Thursday, March 29, 2018

Autism Acceptance Month 2018

For some this is coming April is Autism Acceptance Month where people wear gold (whose chemical symbol is Au the first two letters of Autism), red, taupe, orange, and green, donate to autistic-led non-profit organizations such as the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, the Autism Women's Network, the Autistic Union, and so on; hold stim sessions to educate people on the meaning of repetitive behaviors in autistics; and read, write, and share poetry, blog posts, art, articles, and personal stories from Autistics, their allies, educators, parents, family, and specialists in celebration of autistics and the unique strengths they have and gifts they bring to the world without denying their challenges they and their loved ones experience as a result of social pressures and internalized biases.
To others this Autism Awareness Month, spear-headed by neurotypical, high executive-paying groups such as Autism Speaks whose focus is on genetic research, compare autistics to car wrecks, cancer, and being struck by lightning; and of their executives, only two are autistic in the thirteen years of AS's existence. This is celebrated by wearing blue and lighting blue lights in reference to Autism Speaks' blue puzzle piece logo that is blue in reference to males who AS and similarly medical-modeled autism organizations cite at face value make up eighty percent of autism diagnoses, with females only twenty, despite increasing evidence that autistic traits manifest differently in males and females with diagnostic criteria on autism possessing far more understanding of male's traits than females.

Furthermore, many autistic people reject the puzzle piece for a number of reasons. Not only are puzzles usually made in primary colors-suggesting autism is only a childhood thing or that all autistics need to be judged on their supposed mental age-but refers to finding a "missing piece" both a cure, and the "normal" child inside an autistic person that the cure will free from the cage of our autistic behavior and shell.

But despite what Autism Speaks says I am not a person plus Autism. Autism is not an addition to my personhood or me. It is a valid way of being a person that no one has a right to make me hide or get rid before I can be truly accepted. If I were truly accepted I would not have to change my neurological wiring just as I would not have to change my race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or nationality first.

Society deemed that autistic people had some "normal" (neurotypical) child hidden beneath the surface, autistics ended up spending hours in therapy each week to try and teach us to be neurotypical, which only ended up hindering autistic's development of self-esteem and self-awareness, and merely increased the feelings of isolation therapy was meant to alleviate. We spent our lives, childhood to adulthood, trying to get tone of voice, eye contact, body language, and facial expressions right when interacting with NTs, who judged us as different before we even spoke to or communicated with them. We get old to be ourselves, but rebuffed the instant a crack shows up in our mask. No matter how much therapy we got or how early we received it, autistic people always faced higher suicide rates, higher rates of depression, and greater instances of addiction than the general population. Our peers and our families failed to recognize that the responsibility of stress of ourselves and our loved ones lay in in us being they way we are, but the larger world's bias against it and being engrained in thinking that actively prevented them from accommodating it.
When my autistic kin, allies, and I celebrate Autism Acceptance Month this year it is more than a celebration whitewashing autism. It is a rebellion. I, together with millions of autists across the globe, posit that social progress does not move in the same direction as societies ills. As I have done for the previous two Aprils and the last twenty-four days of the April before them, plan to wear no blue for the entire month from 12:00 AM on April 1 to 11:59 PM on April 30, with the exception of my rainbow-colored Autism Acceptance Month shirt, which I will hit places all over Kansas City on both sides of the Kansas City border, Lee's Summit, and UMKC in my hours off the clock. But besides that anything that has blue I will not don. I have planned out my clothes for work to do so already and made plans to get new clothes to help me do so.

If you choose not to go this far, that is fine. I am just saying this so you all will know what I am doing and why I am doing it. I am not litmus-testing. If you do choose to do this, great! Do whatever you can do to avoid wearing blue. Let's make Autism Acceptance Month 8 a month worth remembering. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

My 2017 in Review

The highlights of my year: finishing my schooling (graduate certificate in Disability Studies at University of Missouri-Kansas City, co-teaching Disability History and Culture to UMKC's Propel students for post-secondary students with disabilities, spending nearly every day of the last six months illustrating my graphic novel, and starting to illustrate to others, finishing one of my short stories that I plan to find a literary magazine for, making my new key bowls from old receipts, and going to the Autism Society-The Heartland's AWARE Game Nights 18+ for Adults with Autism. Also continuing my long, cherished friendships, and meeting new friends, working at my second job and making money, making more progress on my novels and stories, progressing through in and finishing reading many of my books, and finishing new watercolor drawings in my art class. Also I might be finding new work next year that I am still looking into. My New Year's Resolution: I just cannot think of any at the moment. Staying strong, thinking of the people who mean most to me, and living my life every minute, pleasant and unpleasant.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Autism Acceptance Month 2017

Ben Edwards updated his cover photo.
42 mins
Tomorrow is the first day of April, which, for some out there, is Autism Awareness Month with blue lights, clothes, and other decor, but for me, and others out in the autistic world, it is Autism Acceptance Month, as of the past six years, which is associated with gold, red, taupe, orange, and green. For us, blue and awareness tend to be associated with medically-modeled groups on autism, such as Autism Speaks, which unfortunately, has raised money (of which only 3 to 4% tends to go to autism services every year-the bulk in advertising, genetic research, and corporate salaries) by comparing autistic people to car wrecks and being struck by lightning, and of their twelve year existence, only in the last two were there autistics on their board, and only two-Stephen Shore and Valerie Paradiz. I have nothing wrong with these two individuals, certainly. I saw Stephen Shore speak at Johnson County Community College and thought he was wonderful, and I have heard well of Paradiz and am sure her work is top notch. I am sure neither of these people accepted their positions lightly, but that is not enough to turn around an organization, which, only months after finally appointing two autistics, endorsed Donald Trump in the 2016 election-the man who mocked a disabled reporter on live television and believes vaccinations cause autism despite twenty years of overwhelming evidence. Blue, moreover, signifies AS's puzzle piece logo, already a red flag for representing autism and autistics as something to be put together rather than fitting together naturally, but is blue due to the notion that autism is more prevalent in boys than in girls, despite diagnostic criteria having a heavy male bias where autistic females are diagnosed much later than their male counterparts, particularly in low-income areas and rural communities, that they have been called "research orphans." Gold, on the other hand, is there because its chemical symbol Au is the first two letters of the word 'autistic,' and red, orange, taupe, and green symbolize other autistic symbols, such as a heart and spark of the Celebrate Autism Foundation, and promoted by groups with heavy board and membership autistic representation, large portions of income to autistic services, and positive representation of our abilities, such as the Academic Autism Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education, the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership, the Autistic Union, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, and the Autism Women's Network. And for everyday of April, I will wear NO BLUE WHATSOEVER (except in my rainbow color Autism Acceptance Month shirt), but plenty of gold, red, taupe, orange, and green. I started doing this two years ago six days into April while still an undergraduate student at the University of Central Missouri, and did it all month long last year, and this year I will do it again. And let me tell, I do it to the letter.  The photo on this post is my new Facebook album cover.

Now, I have heard, on awareness versus acceptance, that awareness is necessary for acceptance. I am indeed for awareness (as in understanding autistic behaviors roles in processing and resulting from environmental factors), but let me put it this way. Imagine you are buying a bookshelve to assemble from IKEA (I know, I'm sorry) and awareness is the screws, while acceptance is the wood. You would not keep ordering tons and tons of screws and no wood hoping it could create a full shelf. Acceptance implies awareness. We have enough awareness, but awareness is not enough.
You can celebrate Autism Acceptance Month in many ways: art, poetry, donating to financially accountable charities, telling stories of yourself or others in your life who are autistic (as long as you do things like not telling private information against their wishes), and other things. There are limitless ways you can celebrate Autism Acceptance Month. April 2nd is Autism Acceptance Day, as opposed to Autism Awareness Day.

One last note: I know that many of you out there wear blue and celebrate Autism Acceptance Month because you care about a loved one or people out there, and I care that you care. If I did not, I would not be writing or doing this all. All I am asking is for all to consider that activism can go in wrong directions, and we as people can correct it. If you do not end up agreeing with me, I know at least that I can teach you something, and you all in return, many be able to teach me.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

World Down Syndrome Day 2017

Today is World Down Syndrome Day, and at this point, I have to say I cannot help but remember my good friend, year-long roommate, and friend and "disability brother" Tyler Weekly. I would have a photo collage of all our selfies and pictures from our trip to Florida together if not for technological issues, but I will have it, and I will say that I (and all our number of great mutual friends) remember all that he is-the guy who I go to see movies where works at AMC in Olathe ...and can get me in-and then teases me when I cry during Passengers, how we spend nights watching plays at Starlight Theater where he is an usher captain, how he will spend the night while we watch The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, and I will read him some of the books of Buddhist legends and folk tales I have and share with him stories from the autistic people, get to see him at the Spring Down Syndrome prom every year, who I saw Dr. Strange, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Moana, The Accountant, Sing, The Great Will, The Lego Batman Movie, and Hidden Figures-for which I still have all the ticket stubs, and how he will always dream big, challenge me to go on with whatever I am doing, and, above all, remind me of why I love life so much. Seeing him will make me so glad that all the progress for people with Down syndrome that has happened and all that is in the process of happening, as well as that with autistic people and those with other disabilities.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Past 2016 For Me

My year in brief, not withstanding the 2016 presidential election: starting to write for the first time in years and create dozens ideas my own for new novels, graphic novels, short stories, and fairy tales, most of them involving autistic and disabled characters, and, unlike with most stories portraying characters with said abilities, have well-rounded characters, distinct motivations and personas, and so on, who are not the only one if their kind in a world where autistics flat-out look like oddities, and even have their distinct cultural identity of their own autistic brethren, even to the point where neurotypicals actually begin to look like oddities. Like Shakespeare, Homer, and the Brothers Grimm, my stories do tend to be somewhat retellings of disability stories-from video games, artwork, internet memes, history, mythology, adaptations of classic stories, and even bits and pieces of old novels here and there from Neuroatypical authors-but with imagination, descriptive powers, imagery, and drawing from experiences that I happy to possess. This is the year also where I received A's in two of my graduate Disability Studies classes at UMKC, the other class from 2015 being one where I got a B, which brings my UMKC GPA to roughly 3.7. I have also started the process creating a distinct on-line video game involving people with disabilities that should appeal to a wide range of on-line gamers, and gotten some career breaks in UMKC's new Disability Propel program, the Missouri Developmental Disability Council, UMKC's Facing Project, writing disability-related articles, and so on. In addition, I have become more positive about finding romantic relationships, and made incredible headway in doing so (young disabled activist/scholar's lives can be incredibly lonely sometimes), gotten together more often with some of my close friends from over the years, seen former teachers and influences; finished over ten books I had gotten it was reading and over seventy graphic novels from other authors; worked thirty-two to forty hour work weeks most weeks depending on my course load; made over two hundred discarded produce bags worth of plarn with my own two hands and scissors; made several new environmentally repurposed crafts, drawings, and over a dozen new watercolors with my art teacher, Donna; and meet others with genuine interest and support of autistic and Neuroatypical people from around the country and around the world through close friends of mine. I was also wise enough to gently leave a former friend who I learned was talking about me behind my back and even went on long, unending rants at me on my own personal posts, that are no longer on those threads; and I happened to lose my cat Peter, who was nineteen, had arthritis, mostly blind and deaf, losing control of his bodily functions, and gave me so much love and support over the past years. Through all these things that I have said, I continue to be inspired by the stories others have told me, including fictional ones, and tell mine in the hopes you all will realize the power your own have. I have also happened to uncover more plots and devices affecting autistic people from self-aggrandizing groups and people who I have dealt with before as far back as Warrensburg and JCCC as recently as my lunch break yesterday afternoon.

My New Year's Resolution: hold close to the people who best understand me and support me, judging for myself who those people are, and learn to quit going out of my way to accomodate those who cannot understand me or accommodate me as well, kindly yet firmly if I can, whether they be family, friends, or caring individuals, I will know when the time comes; not bother when one cannot understand why I am the way I am or do things my way, not to keep being the one to pay each and every time they make the same mistake. History has taught me how a smaller, not larger number of people have changed the course of the world for the better, and when it comes to friends and allies, it IS QUALITY, not quantity that matters, never mind money, influence, or political backing. I know there are others who do not want to see me suffer, but they can stubborn and obtuse also, and I refuse to be weighed down by them any longer.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

International United Nations Peoples with Disabilities Day

Today is the United Nations International Peoples with Disabilities Day. I can only back and think of all that has taken place in my life over the years. I realize that I wish for a world where the norm across people of all abilities is to respect people with disabilities twenty-four/seven/three hundred sixty-five, no holidays, no breaks, no vacations, nothing-without neurotypical temporarily able-bodied people feeding their need to be part of the solution without taking ch...arge of their actions or still seeing themselves as the center of this world. Non-disabled people certainly dominate this world in numbers, and socio-economically, but they claim no patent to being a norm, and I genuinely believe that the age of NT/TAB people is ending, if it even took place once, and the age of people of all abilities is unveiling itself. I believe no action is a mistake when its harmful implications have been demonstrated to its maker, and EVERY person who would give their most genuine needs to conduct themselves in everything regarding disabled people upright consistently with no reward, and I do NOT think I am asking too much. Disrepsecting our differences is disrespecting us, all of us, whether you mean to or not.

And to NT/TAB supporters of Donald Trump, I aks this. On behalf disabled people: if you ever want us to be there in your life, think of the man you have supported, think of what he want cause, mocking a reporter with a disability in such a way that you cannot turn away-that is beside the point ultimately-we will ask, when anything and everything related to Trump's irreparably retrograde and old world view of disabled people has been unleashed on us, where were you? Where were you when this absolutely 1952 thinker on disabled people was placed in charge of our affairs? I believe in second chances and I believe in ways to work things out, but if you ever think any of us aught to help you when you need us, we can ask you whether or not you were there for us. If not, we can ask you when we do not choose to help you, how are you any better then your idea of ourselves. And anyone there for us conditionally is not someone I feel compelled to help. If you cannot care about EVERY disabled person who is important to me, you cannot care about me. So we can ask you one day, where were you? Food for thought. You genuinely never know when you might need someone in your life.

Monday, July 11, 2016

My New Year's Resolution: The Second Three Months

This post is a little late, but having watched how much I have kept my New Year's Resolution for the first three months of this year, I also have taken note of how I have kept it in the next three weeks (April through June).  So far I noticed I have: 

-worked at least ten full-time work weeks
-finished two more books and got farther along on seven
-finished reading seventeen* more graphic novels and started on another one
-came up with two new "Autistic Fairy Tales" and five new novel ideas
-worked on all my fairy tales and at least eight different novel ideas
-wrote another poem and started on another one
-started working on the last few posts of The Autistic Mule (formerly Ben's Blog) for the first time this year
-drew nine more pictures
-finished four more watercolor drawings**
-made seven more receipt coasters, as well as a vase and my Autistic Pride rainbow infinity from receipts
-made at least 100 produce bags and 100 grocery bags into plarn
-saw my friend Jack twice, my friend Tyler three times, and my friend Erin once
-passed my Spring 2016 Disability Studies class with an A***
-gone all of April without wearing blue in defiance of the April "Light It Up Blue" campaign by groups like Autism Speaks, who depict autism like a car wreck and do not provide autism services.

Thus far, I would say I have stuck to my resolution pretty well.

*originally sixteen
**added fifteen minutes after publishing this post
***added nine days after original publication