettering and all, don’t share it.

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Before I begin, I want to take special care. If you’re an autistic reader and you grew up in a hostile household that is or was unsupportive of your neuro-diversity, you may not want to read further; I don’t want this post to take away too many spoons for the day or the week from you.

There’s a “thing” I saw a few weeks ago that, at the time, I wanted to rant and rave about immediately: An anti-autism page run by Mommy martyrs.

I did but I deleted the rant.

Instead I chose to let this entry marinate for a while to see if I could come to terms with any of it. I don’t think I can. What makes me angry and saddened is the fact that I feel this way as a non-autistic parent: how much more horrifying is it when an autistic individual comes across Mommy Martyr pages?

The Autism Awareness movement has moved headstrong into an Autism Acceptance movement with such ferocity and vibrancy that has so much more to do with the self-advocacy of autistics than it does of their allies and advocates. Isn’t that always the way? Who better to know what autistic people need than autistic people?

Let’s get something straight: It’s much more than an Autism Acceptance Movement. It’s an  Autism Civil Rights Movement. It’s part of the larger Independent Living Movement, one that’s been going on for over five decades.

Goals include forging new, positive attitudes about Autism by dispelling myths; focusing on the positives; teaching others that the challenges can be dealt with and handled with input from the autistic person; educating the general public; educating people who are new to the diagnosis, and parents that are on the cusp of receiving a diagnosis for their children; not putting the onus of education onto autistic people and their families. We need to bring forward new studies but most importantly showcasing the thoughts and self-advocacy of autistic self-advocates. Who better to know what autistic people need than autistic people? Who better to know how they feel and felt growing up? Who better to know how Autism can change from toddlerhood through childhood through teenhood and adulthood than autistic people?

In other words, change the conversations surrounding Autism. Let actually autistic people be the driving force of the conversations. The conversations shouldn’t ever be where autistic individuals have to justify their existence and parents have to justify their pre-natal choices or how they parented during infancy. Parents shouldn’t have to justify shunning the fear-speech and fear-propaganda in favor of embracing their child’s Autism.

So yes, I stumbled into a Facebook group of Martyr Mommies and Daddies who were, to say the least and in the most kindly way possible, unsupportive of Autism. What I saw proves that there’s a lot more work to be done, far more than I realized. There’s not just misinformation out there but outright bigotry and hatred which I knew existed. I read and listen to the life stories of actually autistic people both online and in person. This was on a level far more bitter and sinister than I ever realized.

There’s still a lot of work to be done in getting people to recognize that Autism isn’t a mental health disorder or a psychosis. It doesn’t cause a violent predisposition. I could go on and on all day listing all of the things Autism “is not” but that’s not really what this post is for.

Breathe in, breathe out.

This post is about the terrifying way parents, caregivers, and would-be parents were speaking about Autism on what what supposed to be a support page… but really wasn’t a support page. It was a parent martyr page and yes, there’s a difference. It was an anti-autism hate group. There were things there that I can’t even remind myself to think about, let alone share in this post.

Parental support is when parents, sometimes of a particular specific group of children (possibly even adult offspring) need the emotional support from those who have similar experiences and understand their need to vent, ask questions, express sadness, share particular milestones, provide hope, provide a viewpoint from someone with experience to say, “It’ll get better,” or offer helpful resources. Is it rough being the parents? Sometimes. Sometimes often. But I remind myself, as do other parents that seek support, that during the times it’s rough for me, it HAS to be more difficult for her. It’s those times I can’t feel sorry for myself, those times I need to remain strong so that I can show her I’m here to raise her and show her how to become a grown up. That I’m learning with every experience I’m blessed to have with her.

Parental martyrdom is… well, it’s something else entirely. It’s a state of mind in which parents are mired in a muck of belief and delusion that their child’s disability wasn’t something that occurred to the child, but was an affront and betrayal to the parents.  The parents see no saving grace in anything about their child, although they may claim they cherish the child that was stolen by the disability which of course is what they “really” hate.

 

I was reading through posts, comments, shared articles, and I felt the worst sort of anxiety because I imagined my child reading what was on that page. I imagined my autistic friends and even acquaintances and consumers reading what was on that page. I wanted to protect anyone from reading that trash, especially parents and young autistic children about to get their diagnoses, from ever seeing anything on that page regarding the attitudes, opinions, pseudo-science, hate speech, anti-autism resources, fear propaganda and parent shaming… it just went on and on.

I felt twisted in knots realizing that most of the fiercest anti-autism anti-advocates out there are non-autistic parents of autistic individuals. These were parents and non-parents alike hating children: my child, others children, their own children, and the adults they would become under the guise of only hating their Autism.

Sound familiar? If you’re Christian it might: Love the sinner, hate the sin.

As a Christian woman I know it doesn’t really work that way. That saying is a cop-out. Hate is hate.

There were also those anti-autism anti-advocates who are scared to death. (I call them Frothers: frothing at the mouth in fear mothers) that their future children or their already-born children will “catch” Autism in some manner. They see Autism as some terrible, tragic disease that steals our children and has become a terrible epidemic.

On this particular page, Autism! Causes! and Autism! Tragedies! lurk behind every closed door, inside every shadow, within every single in-between.

There’s no such thing to them as Autism being natural or having any good qualities. None of them could account for any autistic adults that used to be just like their children that are now speaking or communicating successfully in other ways; holding jobs; dressing and performing other tasks that as children seemed impossible. In their minds, their children were stuck in an impossible snapshot, never capable of any sort of progress or… at least not the sort of progress that would make them appear non-autistic. As so many teen and adult autistic persons have had to endure, the phrase, “Those high functioning people with autism aren’t like my child, who will never _____.”

Anyone who showed any ounce of intelligence, reasonableness, positivity, and acceptance for Autism was called out as a troll and crucified even if they identified themselves as autistic. I knew it wasn’t worth it to join in to add discussion to try to add something reasonable or moderate, because they weren’t interested.

It had become group-think where they were calling for blood.

If there wasn’t blame there was criticism. It was a very scary page to be, very anxiety inducing, and would make anyone choose sterile bubble homes with in-home sustainable gardens that were equally sterile, drinking only your own sterile pee. Except even that has risks, of course. It went far beyond Vaccine Denialism, Anti-Vax, or Anti-Some Vax. Those seem tolerable compared to this vileness.

The entire purpose of the page was to assign blame of How Autism Happens because of:

  • problems in parenting;
  • parental genetics;
  • grandparents daring to raise their children the wrong way even though supposedly those were the Good Ole’ Days;
  • no one raises their kids the way they did in the Good Ole’ Days any more
  • damage to the Earth;
  • damage to genetics;
  • vaccine injury of any kind;
  • damage to all food and water supplies;
  • mom getting sick during such and such stage of pregnancy or just before pregnancy;
  • mom not getting enough or too much of whatever supplements;
  • mom or dad being too old at the time of conception;
  • mom or dad being too young
  • in vitro fertilization;
  • life-saving measures on a pregnancy that was only 6 weeks along;
  • not enough of this, too much of that;
  • stood near an old-fashioned TV too long;
  • eating food from a microwave during pregnancy;
  • ate food cooked on an electric stove;
  • ate food cooked on a natural gas stove;
  • went camping without checking to see if a bear took a crap nearby and the crap fumes didn’t include something unnatural that the bear ate (I SWEAR TO GOD);
  • that one time mom let the playdate mom prepare a snack;
  • the library has books filled with lead paint;
  • filled the car with gas instead of asking someone else;
  • slept too long, slept too little;
  • ate a single turkey sandwich;
  • ate meat during pregnancy;
  • ate vegetarian during pregnancy;
  • ate a hotdog;
  • drank a Coke;
  • ate food at a fair
  • ate that Cheerio off the car floor once
  • had a glass of wine before knowing about the pregnancy;
  • Grandma drank a glass of wine before knowing she was pregnant;
  • Grandma or Great-grandma had her children vaccinated and that’s caused genetic damage so it’s really inherited vaccine damage;
  • Dad’s shorts were too tight;
  • Dad’s vitamin deficient;
  • there were pets in the house;
  • there were litter boxes in the house;
  • the child didn’t play outside enough;
  • the child plays outside too much;
  • the child wasn’t wearing cotton through the age of diagnosis (no, really);
  • the child was wearing cotton, but it wasn’t organic cotton (seriously);
  • the wrong light bulbs in the house, the car, the school, on playdates;
  • not enough organic, all natural, blah blah blah glarg.

Parents who were asking for advice and help about various things, not just what they thought caused and contributed to their child’s Autism, were ganged up and shouted them down. Anyone viewed as showing real support, showing scientific research rather than pseudo-science or pulling a fresh new opinion based on nothing out of their, ah, nostril was a troll and part of the reason for the Autism “epidemic.”

This was a form of extremism I’ve never seen or dealt with.

That page made me fear using my own toilet and trusting my mom and mother-in-law to be in the same room with my children.  It was a Doomsday Page.  The only support was high-fives over sharing new doomsday information and how they’re the only ones informed enough to know where to find the newest or “best” pseudo-science or anti-science propaganda.

The only support was for the poor, poor individuals who ranted and raved, and the poor parents couldn’t save their own children but were trying desperately to save everyone’s else’s unborn child or shed light on The Cause.  It was showing only the absolute worst, most extreme of the extreme negative symptoms that may or may not have been due to Autism. Every single one of them was shouting the other down trying to be heard, trying to share the scariest most rewarding knowledge.

I can’t imagine what assigning blame or causing abject piss-in-your-pants debilitating fear is supposed to accomplish. Living in that emotional state can’t possibly be healthy for anyone. It’s constant fear, constant anxiety, and the amount of anger… it was astonishing.

Finding causes is very different than assigning blame. Maybe it’s semantics to some, but I really think there’s a difference.

Finding a cause indicates that one is looking at scientifically based proof and evidence. I would be fascinated to know if my hypotheses about which side of the family contributed most to my daughter’s Autism is correct. I would be fascinated to know just out of curiosity sake. But I also fear that science could be misconstrued or used improperly in the wrong hands. Finding a cause has possibilities of improving lives and reducing aspects that are disabling, which can mean improving services that are kind and humanity based.

Assigning blame is a vehicle of able-ism, guilt, and shaming and so there’s a hugely emotional component.  It bleeds all over the innocent and colors perspectives in an extremely biased way. Assigning blame and getting caught up in it is a direct lead into bigotry of disabilities and Eugenics. Those who assign blame are those most likely to take any cause found and use it in a manner that would extinguish valuable lives in an effort to improve their own. Those who assign blame are more likely to cause harm. Those assigning blame are more likely to cause harm if they ever find a legitimate cause.

I don’t know why I’m surprised to find a page like that, except that I suppose I believe what I tell my daughters:

Have hope, and the world can change as long as we educate people and will it to change.

It’s in my bones to believe and be positive. I don’t want to believe that our experience, my daughter’s experience, is only a microcosm, and her childhood is a rare thing being accepted completely and loved wholly. I don’t want her to have to believe that she’s lucky to have a mom who accepts her as she was born and willing to help her learn the ways she learns best. Shouldn’t that be a given?

I want to have hope that when it’s my daughter’s turn to set the horizon on fire, she can do it with as many paintbrushes as she desires and wear a rainbow unicorn horn as she does it. I want to know that more and more children, teens, and adults like her are having more and more experiences like her. She shouldn’t be unique in that way. Being loved.

It shouldn’t be unique that I believe pages like that are an aberration and that autistic individuals are a blessing. It shouldn’t be unique that she’s growing up without having to go to therapy for anything other than what her non-autistic peers would go to therapy for:

  • Mom didn’t bake apple muffins often enough, surely not enough in the summertime
  • Mom kissed me too much, and I hate the sound and sloppiness of kisses
  • Mom insisted that the money tree in the backyard didn’t sprout enough cash for all of the video games, chocolate, and Pokemon critters a girl could need
  • Mom wouldn’t let me be friends with the girl who bullied me and who stole my favorite toys
  • Mom couldn’t always read my mind, every second of the day even when she was at work and I was at school and I wanted more than anything for her to just know that I wanted her to pick me up so she could paint my nails

It shouldn’t be unique that when finding out there are people who think Autism is a bad thing, it’s a huge shock.

It should be shocking that people believe the negative stereotypes and refuse to educate themselves by seeking out others who validate their hate and narrow-mindedness. The bigotry should be shocking. So shocking, I think, because of the viciousness of it. No one held back their real thoughts there. No one cared who saw what they wrote. No one cared if in the future their child might stumble across their words as I had because it didn’t even cross their minds that their children would one day be capable of doing such a thing.

I won’t share that page itself. It doesn’t deserve attention. I just think it’s important to know that this viciousness is indeed still out there trying to undermine something beautiful.

I’ve come to rely on this quaint little phrase (I’m sure I’ve said it here before) that my Sweet Girl overheard me say once recently during the course of a larger conversation. I snagged it off of a meme a couple of years ago, so it’s funny to me how this was the phrase she approved of most:

“…and so in the middle of the doctor’s office, I shouted, ‘Being alive causes Autism!’ It just made me so mad.”

She giggled and repeated in a soft murmur,

“Being alive causes Autism. Mmm hmm. Yes.”

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I ended up wearing rainbow colors that day that I wrote about doing anything, even wearing blue. I just… I realized that supporting her meant more than wearing the blue because it’s her favorite and she asked me and she thought I’d be celebrating her. It meant so, so much more and I tried to explain why I wore a rainbow-flower skirt with a purple shirt (my own favorite color) in a way she could understand. But how do you explain that wearing blue, lighting it up blue, is a trigger event and silences Autistic Voices? That anything explaining away why it’s okay is really not okay?

And that’s what I think I did in that entry, and I wholeheartedly apologize, no qualifications.

So how did I explain to my daughter why I broke the blue promise…

Rainbows and flowers are love, and everyone loves flowers. Autism is full of wonderful colors, not just blue, and even if the flowers in my skirt were fuzzy at the edges they were far prettier than puzzle pieces all over the school walls. She nodded in agreement.

I told her that I wanted her to be able to choose from all of the colors in the rainbow when she’s making friends, when she’s thinking, when she’s getting dressed, when she’s looking outside, all just like when she’s painting or making crafts. She nodded more with each example.

I told her that an agency named Autism $peaks created the Light It Up Blue idea, and that we don’t like all of their ideas because some of their ideas include wanting to cure Autism. I asked her if she remembered hearing about that several days before, and she nodded with a Very Serious Expression on her face.

Then I explained that there are other supportive agencies that want to help her and others like her grow and be happy, and learn to be a self-advocate as she grows up and becomes a teenager and an adult.

I explained that sometimes we were going to have to have different kinds of conversations now about how some people think Autism is not a good thing and how we can change those ideas by showing them the good things and teaching them about the ideas that they don’t quite have right. That sometimes people believe things about Autism that aren’t true, but that we can help educate them. She nodded. She seemed to like the idea of being an educator instead of the student.

I explained that there would be times we would be talking about the better ideas that Mommy has read about from the good agencies so that Mommy can better understand who is a helper and who is not… and that I think she’s getting old enough to learn those things too.

She nodded her head, with a furrowed brow, and said, “Mm hmm.”

“Do you have any questions?”

“Can I still wear my blue skirt?”

“Yes. Always. You can even keep blue as your own favorite color.”

“Mm hmm. Yes.”

“Do you want to ask me more?”

“I don’t know.”

She walked away. So that was that.

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April 1st: Rainbow of RosesMy Sweet Girl loves blue. Of course, she also likes green, pink, and purple, but she says she loves blue the best.

Last year she started to notice that her elementary school was taking part in encouraging the students ahead of time to wear blue and “light it up blue” for April 2nd in order to show solidarity and celebrate Autism. They teach the children about Autism and why it’s important to be accepting of differences, and how autistic children and teens and adults might think differently but are still just the same as everyone else. They show the children the positives, but also teach the children that there can be difficulties, challenges, obstacles, that might be hard for them to understand if they aren’t autistic themselves, and it’s very important to know that they don’t have to be afraid. They shouldn’t bully children that show autistic behaviors, but should be friends with them and protect them. They don’t have to accept being bullied themselves by anyone, and if they see a child that they think might have disabilities such as happens with Autism, they should speak up.

Now, this isn’t what my Sweet Girl told me. She came home and told me that the whole school dresses up on April 2nd in her favorite color, blue, especially and specifically to celebrate her.  As a 6th grader she plans to wear blue tomorrow to celebrate herself.

I learned that this is what the elementary students are being taught by a neighbor’s daughter this morning because she was so excited to tell me about having learned about Autism in school to prepare for tomorrow. She’s excited to learn more, and she’s even more excited that she can share positive experiences with classmates because she’s at our house nearly every day. I remember how sad she was when she heard that there are people who would want to cure Autism and prevent people from being born with it. She immediately said, “But then there wouldn’t be awesome people like G!”

This morning my neighbor girl also told me how much she enjoys Sweet Girl and there are lots of things she loves that Sweet Girl does. Her very favorite thing is when I hold up my hand to give a high five, and Sweet Girl goes to give me a fist bump instead… but when I hold up my hand to give her a fist bump she puts up her own hand to give me a high five. She loves Sweet Girl’s sense of humor; she loves seeing how Sweet Girl can start her morning routine with the worst of moods and then change it around by helping me bake muffins or smelling coffee and giggling that giggle that Sweet Girl does.

Those are the things she wants to share. We’ve turned our little 9 year old neighbor into an advocate and ally already. 😉  She plans to wear blue head to toe in honor of Sweet Girl.

This does present a dilemma in my own mind because these girls really don’t connect lighting themselves up blue with the damage done by Autism $peaks. How do I tell these children that they shouldn’t because it’s offensive to those of us who know what it’s connected to? That if they come across an autistic individual who would be offended knowing the significance as a self-advocate, it could cause a trigger effect for that person that could last hours or days? How do I justify taking away their excitement to learn more positive things and their desire to educate and not just make people aware but ACCEPTING?

These kids get it, you know… that it’s about accepting now and not just awareness. After all I think that there are probably only 12 people left in the developed world that have never heard of Autism. As a nation, we’re definitely aware. The problem is that as a nation, we’re not educated and we’re definitely not accepting. We can’t even accept disabilities as a whole let alone Autism. We have a self-proclaimed Autism support agency, Autism $peaks, who takes donations and doesn’t put them towards services but towards research that would try to find cures and prevention. We have parents who try to murder their disabled children, and apologists for them who “understand what they’re going through” hoping courts will be lenient and demanding others not judge them. We have comedians making vicious fun of disabled people. We have musicians writing offensive song lyrics against autistic people. We have every day people using the word autistic as a slur and an insult just as they use stupid, moron, idiot, and dumb (all ableist language).

These kids are getting it. This is why I support mainstream education rather than separating the students that have disabilities from the non-disabled students. It’s not just about educating them and telling them in a Do As I Say, Not As I Do situation. It’s about seeing each other as equals because heads up, they are, and treating them as such because guess what, they are. It’s about learning that being different doesn’t mean less, and it doesn’t mean segregation. It shows all of the children, including the children with disabilities, that we ALL have challenges and obstacles and we all need different kinds of help.

It teaches more than tolerance, more than awareness… it teaches acceptance. A quiet, natural acceptance.

A major issue with what April as Autism Awareness Month means is that for the teen and adult self-advocates that are aware and educated about the intricacies of the history of how society treats disabled individuals; that have been through traumatic experiences as they’ve grown up for various reasons at the hands of their parents, peers, education, therapies; how society specifically currently views Autism as a whole; and last but not least the intense spotlight that this “awareness month” puts on Autistic individuals is this:

It’s not the right kind of attention for many Autistics.  It’s anxiety inducing.

Donations often go to agencies that are not supportive of Autism at all, nor of Autism Services (Autism $peaks I’m looking at you).

It’s a huge burden to bear to be the face of Autism for an entire month.

It’s a huge burden to bear to be expected to educate people for an entire month.

It’s a huge burden to bear to have to argue with parents who have not accepted their child’s neuro-diversity even if their child is in their  40’s or 50’s.

It’s a huge burden to bear to be expected to “overcome” their disabilities or show them off for others.

It’s an even worse burden to have to defend being Autistic in a world that still wants to cure you and insists that it needs to prevent Autism in others. Autistics around the world feel that if their parents wished they weren’t Autistic, that if they could stamp it out, then they’re also wishing they were stamped out. There is no distinction between their person-hood and their autism.

It’s not fair when parents use this month to spotlight how much they hate Autism, causing Autistics around the world to feel that they are hated. If you hate Autism, they feel you must hate them as well. That’s a reasonable feeling. There is no distinction between their person-hood and their autism.

I can’t say that I disagree.

That’s an awful lot to bear. That’s why at only 12 years old, I’m really not sure that I want to take the joy out of my daughter’s eyes when she sees her classmates wearing blue because her interpretation is that it’s all in her personal honor. It’s Sweet Girl Day tomorrow. I know she’ll ask me to wear blue for her, just as she did last year. I sigh as I write this because I know the social implications, but for my daughter? I’ll do anything. Maybe I’ll wear a multi-colored something.

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This came to my attention on Frday of last week, and I’ve been trying to write something that isn’t using profanities every other word. I’ve had about 60 drafts. [There is a new edit at the bottom of the post]

There’s a YouTube video called Autism Mom FURIOUS is over Steve Harvey’s comments – 3.26.15 – YouTube that brings attention to something despicable, something that she has every reason to be furious over. Something that I’m furious and sickened over.

Steve Harvey used his radio show as a comedy platform (as Sister Odell) to make fun of disabled adults attending Church.

I’m not being overly sensitive or too politically correct. If you were to tell me that, you’re defending his actions and diminishing the lives of disabled individuals everywhere.

I’m not infringing on anyone’s right to free speech to call out a comedian’s, or anyone else’s, behavior and speech. This may be cliche at this point, but if he has the freedom of speech to behave badly and speak in a degrading way about disabled people and laugh like a fool over his own (lack of) cleverness, then he’d better be damned sure to be ready for others to use THEIR right to free speech to call him out.

His words were like acid, caustic and issuing a damaging blow to the disability movement. It tells people in cultures where shaming and being embarrassed about their disabilities and their disabled family members that it’s appropriate and even “funny.”

It tells people that those who can’t always speak against this very same sickening attitude that the world is not even attempting to change to be more sensitive, let alone accommodating, to them.

It tells them that this hatred, being thinly veiled with so-called humor, not only exists in their own homes with family members, but likely at work with employers and co-workers, with neighbors… and out in the world in the media and with other people in the public eye that are looked up to for heaven knows why.

It tells disabled children in school that the bullies who claim they’re just joking, using humor as their mask, will be allowed to get away with it because they’re not really doing any harm. And no one will do anything until someone commits suicide; then everyone blames the child’s parents for not realizing how disturbed s/he was in his disability and why didn’t the parents get him/her the right help or realize how mentally ill they were before s/he committed suicide, when the real issue is that demeaning disabled people and making them Less Than Human is damaging.

Disabilities do not make disabled individuals Less Than Human. They… we.. are fully Human. We’re simply different. And in the words of Temple Grandin, disability (although originally from the point of view of Autism) merely means Different, Not Less.

It’s not unrealistic to expect that some things should be completely off limits as jokes. It’s more than “in poor taste.” We can take poor taste. What Steve Harvey did is cruel, bullying, and calling it comedy somehow gives it free license to say truly hurtful things and it shows exactly how he feels when he sees someone with Autism or similar disabilities that have nonverbal learning disorders and additional conditions.

Calling it comedy means that some people will repeat the so-called jokes because it’s “funny” and of course funny means that people won’t be able to conceive of the idea that it could be hurtful. They’ll repeat it because they’ll have reinforcement that attitudes such as Steve Harvey’s about disabilities and disabled individuals are acceptable and correct. You know, because we’re the ones who are humorless and touchy and overly sensitive.

Those attitudes are not acceptable. Not. Acceptable. But I suppose with Steve Harvey being who he is, I shouldn’t be surprised.

I’m disgusted and sickened. This is the sort of attitude that I feel I’m swimming upstream through chunky peanut butter to end. I’m allergic to peanuts.

No, Mr. Harvey, there’s no way you’re getting out of this with anything less than some very public reconciling to do as well as some reconciliation of the divine sort.

Share. Please. Share that link. Listen to what Steve Harvey thinks about disabled people from his talk show. Then boycott him. If you can’t do that, then write to his producers and tell them exactly what you think about his behavior. Let them know that if you were a fan, you’re not any longer. Let them know that if you hadn’t watched or listened before, there’s no chance in hell now.

More importantly: If you ever have behaved or spoken in a way that’s degrading to any individuals that have any disabilities at all, please stop. Think about the damage you’ve done and are doing if you don’t stop. You don’t know who has an invisible disability that hasn’t come out to you about it, so you don’t know who you’re harming. Be an ally instead of the villain.

#BeAnAllyNotAVillain #FlashBlogBoycottSteveHarvey #BoycottSteveHarvey

[EDIT: I really didn’t want to add what it was he said because I think if you watch that video above, she illustrates what’s wrong with what he said. But I should have included that he joke was made during his morning talk show on March 26th as his character “Sister Odell.” He has since apologized except that his apology wasn’t really an apology. It was a “y’all can’t take a joke” jab.

It started out on Facebook as,

“To everyone, please accept my sincere apologies. It was not my intent to hurt anyone.”

He should have stopped there. That would have been perfect.

He continued with:

“Sister Odell is a made up character, she is not real and my intent was not directed at any other real person. And most certainly was not directed at anyone you know. Again my apologies. The problem with comedy is ALL subjects can offend someone. Please forgive me if you were. DON’T TRIP HE AIN’T THRU WITH ME YET.”

Apology? Do you see what he did there? Exactly what I said he’d do. He excused his behavior. He blamed those offended in the disability community, for being offended that he said offensive things he should have never said. Under the claim that it wasn’t really him but the character he was playing.

When you apologize to anyone you’ve offended, you simply apologize and you don’t qualify the behavior. You don’t excuse the behavior. You don’t turn it around and blame the massive group of people you offended for being rightly offended.

This was a non-apology.

How does one exactly blame the fictitious character that one writes and plays? It’s not MY fault, it’s Sister Odell’s fault for making fun of someone that doesn’t actually exist.

No, it doesn’t work that way. It can’t.

Those “jokes” only barely thinly mask a very real opinion. He wasn’t being sarcastic in the jokes, using them to describe a behavior about disability bigots that he was disgusted with. He was the one making fun of disabled individuals. It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t directed at a specific individual… that makes it even worse because now we also know what his stereotype of a disabled person looks like. They’re all intellectually disabled, unable to speak, unable to control themselves and their bodies, unable to control the sounds coming out of their mouths, looking foolish.

This is what such “comedy” perpetuates. That a thin mask of hate of disabled people and their disabilities, and hatred their audacity to be disabled in public, can be called comedy and therefore not be considered hate speech or discrimination. No, if it’s comedy, it couldn’t possibly be a mask of hate and discrimination.

What saddens me is that there are people commenting on his pages that they are or know someone close to them (like a son or daughter) who is disabled, and not only are they not bothered but they found it funny too. They want him to continue, and they support him and believed an apology was not necessary. That anyone offended had no reason to be offended and basically, we’re all party poopers without a sense of humor.

That’s what couching hatred of disabled people in humor perpetuates. Not acceptance, not a desire to learn more, not even tolerance.]

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I’ve been sitting on this one for a while, but I think it’s still important to share how teaching self-advocacy skills to our autistic children is one of the most important things we can ever do. Our children need to learn to feel empowered at an early age so that they never, or rarely, have to worry about being taken advantage of due to their disabilities. Teaching them that their voices matter and how to frame their needs to the people who need to hear them begins at school age, and not just when they arbitrarily reach the magic legal age of 18 years old or 21 years old.

We need to presume competence, that they are capable and recognize self-advocacy skills as a need.

At the end of the year PPT last year (school year 2013-2014) I managed to get “the small bus” (as she calls it) because Sweet Girl asked for a ride other than the Big Bus that the other kids ride.  At first she was upset because the small bus isn’t the van, but it’s also not what the other kids use.  Clash.  A main problem with the bigger buses is that they’re not sensory friendly. There’s also no shortage of bullies on these buses, especially for middle school, and the drivers don’t do anything about it.   Additionally, neither of her sisters would be riding with her to help her tolerate the regular bus.

It didn’t take her long to appreciate it the small bus. She hears stories about the regular bus.  She would have rathered I drove her in, but that wasn’t an option.  The real push came with the after-school programs where she got the Golden Chariot… otherwise known as the Carrying School Children White Van.

“It feels great!”

She started campaigning for it for pick-up in the mornings and for everyday drop off.  She simply said that it’s better.  I had thought she was ok on the small bus but that presented sensory problems too.

And then  I told her that her PPT was coming up.  She insisted that she doesn’t need one, they’re horrible, they’re for babies, and she doesn’t want to attend.  Ok, fine, you don’t have to attend, but you still have to contribute.  And I told her that I was overriding her on the not-having-a-PPT thing.  That prompted her to ask with all seriousness,

“What is a PPT?”

She asked it with the sincerity of really wanting to know for the very first time.  I decided right then and there to explain exactly and bluntly what the PPT and IEP is for, and why she has it but other children don’t.

Presume competence.

“You have a PPT to figure out an IEP.  PPT stands for Planning and Placement Team.  So when I say I’m going to your PPT, that means I’m going to your Planning and Placement Team meeting.  We meet at the school in a special room to make plans for the school year so that we can work together as a team to make sure that you get the best education in the way you learn the best. OK?”

“Yes.  PPT is a funny.  What is IEP?”

“It sure is.  IEP is what the PPT tries to make.  IEP stands for Individual Education Plan.  That means that your whole team including your mom, your teachers, your vice principal, and all of the people you see every day that help you learn things… we all put the PPT together so that we can figure out the best way to teach you the things you need to know to help you learn skills to be independent.”

“I am already independent! I am not a baby! I am at a high level!”

“Ok, yes. You are very independent and you are a great self-advocate.  You are learning to read higher level books all the time.  You do a great job.  Do you want to know why?”

“I do not know.” ::grumpy::

“Because at every PPT meeting when we talk about the IEP, we talk about the ways that you learn best.  We want to help you use your talents and your superpowers so that you can learn to overcome your challenges.  Like, you know how math is hard sometimes?”

“I do not like math.”

“I don’t either.  Join the party.  But having an IEP means that your teachers will give you some extra help.  Some of the other kids might find math really easy.  Some of the other kids might find it really hard like you do, but they won’t get the extra help the same way you do.  They’ll get help, but you get to learn at your own pace and in the way you learn math the best. ”

“Hmmm.”

“In other subjects, you might not need any extra help at all because even if you have extra challenges in math, you might have extra talents in art.  Did you know that not everyone can make wonderful art? I hear that you’re really amazing in woodworking class and a lot of the other kids are having trouble.”

“Yes, I like it.”

“During the PPT meeting, I also get to ask for things that will help make your learning easier for you.  That’s why it’s important that you come to the meetings when you think you can do it or you talk about it with me and write something down for me to tell the rest of the team.  Do you want to know why that’s so very important? YOU are part of your team too, especially because YOU have been such a great self-advocate and are becoming so independent. “

Suddenly her eyes lit up.  I could see that she heard every single word I said and she was taking this very seriously.  For the first time ever, we were having this conversation where she wasn’t making angry assumptions about the PPT.

“Do you want to know what else? I know how important it is to you that you get to make decisions for yourself.  I know you don’t want me to make all of your decisions for you because you’re so independent.  I don’t want you to think that I’m making bad decisions and choices for you, and that’s why I want you at the meetings or to talk to me about what will make going to school easier and better for you.  I want you to be able to tell me how you think you can learn more easily.  How you feel and think is important to me and to the team.”

She got excited.  She had an idea.

“I need the van. My IEP needs the van every morning and every day. It is because of sensory. I need it for sensory. It feels better.”

She explained the why, and that gave me an edge in the PPT.

So at that PPT in October, because she asked me to request it (she now understands what PPTs are for :D) I advocated hard for it. I was told how difficult it is to get the van or any of the special service transport. They’ve always told me that. Luckily I have a good relationship with the DOT around here and they even called me to talk to me to see if the request was about my Sweet Girl. They made sure it was approved for the IEP.

And so within two days she had her first pick-up by the Golden Chariot.

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