This is it. Dr. Shaun Murphy's first interaction with an autistic patient. I knew it was coming -- It's an obvious and necessary direction for Shaun's story to take. Even in the bizarre, distorted world of a prime time medical drama, Shaun can't reasonably be the only autistic person on Earth.
There was exciting news: Liam, Shaun's autistic patient, would be played by an actually autistic actor: Coby Bird. Bird is 15, talented, and has previously appeared on the ABC comedy Speechless. I hope to see him in future episodes of The Good Doctor. It would be wonderful if Shaun could act as a mentor or role model of sorts, rather than Liam merely being a patient-of-the-week.
That said, I was terrified that this episode would advocate for what Julia Bascom has called, "the IQ test for human rights." Some toxic corners of our community believe autistic people perceived as … Continue Reading ››
After days of protest and pressure from disability rights activists in Chicago and Washington DC, Congressman Bobby Rush has withdrawn his sponsorship and support from the misleadingly titled, "ADA Education and Reform Act," also known as HR 620. Disability advocates, activists, and organizations have all come out against the bill.
Scott Nance, a co-organizers of the direct action that ADAPT held outside Congressman Rush's Chicago office, told NOS Magazine, "I am proud of the Congressman for being open to learning more about our concerns... Bobby Rush has preserved his identity as a leader in protecting the civil rights of every person."
Rochester ADAPT activist Anita Cameron was pleased with the outcome and highlighted Congressman Rush's own past activism. "I thank Congressman Rush for listening to his constituents and colleagues and coming off of HR 620... I hope that he hearkened back to his Black Panther roots." Cameron also had … Continue Reading ››
This week’s episode, "Not Fake," preserves Shaun Murphy's complexity and humanity for another week. While this episode was excellent from a neurodiversity standpoint (everyone struggles in stressful situations, not just neurodivergent people), it completely failed when it comes to physical disability. Rather than live with an amputation and a prosthetic, a man's wife fights to have a risky, experimental surgery that would preserve his leg. To be fair, it is entirely realistic that doctors have a poor understanding of disabled quality of life. This episode didn't highlight that lack of understanding, though. Instead, it plays into one of the most negative tropes about living with a disability: That it is worse than death.
‘I don't like coffee.’
The episode opens with Dr. Kalu sharing his own special blend of coffee. He roasts the beans himself. Dr. Murphy is as sassy as ever. "Smells like leather," he remarks. "And none for you, Murphy," … Continue Reading ››
Last week, the United States faced a defining moment when ICE agents arrested a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, Rosamaria Hernandez. Rosamaria is currently recovering from gallbladder surgery in an immigration detention center away from her family. On the way to her surgery, federal agents followed her ambulance, stood guard outside her room, and refused to allow medical staff to close the door while they treated her. Against medical advice, the agents then proceeded to pull Rosamaria from the hospital where she was receiving care. Government employees, reporting that they are just doing their job, intend to deport Rosamaria back to Mexico. She has lived in the United States since she was three months old.
Rosamaria Hernandez has become the face of the Disabled Latinx movement. Rosamaria’s family initially crossed the border from Mexico to get treatment for medical complications associated with her cerebral palsy. Rosamaria’s parents made the decision to … Continue Reading ››
Earlier this month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was accused of calling President Trump a “moron.” President Trump responded that if he and Tillerson had an IQ contest, “I can tell you who [would] win.” More recently, President Trump bragged, “I went to an Ivy League college… I’m a very intelligent person.” As a person with an intellectual disability, President Trump’s focus on IQ feels very awkward.
President Trump’s focus on IQ hurts people with intellectual disabilities. Many people see the word “moron” as just a generic insult. However, it used to be a diagnostic term during the era of eugenics. Back then I probably would have been diagnosed as a “moron.” Many autistic and intellectually disabled people were diagnosed “morons.” During that time, we were sterilized against our will and locked in institutions.
People with intellectual disabilities are still greatly oppressed. IQ is very much connected to Continue Reading ››
I’d like to respond to “Autistic Advocates Clash with Autism Parents at Government Committee Meeting” by saying this: No one, and I mean no one, should be talking about what’s best for me besides me. Yes, my parents know me best in the world, but that doesn’t mean they know better. It perplexes me that we are having this debate still, and people don’t see how ludicrous it is to have an autistic group represented by non-autistics. Imagine the NAACP represented by whites. Recall that image of a group of white men signing legislation limiting women’s birth control… Yet it is totally okay for many autistics to be affected by the will of neurotypicals.
I simply say this: If you want the views of nonverbal autistics to be heard, invite them to the table. Make sure they can access the meeting with the support they need. Seek out autistic people … Continue Reading ››
On Tuesday, a fiery exchange took place between autistic advocates and autism parents the quarterly Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee meeting about inclusion, civil rights, and the usefulness (or lack thereof) of functioning labels. IACC is a government advisory panel responsible for setting federal research priorities. Only three of the 31 IACC members are autistic themselves. None of the federal members are autistic, nor is the committee chair.
In a written comment, Jill Escher, a long-time foe of the validity of autistic advocacy and civil rights, submitted a blog post she wrote about neurodiversity on the official San Francisco Autism Society website. She complained that neurodiversity has ruined the validity of autism as a diagnosis because it includes "high functioning" people like the autistic representatives on IACC and "low functioning" people like her own children. This sparked a tense conversation among members of IACC that revealed … Continue Reading ››
On Friday morning, the Department of Education quietly rolled back 72 guidance documents from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services and the Rehabilitation Services Administration. The documents were described by officials to be “outdated, unnecessary or ineffective." However, no further details were provided as to what that might actually mean. Guidance documents are important because they explain how existing disability rights laws or regulations should be applied in schools. As a result, anxious disability advocates spent much of the weekend scrambling through hundreds of pages of complex policy documents, trying to determine how the rescinded guidance might affect disabled students across the United States.
Special education attorney and autistic self advocate Michael Gilberg told NOS Magazine he was, "deeply troubled by the US Department of Education's decision to rescind 72 documents without any actual explanation of why... Parents, attorneys and advocates rely on this guidance to ensure that [disability accommodation … Continue Reading ››
This week's episode, Point Three Percent, is about honesty and when it is appropriate to lie. While previous episodes have touched on lying as a social skill, this week the topic is approached in a serious kind of way, not in a "scaring patients by saying they might have flesh eating bacteria" kind of way. The theme was mostly successful.
Dr. Shaun Murphy continues to be an asshole, and I love it. At this point it's established that if he thinks a rule isn't important, even if he's told explicitly about it, he'll disregard it. I can't actually tell if the writers actually realize that Shaun is being an asshole when he does this, rather than a precious cinnamon bun who has done nothing wrong. I hope they do, and I hope they continue to explore the consequences of Shaun's actions. People are assholes. I'm excited that Dr. Murphy gets to … Continue Reading ››
On Friday, the Chicago chapter of ADAPT protested outside the office of Congressman Bobby Rush (D-IL). For over seven hours, a dozen ADAPTers used their own bodies and wheelchairs to block doors on all sides of the building, chanting "just like a nursing home you can't get out!" The protest was in response to Congressman Rush's continued co-sponsorship of the ADA Education & Reform Act of 2017, also known as HR620. Critics argue that the bill rolls back Americans with Disability Act protections that motivate businesses to comply with the law.
Friday's protest occurred after Congressman Rush was given 48 hours by Chicago ADAPT to remove his co-sponsorship from HR620, or at least to provide a public written statement indicating that he would do so. 48 hours passed, and his office did not issue a statement. Despite several attempts, NOS Magazine has been unable to get comments from Congressman Rush's … Continue Reading ››
Yesterday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of regular oversight. For over five hours, he answered questions about sexual orientation, gender, race, drug policy, Russia, fetal tissue sales and many other topics. Remarkably, no one asked him about the Justice Department's progress on disability issues. Sessions did say, at one point, that the Justice Department is, "committed to protecting the civil rights of all Americans." Is this true for disability issues?
Earlier this week, disability advocates filed a class action lawsuit against the state of Georgia for segregating disabled students in a separate and unequal school system called the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support, or GNETS. Through the lawsuit the Arc, Center for Public Representation, and others are demanding the state to provide students access to the disability support services they need at their own neighborhood public schools.
GNETS often does not have … Continue Reading ››
I have a confession to make: Oftentimes media criticism with a dash of social justice feels like a race to see who can say the most cutting, critical things about poor representation first. Sometimes, like with Atypical, the ire is well deserved. Other times, I feel pressure to declare something irredeemably Problematic before really giving it a chance.
Another related confession: I actually really liked this episode of The Good Doctor. I feel like Dr. Shaun Murphy got to be an actual, flawed person. There are several instances where I sort of wanted to slap him, but not because I thought he was being written badly -- Only that he was making some of the same mistakes I or autistic friends have made in the past while trying to figure out how to be an independent adult. Note: I would not actually slap anyone unless they explicitly asked me to … Continue Reading ››
A show that ran as long as Law & Order is, naturally, going to have some off days. I’ll admit to occasionally tuning into the show’s seemingly never-ending basic cable blocks as a guilty pleasure, but one of the telltale signs you’re about to watch one of the shitty ones is when the culprit is apprehended about 20 minutes in. When it’s taken care of that early, you know the trial portion of the episode is going to revolve around the perpetrator’s lawyer arguing that their client killing people is a medical condition or something similarly absurd. So you can imagine how irritated I was, to say the least, when someone decided to pull the same trick in real life.
The Internet is vast and contains multitudes If, for some reason, you want to identify the absolute worst people on here, there are several ways you could go. There are the … Continue Reading ››
This week’s episode of The Good Doctor is titled “Oliver." "Oliver" is the name of the donor of a very important liver, a liver that will save a life. The episode's main plot dealt with the ethics of transplantation, which is pretty heavy stuff. Transplant lists literally decide who will live and who will die. Overall, the episode was decent -- Much better than last week's DSM dumpster fire. Sean once again has motivations beyond pathology. God willing he stays that way for the rest of the season and even perhaps grows as a person.
I think ABC really missed an opportunity with this episode to educate, however. While exploring the ethics of transplantation, it would have been wonderful if they had explored the ethics of transplantation as it relates to people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities -- People like Dr. Sean Murphy. If Sean … Continue Reading ››
Last week, the Energy and Commerce Committee held a markup session for a bill that would refund the Children's Health Insurance Program, better known as CHIP. During the session, there was contentious discussion on topics ranging from the current disaster in Puerto Rico to Republican opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Many disability activists, however, were anxiously awaiting a different discussion. Congressman Bobby Rush (D-IL) planned to introduce an amendment to the CHIP bill that would make it possible for institutions to take money intended to support disabled people in their homes and communities.
CHIP itself is an important disability issue. It was created to provide health care for children and pregnant women in low- to middle-income homes whose annual incomes were only a little bit higher than the Medicaid limit. CHIP covers 9 million children and 370,000 pregnant women. Funding needs to be periodically reauthorized by Congress. Last … Continue Reading ››
As reported by NOS Magazine last week, Congressman Tim Murphy has found himself embroiled in a sex scandal. New information has revealed that while acting as a member of Congress's pro-life caucus, Murphy urged the woman he was having an affair with to get an abortion. As a result, Congressman Murphy has resigned, effective immediately. Murphy's resignation is excellent news for people with psychiatric disabilities.
Kit Mead, creator of Psych Ward Reviews, was delighted at the news of Murphy's resignation:
"Murphy was devoted to taking away the agency and voice of people with mental health disabilities. He advocated forced medication and loss of privacy. I hope that in the future mental health reform initiatives are led by people with disabilities."
This week's episode of The Good Doctor is titled "Mount Rushmore." It delves into issues of autism, honesty, and bedside manner. And to be honest, this week Dr. Murphy's writing unfortunately tilted him more towards being a DSM checklist than a person. I hope next week's episode does better.
I am intentionally only referring to Dr. Murphy as Dr. Murphy in this article instead of "Sean." Because he is a doctor. He went to medical school. He got good grades. He passed his board examinations. He is just as qualified as the other two surgical residents, if somewhat less experienced.
Watching Dr. Murphy being repeatedly abused and bullied without him even understanding that he is being abused and bullied was painful for me. Like many autistic adults, I've been in similar situations, and when you find out what people actually thought of you, it is soul-crushingly awful. It made the episode hard … Continue Reading ››
The Medicaid battle has come and gone again. Senators Graham and Cassidy came up with another plan to attack the Affordable Care Act. Due to the arcane rules of the Senate, they had until the end of September to pass their amendment with only 51 votes (including a tie-breaker from the Vice President); otherwise, they’ll need 60 again. Again, while this was an attack on millions of Americans, disabled and non-, the disability community in particular needed to come together to resist, because if this bill had succeeded, some disabled people who depend on Medicaid would have lost their freedom and others would have lost their lives. The direct action group ADAPT, which arises from the independent living movement, the most visible strand of the disability rights movement, was among the most visible to respond and played a key role in the failure of the Graham-Cassidy amendment.
This is … Continue Reading ››
I have a confession to make: I began watching ABC's The Good Doctor with extremely low expectations. Atypical, another recent series featuring an autistic protagonist, was a tirefireofbadstereotypesandworserepresentation. Awkward autistic white guy is nothing new or groundbreaking.
The Good Doctor desperately wants to believe that it is groundbreaking. Apparently, none of the unnamed "autism consultants" involved in the show told David Shore or the writers that there are actually plenty of autistic doctors and med students. So far, The Good Doctor is basically House, if House was an adorable talking kitten instead of a pill-popping curmudgeon. I actually really enjoyed House in all of its formulaic glory, but I'm not sure adding a dash of inspiration porn and subtracting a pinch of nihilism will lead to an enjoyable show.
That said, The Good Doctor had a … Continue Reading ››
Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are hellbent on scoring a healthcare win through their incessant efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. These bills have done under different names, but they are collectively known as Trumpcare. Though this year’s bills have all failed, Republicans keep introducing new repeal bills. Like undead monsters that just won’t stay in of the grave, Trumpcare keeps coming back to haunt us.
Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) are responsible for the latest attempt to resurrect Trumpcare. They’ve introduced a new healthcare bill as part of their attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, known as the ‘Graham/Cassidy bill’. Other Republican senators, like Dean Heller of Nevada, have also expressed support for this bill.
This incarnation of Trumpcare is even worse than the ‘skinny repeal’ rejected by Congress in July. The skinny repeal was bad enough, but Graham/Cassidy is probably the worst proposed version … Continue Reading ››
Last Wednesday, Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA) had an affair with Shannon Edwards, a married woman half his age. Murphy was forced to reveal the affair when the Pittsburgh Post Gazette succeeded in a court motion to unseal divorce documents. They also discovered that it is possible that Rep. Murphy abused the resources of his office over the course of his affair. This is significant to the disability community because Rep. Murphy may have been abusing the resources of his office during the time he was pushing for the Murphy bill to pass.
Rep. Murphy has long been one of Congress's most vocal champions of forced psychiatric medication. In 2016, Rep. Murphy championed the "Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act," better known as the Murphy bill, which would, in its original form, have increased funding for forced medication and institutionalization of people with psychiatric disabilities. His bill would … Continue Reading ››
The House judiciary committee has voted to move forward with a bill that could roll back some Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protections. 15 members of the committee voted to advance the bill, nine voted against it. Now that it has gone through markup, the bill will go to the floor of the House of Representatives, where it will go to a vote. The time and date of the vote have not yet been scheduled.
The ADA Education and Reform Act (HR 620) was put forward by Representative Ted Poe (R-Tex.). It has been cosponsored by 40 House Republicans and 11 Democrats. This legislation would amend the ADA to add a 120 day waiting period between when a business is notified of an ADA violation and when the person reporting can take the case to court. During that 120 days, businesses would be expected to fix or “make substantial progress” towards … Continue Reading ››
On September 1, Kiehl’s, a popular cosmetic company, launched a campaign with to raise money for Autism Speaks. In a video some might describe as cringe-inducing, McConaughey implores viewers to share his video because, “children with autism need our support and they need it right now… They need access to services to give them a real chance at a better life.” For each share of the video, Kiehl’s has committed to contributing $1, up to $200,000. Additionally, Kiehl’s is selling “Ultra Facial Cream Limited Edition 2017,” which the Kiehl’s website describes as, “a daily face moisturizer to promote autism awareness.” The site does not elaborate how exactly a face moisturizer would promote awareness of anything.
Ironically, money donated to Autism Speaks is unlikely to give autistic people a “real chance at a better life,” nor would it give anyone autistic access to services. As of 2017, only 3% … Continue Reading ››
Have you ever heard the phrase "that person has the mind of a five year old In an adult body?" It is something many adults with intellectual disabilities, like me, have to deal with. For years, medical professionals have told parents of newly diagnosed Intellectually disabled people that they would mentally be children for their entire lives. Even through I am a 28-year-old, pregnant, married adult, as well as a faculty member at University of Washington, people still tell me that I think like a child. These words are not just offensive language. They can also take away our rights to normal adult lives. Historically, so-called “mental age theory” has stripped people with intellectual and developmental disabilities of our dignity, our reproductive freedom and our parental rights. Age theory has also been used to strip us of the rights to make adult choices, such as buying alcohol and tobacco or having sexual … Continue Reading ››
Cards Against Humanity is a game whose own creators describe it as, “a party game for horrible people.” The game has been extremely popular, with several official and unofficial expansion packs available. Recently, a group of behavior analysts decided to get in on the fun by making their own expansion pack. Unfortunately, the result is anything but fun. In fact, it makes light of several abusive practices that are not currently restricted by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, the governing body for board certified behavior analysts all over the world. “Pinch the nose to release the jaw” isn’t funny when you’re on the receiving end of “feeding therapy” or having ammonia sprayed in your mouth as a punishment for noncompliance. The cards also included multiple references to physical restraint, electric shocks, and feces.
NOS Magazine reached out to the original poster of the cards, Dr. Amanda Kelly, also … Continue Reading ››
This month, the Florida Department of Highway Safety of Motor Vehicles released new driver’s licenses and ID cards. The department describes the new cards as, “the most secure over-the-counter credential on the market today.” Specific security features include multiple details that glow under ultraviolet light. You can get markers on your driver’s license that indicate if you are deaf/hard of hearing, if you are an organ donor, if you have a hunting or fishing license, and if you’re a veteran. You cannot, however, get a marker on your driver’s license that indicates that you have a developmental disability. That marker is only available on non-driver ID cards.
In December, when the developmental disability designations first rolled out, the department claimed that the lack of availability for driver’s licenses was only temporary. "[It] will go into effect once the redesigned Florida driver license is implemented," department spokesperson Beth Frady told the … Continue Reading ››
In May, Politico released an unofficial White House visitor log. The numbers they compiled were striking: 6 months into the Trump presidency, approximately 80% White House visitors were white and a little less than two thirds were cis men. They also revealed that the President has met with significantly more Republicans than Democrats and almost the same number of foreign leaders as American celebrities. After intensive analysis, NOS Magazine has determined that as of August 24, only 15 of the 1646 visitors to the White House are publicly known to have a disability. That’s less than 1%. Almost all of them have been wounded veterans or what the White House calls “Obamacare victims.”
The lack of an official, public visitor log is a break from the Obama era, where most visits were released after a three month lag. The Obama White House did maintain some exceptions. They … Continue Reading ››
A number of nonprofits, including the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross and Susan G. Komen have canceled plans to hold fundraising events at the Mar-a-Lago Club and other Trump properties. These cancellations are in response to what many feel to be inadequate and offensive statements from President Trump about a recent white supremacist march in Charlottesville. President Trump’s initial response was that there were bad actors on “both sides” and that there were some “fine people” marching alongside the self-described Nazis and white supremacists attending Unite the Right.
What decisions have nonprofits relevant to the neurodiversity community made in response to the President's statements on Charlottesville? This article outlines which organizations have stood by President Trump and which have not, as President Trump makes unprecedented attacks on programs like SSDI and Medicaid that many in our community need to survive. Autistic people who are … Continue Reading ››
Episode 6 of Atypical is titled, "The D-Train to Bone Town." I feel slightly uncomfortable just typing that phrase. It was an uncomfortable episode to watch overall. Atypical is threaded with racist subtext, but it really comes to a head in this episode. Somehow, all of the mean girls are black women. April the mean mom? she's black. Sharice, Casey's so-called best friend who betrays her? Black. Her track mates are people of color, too. The only empathetic black character in this episode is Harmony, a sex worker, and she is thoroughly objectified by both Sam and the show's writers. I don't think it's intentional, but the image of autism as a white disease causes serious hurt and isolation for black autistic people and their families. The image of Sam's white family being afflicted by intolerant, neurotypical black people is not a good look for the writers.
In the fifth episode of Atypical, "That's My Sweatshirt," Paige overtakes Claire for the most unlikeable character in the show. She seemed quirky and sweet last episode, but as she systematically violates Sam's space and controls him to an abusive degree, she's completely lost me and has taken the crown for the Worst Person on this show. And that's saying something, since the episode caps off with Elsa cheating on her husband, again. Which is still, somehow, autism's fault and not hers.
A core part of the family dynamic on Atypical is that somehow, Sam's autism makes everyone around him's life worse. How, exactly, is unclear. It seems that the mere fact of Sam's autism negatively impacts everyone around him to a degree where any and all terrible behavior is excused and justified. It's a completely toxic dynamic. It's not funny. It's not even sympathetic. It's horrifying. I feel sorry for … Continue Reading ››
In Atypical's fourth episode, "A Nice, Neutral Smell," Sam's Odyssey to date continues. A girl, Paige (Jenna Boyd), shows interest in him! Why exactly is mysterious, since he treats her and other women terribly. She's a little quirky and probably has low self-esteem, so apparently that means they're perfect for each other? Of course, the writers continue to portray Sam's awfulness towards women and girls as some kind of natural extension of his autism. Last time I checked, misogyny isn't part of the diagnostic criteria for autism, although I suppose I should give them props for giving Sam a personality trait beyond an autism symptom checklist, however unintentionally.