Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Negative representatoins of autism in the media

I have seen many negative representations of autistic people in the media. But lately I have found some that are far worse than those I have seen in the past.

The other day I was wandering around the net when I stumbled across a myspace page with a youtube video of a public service announcement by the group, cure autism now. This PSA was so utterly offensive to me that I just sat there with my mouth hanging open. In the begining you have a group of people each saying a portion of the following

"Every 21 minutes a child is diagnosed with autism. Autism is like this. It's like someone sneaks into your house in the middle of the night and takes your baby's mind and personality and leaves their bewildered body behind. If a child was actually being kidnapped every 21 minutes. We'd have a national emergency. We do. it's called autism."

Here is the offending . video

The only word to describe that video is dehumanizing. It makes it seem like Autistic people have no mind or personality. Anyone who has taken the time to get to know someone with Autism knows full well that we have a mind and personality. Livestock handling equipment designed by Dr.Temple Grandin is found in 2/3's of the livestock handling facilities in the US. Thats pretty impressive for someone with "no mind". If you couldn't tell I was being sarcastic.

The kidnapping theme is also present in a new campaign called the "ransom notes" campaign. This is a new campaign by the NYU Child Study Center. The campaign will be a series of ads on billboards, kiosks, magazines and online. The ads show a picture of a ransom note signed by Autism, Asperger syndrome or ADHD.

The Asperger's ad has a note that reads "We have your son. we are destroying his ability for social interaction and driving him into a life of social isolation. It's up to you now. [signed] Asperger Syndrome"

The ads for Autism and ADHD are equally as vile. You can read more about it here

We need to let people know just how offended we are by these sorts of depictions of disabilities. We need to let the people making these ads know just how offended we are. If we see the ad on a kiosk at the mall we need to notify the management of the mall about how offended we are. We should also get a petition going to get the ads removed from such places. If we see the ads in a newspaper or magazine we need to write a letter to the editor expressing or opinions of the ads. We need to educate the general public about disabilities so people can understand why we find such things so offensive.

We must not sit back idly while people without disabilities are promoting dehumanizing messages about us, just to get people to donate money to their organization.

[rant mode on]

I am sick and tired of all the pity and fear mongering used by autism groups to elicit donations. These groups aren't interested in helping us. They want to wipe us off the face of the planet. But people happily give them their money to "help" people with Autism. Supporting eugenics and genocide does NOT help us. If an organization were funding a "cure" for blackness, how many people would donate money to help "those poor people with blackness"? NO there would be a national outrage if such things were to happen. Groups like the NAACP have been fighting for years against stereotypes of african americans in the media. But stereotypes of people with Autism and other disabilities are still fair game. It's time we rise up against our oppressors. We need to make it clear to them that they can no longer exploit us for their gain. No more Jerry Lewis telethons! No more fear mongering autism PSA's! No more pitiful depictions of people with disabilities!

[we now return you to your regularly scheduled blog]

So please send a letter or email or something to the NYU Child Study Center. Their contact info is in the link above.

Because we shouldn't have to

There is a scene in xmen 2 that illustrates an issue with people with disabilities particularly those with Asperger's. Night crawler says to Mystique "They say you can imitate anyone. Even their voice" Mystique replies in the afermative to which night crawler responds. "Then why not stay in disguise all the time? You know — look like everyone else?" Mystique replies. "Because we shouldn’t have to".

Visible traits of Asperger's generally get one labeled "stupid", "lazy", "weird", and such. Generally such traits are not seen by the general public as the product of a disability. Due to the negative social repercussions of such autistic traits. Many people with Asperger's have sought to hide, eleminate, or change their traits to make them appear more normal. Also, past treatments for autism have sought to make the autistic person seem as normal as possible .The fact of the mater is, we aren't "normal". So we shouldn't have to change or hide things to approximate normalcy.

Slowly I have begun to care less about what people think about my visible autistic traits. There are those traits that I can't do much about because they are neurological. But there are those which I can change and many do. But I shouldn't have to change them in order to appear more normal.

Stimming is a great example of this. The classical autistic stims are hand/finger flapping and rocking back and forth. Stims are nothing more than "nervous habit", they just present differently than they do in neurotypicals. Additionally, a classical autistic stim may fill a need that something else can't. Many people with Asperger's have traded in their preferred stim for a more socially acceptable one. I have decided not to do that. If people think it's weird that I am flapping my hands/fingers, too bad. That said, I am still somewhat self conscious about stimming, but less so that in the past. If someone inquires about the hand flapping, I can always explain it.

I also have have motor tics. These can be as mild as some simple facial tics, to my head jerking around. There isn't much I can do to stop the tics, so there isn't any point worrying about what people are going to think about it. The anxiety and mental energy expenditure from worrying about it is not worth it.

Ultimately we should strive for a society that is more accepting of people who are different. For now visible traits of autism can have negative social repercussions. But I have decided not to to hide or change them, simply "Because we shouldn’t have to".