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via the Fidget Spinners Fad Reveals About Disability Discrimination:



I’m angry about the sudden popularity of fidget spinners, but probably not for the reasons you think.  I’m not mad that they’re disruptive in class, or obnoxiously trendy.  I’m furious because of what they reveal about societal power structures, and the pathologizing of disabled people by non-disabled persons.

Autistic people (and others with developmental disabilities) have been fighting a war for decades.  It’s a war against being forcibly, often brutally, conditioned to behave more like neurotypicals, no matter the cost to our own comfort, safety, and sanity.  And those of us who need to stim in order to concentrate (usually by performing small, repetitive behaviors like, oh I don’t know, spinning something) have endured decades of “Quiet Hands” protocols, of being sent to the principal’s office for fidgeting, of being told “put that down/stop that and pay attention!,” when we are in fact doing the very thing that allows us to pay attention instead of being horribly distracted by a million other discomforts such as buzzing lights and scratchy clothing.  We’ve had our hands slapped and our comfort objects confiscated.  We’ve been made to sit on our hands.   We’ve been tied down.  Yes, disabled children get restrained — physically restrained — in classrooms and therapy sessions and many other settings, for doing something that has now become a massive fad.

Think about this: Decades of emotional punishment, physical violence, and other abuses.  And then some guy (who just happens to be in a position with more social clout than most disabled people will ever attain) writes an article about how having a fidget toy helps him concentrate during meetings, and all of a sudden, every neurotypical person in America is falling all over themselves to get a fidget toy of their own.  The first time I heard about the fidget spinner craze on the news, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.  But I was leaning toward “cry,” for the reasons I just explained, and because the irony made me feel ill.  Sometimes the universe has a cruel sense of humor.

This is important.  Really important, so read this next sentence twice: Something that was considered entirely pathological and in dire need of correction when done by disabled people is now perfectly acceptable because it is being done by non-disabled people.  This should make you stop and think, especially if you are someone who works with, educates, or researches people with diagnoses like autism.

What else might we de-pathologize overnight once the “right” people, the “normal” people, the “healthy” people start doing it?  Will somebody write a tweet that makes it socially acceptable to avoid eye contact?  Will a Facebook meme make it suddenly trendy to have texture sensitivities?  Will hand-flapping become cool after it shows up in a music video?

Normality is an illusion.  It doesn’t exist.  Human culture is constantly changing, and our everyday behaviors are changing with it, more than ever in the fast-paced digital age (yeah, I’m old enough to remember when phones couldn’t go everywhere with you, and believe me, social norms were very different back then).  Even if “normal” did exist, setting it as the goal towards which disabled people should strive is unacceptable.

Because insisting that disabled people act more like non-disabled people is not about improving functionality, it’s about who has the power to set social standards.  It’s the same reason certain accents and dialects are considered less “educated” and the people who speak that way snubbed.  It’s the same reason people with one skin tone are portrayed as less capable, or more dangerous, than people with the majority’s skin tone.  It's​ why “women’s work” is devalued and underpaid.  In short, it’s oppression, plain and simple.

Perhaps I should be more hopeful.  Perhaps we’re moving towards an era of acceptance.  Even before the fidget spinner hit the spotlight, more and more professionals have agreed that sensory needs are real, and should be acknowledged and met.  Many websites now sell chewy toys, app stores abound with sensory relaxation apps, and plenty of autism “treatment” programs (though certainly not all) have moved away from their prior focus on sitting still with immobilized hands while grudgingly accepted that stimming is actually a perfectly healthy thing for autistic people to do.

But the power structure is still there.  There’s still a rigid hierarchy of who gets to decide which behaviors are normal or pathological.  There’s still a societal subtext that tells people who are different “be less like yourself and more like us.“  We need to work on that. 

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Here’s a story about changelings: 

Mary was a beautiful baby, sweet and affectionate, but by the time she’s three she’s turned difficult and strange, with fey moods and a stubborn mouth that screams and bites but never says mama. But her mother’s well-used to hard work with little thanks, and when the village gossips wag their tongues she just shrugs, and pulls her difficult child away from their precious, perfect blossoms, before the bites draw blood. Mary’s mother doesn’t drown her in a bucket of saltwater, and she doesn’t take up the silver knife the wife of the village priest leaves out for her one Sunday brunch. 

She gives her daughter yarn, instead, and instead of a rowan stake through her inhuman heart she gives her a child’s first loom, oak and ash. She lets her vicious, uncooperative fairy daughter entertain herself with games of her own devising, in as much peace and comfort as either of them can manage.

Mary grows up strangely, as a strange child would, learning everything in all the wrong order, and biting a great deal more than she should. But she also learns to weave, and takes to it with a grand passion. Soon enough she knows more than her mother–which isn’t all that much–and is striking out into unknown territory, turning out odd new knots and weaves, patterns as complex as spiderwebs and spellrings. 

“Aren’t you clever,” her mother says, of her work, and leaves her to her wool and flax and whatnot. Mary’s not biting anymore, and she smiles more than she frowns, and that’s about as much, her mother figures, as anyone should hope for from their child. 

Mary still cries sometimes, when the other girls reject her for her strange graces, her odd slow way of talking, her restless reaching fluttering hands that have learned to spin but never to settle. The other girls call her freak, witchblood, hobgoblin.

“I don’t remember girls being quite so stupid when I was that age,” her mother says, brushing Mary’s hair smooth and steady like they’ve both learned to enjoy, smooth as a skein of silk. “Time was, you knew not to insult anyone you might need to flatter later. ‘Specially when you don’t know if they’re going to grow wings or horns or whatnot. Serve ‘em all right if you ever figure out curses.”

“I want to go back,” Mary says. “I want to go home, to where I came from, where there’s people like me. If I’m a fairy’s child I should be in fairyland, and no one would call me a freak.”

“Aye, well, I’d miss you though,” her mother says. “And I expect there’s stupid folk everywhere, even in fairyland. Cruel folk, too. You just have to make the best of things where you are, being my child instead.”

Mary learns to read well enough, in between the weaving, especially when her mother tracks down the traveling booktraders and comes home with slim, precious manuals on dyes and stains and mordants, on pigments and patterns, diagrams too arcane for her own eyes but which make her daughter’s eyes shine.

“We need an herb garden,” her daughter says, hands busy, flipping from page to page, pulling on her hair, twisting in her skirt, itching for a project. “Yarrow, and madder, and woad and weld…”

“Well, start digging,” her mother says. “Won’t do you a harm to get out of the house now’n then.”

Mary doesn’t like dirt but she’s learned determination well enough from her mother. She digs and digs, and plants what she’s given, and the first year doesn’t turn out so well but the second’s better, and by the third a cauldron’s always simmering something over the fire, and Mary’s taking in orders from girls five years older or more, turning out vivid bolts and spools and skeins of red and gold and blue, restless fingers dancing like they’ve summoned down the rainbow. Her mother figures she probably has.

“Just as well you never got the hang of curses,” she says, admiring her bright new skirts. “I like this sort of trick a lot better.”

Mary smiles, rocking back and forth on her heels, fingers already fluttering to find the next project.

She finally grows up tall and fair, if a bit stooped and squinty, and time and age seem to calm her unhappy mouth about as well as it does for human children. Word gets around she never lies or breaks a bargain, and if the first seems odd for a fairy’s child then the second one seems fit enough. The undyed stacks of taken orders grow taller, the dyed lots of filled orders grow brighter, the loom in the corner for Mary’s own creations grows stranger and more complex. Mary’s hands callus just like her mother’s, become as strong and tough and smooth as the oak and ash of her needles and frames, though they never fall still.

“Do you ever wonder what your real daughter would be like?” the priest’s wife asks, once.

Mary’s mother snorts. “She wouldn’t be worth a damn at weaving,” she says. “Lord knows I never was. No, I’ll keep what I’ve been given and thank the givers kindly. It was a fair enough trade for me. Good day, ma’am.”

Mary brings her mother sweet chamomile tea, that night, and a warm shawl in all the colors of a garden, and a hairbrush. In the morning, the priest’s son comes round, with payment for his mother’s pretty new dress and a shy smile just for Mary. He thinks her hair is nice, and her hands are even nicer, vibrant in their strength and skill and endless motion.  

They all live happily ever after.


Here’s another story: 

Keep reading
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“Having an autism spectrum disorder in an ableist world means that you’re constantly exposed to cruel irony. Most frequently, this comes in the form of neurotypical (i.e. non-autistic) people who tell you, incorrectly, that you can’t or don’t feel empathy like them, and then stubbornly refuse to care about your feelings when they claim that you’re lost, that you’re a burden, and that your life is a constant source of misery for you and everyone who loves you. There’s also my current favorite: parents who are willing to put the lives of countless human beings at risk because they’re so afraid that the mercury fairy will gives their kids a tragic case of autism if they vaccinate. Gotta protect the kids from not being able to feel empathy — who cares whether other children live or die?”
- I’m Autistic, And Believe Me, It’s A Lot Better Than Measles — The Archipelago — Medium (via brutereason)
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“If autism isn’t caused by environmental factors and is natural why didn’t we ever see it in the past?”

We did, except it wasn’t called autism it was called “Little Jonathan is a r*tarded halfwit who bangs his head on things and can’t speak so we’re taking him into the middle of the cold dark forest and leaving him there to die.”

Or “little Jonathan doesn’t talk but does a good job herding the sheep, contributes to the community in his own way, and is, all around, a decent guy.” That happened a lot, too, especially before the 19th century.

Or, backing up FURTHER

and lots of people think this very likely,

“Oh little Sionnat has obviously been taken by the fairies and they’ve left us a Changeling Child who knows too much, and asks strange questions, and uses words she shouldn’t know, and watches everything with her big dark eyes, clearly a Fairy Child and not a Human Like Us.”

The Myth of the Changeling child, a human baby apparently replaced at a young age by a toddler who “suddenly” acts “strange and fey” is an almost textbook depiction of autistic children.

To this day, “autism warrior mommies” talk about autism “stealing” their “sweet normal child” and have this idea of “getting their real baby back” which (in the face of modern science)  indicates how the human psyche actually does deal with finding out their kid acts unlike what they expected.

Given this evidence, and how common we now know autism actually is, the Changeling myth is almost definitely the result of people’s confusion at the development of autistic children.

Weirdly enough, that legend is now comforting to me.

I think it’s worth noting that many like me, who are diagnosed with ASD now, would probably have been seen as just a bit odd in centuries past. I’m only a little bit autistic; I can pass for neurotypical for short periods if I work really hard at it. I have a lack of talent in social situations, and I’m prone to sensory overload or you might notice me stimming.

But here’s the thing: life is louder, brighter and more intense and confusing than it has ever been. I live on the edge of London and I rarely go into the centre of town because it’s too overwhelming. If I went back in time and lived on a farm somewhere, would anyone even notice there was anything odd about me? No police sirens, no crowded streets that go on for miles and miles, no flickery electric lights. Working on a farm has a clear routine. I’d be a badass at spinning cloth or churning butter because I find endless repetition soothing rather than boring.

I’m not trying to romanticise the past because I know it was hard, dirty work with a constant risk of premature death. I don’t actually want to be a 16th century farmer! What I’m saying is that disability exists in the context of the environment. Our environment isn’t making people autistic in the sense of some chemical causing brain damage. But we have created a modern environment which is hostile to autistic people in many ways, which effectively makes us more disabled. When you make people more disabled, you start to see more people struggling, failing at school because they’re overwhelmed, freaking out at the sound of electric hand dryers and so on. And suddenly it looks like there’s millions more autistic people than existed before.

The other thing is, the degree to which autistic people were accepted would have varied drastically from place to place.  Western Europe may have had the changeling thing, but in Russia, a “fool” was lucky.  Fools sometimes understood things that other people didn’t, after all, and everyone needs a little extra luck in their lives, so when it got to be winter, the “fool” would get the warmest spot in the house more often than not.  We sometimes like to think of society as a straight progression from more brutal to less, but it isn’t; sometimes, as the poster above points out, modern society is harder to deal with than what came before.
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1. Autism is a fundamental part of who we are and how we experience the world and it cannot be separated from who we are as people. Autism is not something which is clearly separated from our identities and our personalities - it’s something which affects every aspect of how we think about, experience and interact with the world around us. Autism isn’t something we have or something we’re suffering from, it’s something we are. For the vast majority of autistic people, autism is a part of our identity which means that despite common belief most of us prefer to be called “autistic” as opposed to “people with autism.”  Do not tell us that we only have value if we can separate our identities and our personalities from autism.

2. The vast majority of autistic people do not want a cure, we want acceptance and accommodations. Do not put your time and money into researching how to cure autism and how to prevent it, put time and money into accommodating and accepting autistic people. We do not wish to become neurotypical, we wish to change society so that we can be accommodated, accepted and included as autistic people. Our goal isn’t to become as close to neurotypical as possible, it is to get the opportunity to live happy, fulfilling lives as autistic people. It is society that needs to chance, not us.

3. We do not support Autism Speaks or their campaign #LightItUpBlue and neither should you. If you want to support autistic people, check out ASAN or Autism Women’s Network instead. If you don’t know why autistic people don’t support Autism Speaks, check out the many resources linked in this post.

4. Functioning labels are at best inaccurate and at worst actively harmful.  Functioning labels (claiming that some autistic people are “high-functioning” while others are “low-functioning”) do more harm than good, not just because they aren’t able to give you an accurate impression of what supports an individual autistic person needs but because they’re mainly used to either silence or invalidate autistic people. Autistic people who speak up about the issues concerning them are labelled “high-functioning” to invalidate what they have to say as being inaccurate and irrelevant for other autistic people and so-called “low-functioning” autistic people are being silenced and spoken over because they are written off as too ‘low-functioning’ to have nuanced, relevant opinions or even communicate at all. Instead of forcing autistic people into one of two boxes, name the specific issues or strengths that you are referring to when you’re calling them low-functioning or high-functioning. Are they non-verbal? Say that instead of calling them low-functioning. Are they able to manage a job? Say that instead of calling them high-functioning.

5. Non-verbal autistic people can and do learn to communicate using other communication forms than verbal speech and they’re all individuals with their own thoughts, feelings, wants and opinions. You do not get to speak on behalf of non-verbal autistic people. You do not get to assume that you know exactly what they think, want and feel, especially not when you have never made any effort to communicate with any of them. Instead of assuming that you know what non-verbal autistic people think and feel, try listening to what they have to say by reading the words of some non-verbal autistic people such as @lysikan or Amy Sequenzia or Emma Zurcher-Long.

6. Applied Behavior Analysis, the most widespread and well-known therapy for autistic children, does more harm than good. The goal of ABA therapy is to train and force autistic people into hiding their autistic traits by all means possible as if passing for neurotypical should be the goal of all autistic people regardless of what consequences it might have for their general well-being and their mental health. If you don’t see why that is a problem, check out this masterpost by @neurowonderful.  

7. People diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome are just as autistic as people diagnosed with other variants of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Aspergers is autism and to emphasize this, aspergers and other variants of autism have been united under a broader diagnosis called “autism spectrum disorder” in the DSM-5, Back when aspergers was a separate diagnosis, the only difference between whether you got diagnosed with aspergers or autism was whether you spoke before you were three years old - something which says approximately nothing about your struggles and abilities later in life.  The common misconception that aspergers and autism is two different things is just that - a misconception.

8. If you want to learn more about autism, listen to autistic people - not our parents, our siblings, our therapists our or caregivers. Autistic people are the ones who know the most about being autistic, so if you want to learn about autism we’re the ones you should ask. If you want to learn more about the different aspects of autism, @neurowonderful‘s youtube series “Ask An Autistic” is a good place to start. Here is an index over all the episodes so that you can easily find the topic you want to learn about.  You can also visit @askanautistic where autistic people are ready to answer whatever questions you may have about autism.  

Please reblog this post. It’s time tumblr starts listening to autistic people.

I’m asking you to reblog this because I want this to go vital. I don’t just want this to be passed around inside tumblrs autistic community where we already know about and agree with all of the above statements. I want this to end up on the dashes of people who don’t know anything about autism, who haven’t thought twice about autism and autistic people during their time on tumblr - and that can only happen if you help me out. 
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via Autism Speaks Hurts Us | Think Inclusive:


“Autism Speaks is a powerful organization, with support of many celebrities and easy media access. I believe most of the celebrities that help making Autism Speaks so recognizable don’t have an understanding of what autism is. They probably want to help and they buy into the picture of despair spread by Autism Speaks.

The same is true for the thousands of people going to “autism walks” and donating money to Autism Speaks. They don’t know, or refuse to acknowledge, that the message they are supporting is that society should fear and segregate their children; they don’t know, or refuse to acknowledge, that all the money raised will not be used to help their children with education, services or accommodations that can make navigate the world a little easier for their children; they don’t know, or refuse to acknowledge, that a lot of the money is used to advertise their children as burdens, as people society should shun, isolate and eventually eliminate.”
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Hello, non-autistic people! 

Whoever posts in the #actuallyautistic and #actually autistic tags is supposed to be autistic! 

But bad news, everyone, because guess what? 

Listen, you non-autistic lot, you’re all posting a lot of stuff right now and the data keeps whizzing about. It’s really very distracting. Could you all just stop it for a minute because I. am. autistic. and. I. am. talking!

The question of the hour is, who gets to post in the #actuallyautistic and #actually autistic tags? Answer, autistic people!

Next question. Who’s been posting in it? (Non-autistic people!)

Come on! Look at me! No plan, no back up, no weapons worth a damn. Oh, and something else. I don’t like non-autistic people invading. autistic peoples’. spaces!

So, if you’re non-autistic people sitting out there in your silly little office chairs, with all your silly little non-autistic ideals in your head and you’ve got any plans on posting in the #actuallyautistic and #actually autistic tags tonight, just remember who’s standing in your way. Remember every black day I ever educated you, and then– AND THEN!!– 

Do the smart thing…

…stay out of the #actuallyautistic and #actually autistic tags unless you’re autistic yourself.

This is my new favourite post

Hehe, glad it amused you, it amused me to write it. I even hear it in 11’s voice!Btw “I…am…talking!” is one of my favorite scripts when someone interrupts me IRL! :P

Does Asperger’s… or whatever they camm it now count?

Yes, of course. It’s all under that general umbrella. This is about non autistic parents and professionals etc posting in the tag. Which happens unfortunately from time to time.

Ok, I don’t use it just yet, because now that they’ve changed the name of my Asperger’s to something totally different I’m getting confused about what I’m supposed to be.

Basically consider it like an outline where Autism Spectrum Disorder is the heading and Aspergers, Autism (Also called Kanner’s syndrome) and PDD-NOS are the subheadings or bullet points.

Aspergers and autism are one in the same, and there’s not enough separating autism from Aspergers to allow for an entirely separate category.

No worries. I too started out with an Aspergers diagnosis.
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When you have to mute the television when you need to speak to someone or read anything, because you can only focus on one thing at a time


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