Saturday, December 22, 2012

Self-advocates and allies need to combat autism prejudice

Lydia Brown: I'm not afraid to say I'm autistic

Lydia Brown has posted a photo on Facebook of herself displaying a sign that reads: “I’m not afraid to say I’m autistic.” She explains:
“I posted this because of the unfortunately legitimate fears that many members of the Autistic community and parents of autistic children have about being visibly and openly Autistic in the wake of the tragic and baseless conflations of autism with violence. It isn't safe for everyone (particularly those who can pass) to be openly Autistic right now, but I'm doing so anyway because I'd rather not be afraid (even if I have every right to be).”
I think media coverage like that directed toward the shooting in Newtown, Conn. makes it more difficult -- and yet so much more essential -- for self-advocates and their allies to combat misinformation and prejudice.

According to Disability Scoop, an autism backlash is feared.
“Autism advocacy groups are reporting dramatic spikes in calls, emails and website visits a week after 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The gunman in the case, Adam Lanza, 20, was reportedly diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.
“Citing several studies on the disorder, experts say that autism is in no way linked to the type of planned violence Lanza displayed. But a slew of media outlets in the initial aftermath of the shooting suggested otherwise.”
Ari Ne'eman, president of the the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, told Mother Jones:
“We are a community that faces tremendous stigma and prejudice, and unfortunately when this happens, the mainstream media presents stereotypes and inaccurate information about autism and disability that only make that stigma and prejudice worse.”
 The American Association of People with Disabilities issued a statement condemning media coverage that linked autism to violence:
“Research and statistics show, time and again, that people with disabilities are more often victims of bullying and violence, than the perpetrators of violence. If these facts are made clear, millions of Americans with disabilities may be spared from unwarranted stigma and prejudice.”
And Brown is going to make a video that incorporates pictures like hers:
“If you want to be included, you should write a similar message and photograph yourself with the message (or get someone to do it for you), email them to me at and I’ll make a collective video! Emailing me your picture gives me permission to use it in public. I’ll credit names at the end, too, unless you explicitly tell me not to use your name.”

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