The Good Doctor: Season One, Episode Seven

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 ››

Congressman Rush Changes Stance on Disability Rights

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days of protest and pressure from disability rights activists in Chicago and Washington DC, Congressman Bobby Rush has withdrawn his sponsorship and support from the misleadingly titled, "ADA Education and Reform Act," also known as HR 620.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 ››

The Good Doctor: Season One, Episode Six

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 ››

#FreeRosa Case Shines a Light on Undocumented and Disabled

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 ››

Stop Using Intellectual Disability as an Insult

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 ››

No One Should be Talking About What’s Best for Me Besides Me

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 ››

Autistic Advocates Clash with Autism Parents at Government Committee Meeting

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 ››

Rescinded Guidance from Department of Education Mostly Harmless (This Time)

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 ››

The Good Doctor: Season One, Episode Five

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 ››

After ADAPT Protest at Chicago Office, Rush Remains Silent

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 ››

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against ‘Drop Out Factories for Abandoned Kids’

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 ››

The Good Doctor: Season One, Episode Four

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 ››

Legal Claim Autistic Rapist ‘Didn’t Know Any Better’ is Bullshit

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 ››

The Good Doctor: Season One, Episode Three

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 ››

Democratic Congressman Withdraws Latest Attack on Disability Rights

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 ››

Congressman Tim Murphy Resigns, Neurodiversity Community Feels Relief

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."
During his time in Congress, Murphy was the most vocal champion of forced psychiatric medication.  In 2016, Murphy championed the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,” better known as the … Continue Reading ››

The Good Doctor: Season One, Episode Two

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 ››

ADAPT Action is Not the Entirety of Disability Rights

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 ››

The Good Doctor: Season One, Episode One

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 tire fire of bad stereotypes and worse representation. 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 ››

Zombie Trumpcare Rises from the Bowels of Hell Again

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 ››

Martin Shkreli Doesn’t Matter, Daraprim Still $750 per Pill

Yesterday, a federal judge revoked the $5 million bail of Martin Shkreli, the infamous pharma bro. This means he is definitely going to jail while he awaits sentencing for securities fraud. The Internet, unsurprisingly, is engulfed in a paroxysm of schadenfreude. Shkreli is an easy man to hate. Whether he's offering thousands of dollars to anyone who pulls Hillary Clinton's hair out or "disrespecting the Wu-Tang Clan," Martin Shkreli is easily the most hated man in America. And you know what? I couldn't possibly care less. Daraprim still costs $750 per pill. Nothing has changed for me or anyone else who needs Daraprim. Nothing that happens to Martin Shkreli will change that. Daraprim, often inaccurately referred to as an "AIDS drug" in media coverage, treats acute toxoplasmosis infection. Toxoplasmosis can cause brain, eye, and lung  damage in fetuses and people with weakened immune … Continue Reading ››

Murphy Bill Author Embroiled in Sex Scandal

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 ››

Anti-ADA Legislation Advances in House

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 ››

Autistic Activists Call for Kiehl’s Boycott

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 ››

Mental Age Theory Hurts People with Intellectual Disabilities

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 ››

‘Cardgate’ Scandal Uncovers Widespread Disrespect of Autistic People

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 ››

Developmentally Disabled Drivers Excluded From Florida ID Law

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 ››

Less Than One Percent of Trump White House Visitors Have a Disability

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 ››

Which Disability Nonprofits are Sticking with Mar-a-Lago?

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 ››

Atypical: Season One, Episode Six

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.

‘You asked … Continue Reading ››

Atypical: Season One, Episode Five

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 ››

Atypical: Season One, Episode Four

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.

‘Gonna break that record, superstar?’

Atypical: Season One, Episode Three

The overall theme of the third episode of Atypical, "Julia Says," is change. An often discussed "core symptom" of autism is what diagnosticians call "inflexibility." Ironically, the most inflexible person in this episode is Elsa. She has built her entire identity around Sam being dependent on her. As her family grows and changes around her, Elsa acts out. By the end of the episode she has assaulted a store clerk and is sleeping with Nick the bartender. Somehow, this is autism's fault or something. I still can't tell if she's supposed to be relatable or likeable.

‘Humans can't be perfect because we're not machines.’

Atypical: Season One, Episode Two

The second episode of Atypical is titled "A Human Female." After watching it, I feel like I need a shower. Is this supposed to be funny? Humanizing? Because after watching this episode, instead of merely socially inept, Sam seems dangerous. Has he never read a book or watched a movie with a human relationship in it? Has he never watched his parents? Why won't anybody in his life have a talk with him about what's appropriate and inappropriate in relationships or about appropriate boundaries in general? I am usually pretty skeptical of social skills training programs, but damn.

‘Enticing a human female into mating takes different skills. It requires research.’

As Sam narrates how roosters attract hens for mating by putting on a display, we get a flash of Sam's mother, Elsa, in the bar, seriously considering infidelity. We get more Discovery Channel narration from Sam as his sister waves … Continue Reading ››

Atypical: Season One, Episode One

When the trailer for Atypical, a new Netflix series, dropped, the online autistic community shared a collective groan. It's a story we've all seen before: Awkward autistic white guy tries to date girls. Hugh Dancy did it in Adam. Many autistic people were concerned about poor representation, since the actor playing the main character, Sam, is not autistic. Netflix assured people that the "social production team," whatever that is, included autistic people. The social production team doesn't seem important enough to merit a credit. Their full time consultant appears to be a researcher from UCLA -- Not exactly someone who would be able to provide input on a humanizing portrayal of an autistic person. And it shows. Sam reads like a DSM diagnostic checklist, not a person. After watching one episode, I feel confident saying that it is exactly as bad as you thought it was. Possibly worse. I … Continue Reading ››

This Week in Neurodiversity

Each Friday at NOSmag, I post some links relevant to neurodiversity news and culture criticism around the web. This is what I’ve been reading and that I think you should be reading too. Feel free to add links of your own in the comments and email suggestions for future link roundups to nos.editorial@gmail.com or Tweet us @NOSeditorial.

Government Committee Recommends Increase in Autism Research Funding

The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) recently recommended that autism research funding double, including an increase to adult services and supports. They also called for an increase in research funding for co-occurring conditions like epilepsy or Ehler-Danlos syndrome, which cause death and chronic pain for many autistic people. IACC is a government advisory panel made up of federal officials, autism professionals, family members and autistic adults. Currently, only three of the 31 IACC members are autistic. None of the federal members are autistic, nor is their chair. IACC is responsible for setting federal autism  research priorities. John Elder Robison, an autistic member of IACC, is pleased with the increase, as well as increased attention to issues beyond basic biology and genetics. “In accordance with out new President’s wish to make America great and get things done, we have recommended a level of funding that we feel will take us a … Continue Reading ››

Micah David-Cole Fletcher, Autistic Hero

Last Friday, a terrorist attack occurred in Portland. A local white supremacist had heaped verbal abuse on two young women, one of whom was wearing a hijab. Three men intervened to try to help these young women, and were violently stabbed. Those who stand up to hate, even at risk to themselves, deserve the title of hero. Tragically, two of these heroes, Rick Bestand Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, died of wounds sustained in the incident. The third,  Micah David-Cole Fletcher, is now recovering from being stabbed in the neck after two hours of surgery to remove bone fragments from his throat. He is also openly Autistic. As , Micah discussed his diagnosis in a 2015 profile in Venture Magazine, a literary publication affiliated with Mt. Hood Community College.
You got to understand that middle school was not a good point in my life at all," Fletcher said. In fact, he was institutionalized … Continue Reading ››

Bill Nye Can’t Save the World Without Disabled People

In many ways, I'm the perfect audience for Bill Nye Saves the World, the new Netflix show from the former Boeing engineer and Science Guy. Like many Millennials, I grew up watching Bill Nye the Science Guy. I still love informational science videos, especially those focused on debunking pseudoscience. I'm autistic, a group that's regularly in the crosshairs of science denial like  anti-vaxxers and alt-med quack "cures." I live in Austin, not a hard place to find people who believe in juice cleanses or panic about GMOs. When the new show debuted last weekend, I was more than ready for Bill Nye to teach me science again, and to arm me with arguments against the science denialists in my life. Bill Nye's show might not save the world, but it did promise to make my own life smarter and more fun. My optimism grew as the show drew opposition from … Continue Reading ››

Ford Foundation Breaks Commitment to Disability Rights, Funds Institution

Sometime in the next few years, a new institution will open in Delaware. Despite the New York Times and Boston Globe's pearl-clutching angst about the supposed devastating social impact of deinstitutionalization and lack of desire to consider newer, better, cleaner asylums. This institution, like many similar ones cropping up mostly unnoticed outside disabled activism in the past several years, claims to be an “intentional community of choice” offering people with disabilities more options for housing with supports in place that they might need. That rhetoric is extremely misleading at best, and outright dangerous at worst. It completely twists the meaning of the word “choice” beyond all recognition, to an extent that should make any English teacher cringe in shame. Over the past several years, I've been working on policy advocacy around a set of federal regulations known as the Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services Rule. This is better known as … Continue Reading ››

Innovative Approach on Autism May Prove a Key to Solving Silicon Valley’s Diversity Problem

Over three days in mid-April, leading thinkers from across the technology sector met at SAP Labs in Palo Alto, California. The mood was urgent. The pace frantic. Conversations were ecstatic. At the end of the three-day process, technology executives emerged from their under-the-radar gathering carrying with them the models and metrics that may just prove to be a deciding factor in solving for Silicon Valley’s diversity problem. Silicon Valley’s challenges in building diverse workforces are well-documented. In 2016, Deloitte reported that only 2% of the tech workforce is black, 3% Latino, and 24% female. Difficulties in recruiting and supporting talent from underrepresented backgrounds have been met with attitudes of blissful ignorance by corporate leaders to all-out panic among public relations executives. This is an image of Code 2040 CEO Laura Weidman POwers. She is a young woman with long black hair and … <a href=Continue Reading ››

50+ Autistic People You Should Know

Not too long ago, Kerry Magro released a list called “100 People with Autism You Should Know,” with the intent of introducing autistic people and their allies to a variety of autistic advocates. Unfortunately, Magro’s list doesn’t really reflect the autistic community. Magro’s list contributes to the idea that autistic people are predominantly white men who don’t view their disability as political. This alternative list is an effort to reflect the diversity of the autistic community. I wanted to highlight fierce advocates for civil rights and inclusion that reject the idea that we must comply in order to be acceptable. You can find these trailblazing autistic activists on personal blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube and other social media.

5 Awful Autism Awareness Month Products

TS Eliot was right -- April is the cruelest month. Autism Awareness Month can be an anxious, or at least facepalm-inducing time for many autistic folks, myself included. Whether it's harebrained celebrities endorsing Autism Speaks or President Trump lighting it up blue at the White House, non-autistic people are ready to shout how very aware they are. With that in mind, here are 5 cringe-worthy autism awareness products for sale this April. These are all real things for sale on the internet. Really. 5. This shirt isn't even blue. This is a red t-shirt with a puzzle piece on it. It reads "I wear blue for autism awareness." There is no blue on the t-shirt anywhere. 4. Nothing says "love" like what could easily be interpreted as a violent threat by someone very literal. Like say, an autistic person. This is an … <a href=Continue Reading ››

The Disability Rights Movement Needs Our Activism Now

At a September 2016 campaign stop in Orlando, Florida, Hillary Clinton delivered her Inclusive Economies speech, which unveiled a progressive pro-disability platform.  In her speech, Secretary Clinton painted a picture of an "inclusive economy that welcomes people with disabilities, values their work, and treats them with respect." By claiming progress for people with disabilities through the lens of employment and economic participation, she struck right at the heart of American inclusion. The quintessential goal of the disability advocacy movement is independent living: The opportunity to prepare for a career life, hold down a job and have agency over important decisions.  As the then leader of the Democratic Party, Clinton called on all Americans to focus our energy on making this nation a better place to live for people with disabilities.  Although the election results mean Clinton won't be implementing this platform, her call to action remains a priority for individuals, … Continue Reading ››

The Disability Rights Movement Must Be Pro-Choice

The hardest thing about the current framing of the abortion debate for disability justice advocates is that it forces us to choose between two of our core convictions: Inherent human worth and bodily autonomy. As a disabled person, an asexual non-binary person who was assigned female at birth, and an activist, I hate the ideas and circumstances that have put these principles in opposition to each other. Still, the choice is easy for me to make. My nearly absolute belief in bodily autonomy means nothing if I’d support forcing a person to remain pregnant and give birth against their will for any reason because of my own opposition to eugenics. There’s no question that I, as an autistic person with a cleft lip and palate (among other disabilities), am among the types of disabled people impacted by what’s often referred to as disability-selective abortion. There are ongoing attempts to find a … Continue Reading ››

The Disability Rights Movement Should Be Pro-Life

I was conceived, unplanned, in Soviet occupied Latvia. I am also disabled. When I was born, I was born prematurely. I had deformed feet called "club feet" and I was very small. I was also  born with developmental disabilities. Because I was unwanted I was sent to an institutional orphanage in Riga, the capital of Latvia. I lived there for 5 years, until my American family was able to adopt me. I have lived in America for 23 years now and I love it here! I think of my birth mother a lot. I am thankful she let me live. She did not see my life as a life not worth living. In America, I learned that this is not true for all unwanted and disabled babies. There are pre-natal tests people can take to figure out if they baby is disabled, so parents can make a decision whether to abort … Continue Reading ››

What April Should Be

April has become a month of memory even if we don't often talk about it that way. In April, we remember the Autistic community's conflict with Autism Speaks. Four years ago, that struggle was all-consuming. It was impossible not to take a side. For people on the side I chose, neurodiversity, hope for Autistic people as we are, hope for a vibrant, diverse humanity, it was hard to go a day without thinking about what felt like an existential threat. Every day that went by was another day of cure research, another day when resources devoted to cure research weren't used to show the world what we knew: that an Autistic life could be a worthwhile one. Living under that oppressive sense that we were running out of time, that someone was always trying to wipe us out, wore people down. What we did about it wore people down. Exhaustion … Continue Reading ››

William Shatner Doubles Down on Lighting it Up Blue

In Joel and Ethan Coen’s “Barton Fink,” there’s a scene where the title character (John Turturro), a pretentious playwright who’s moved to Hollywood, meets his new neighbor Charlie (John Goodman), an insurance salesman. Fink shares his ambition to tell stories about “the common man,” with Charlie piping up that he could “tell you some stories” several times. Fink doesn’t take the hint, simply steamrolling ahead instead of listening to the guy whose voice he’s supposedly out to capture. It can be a frustratingly similar experience for a member of a marginalized group trying to get a word in edgewise with someone claiming to advocate for you, especially if they’re being less helpful than they imagine they are. It can be mortifying to be told you’re hindering rather than helping, but someone who sincerely cares about their advocacy will make time to listen to those affected by it. And then there’s William Shatner, … Continue Reading ››

Lindt Breaks with Autism Speaks

Chocoholics have reason to celebrate this April. The chocolate company Lindt is no longer supporting Autism Speaks. On March 30, Lindt USA responded on Twitter to concerned activist @lechatsavant. When asked about supporting Autism Speaks, Lindt tweeted: “Hi there. This year, Lindt USA has decided to move in a different direction with our Easter program. Thank you.” The company has not otherwise commented on the shift. Its website currently makes no mention of autism or Autism Speaks. While Autism Speaks’ official website still lists Lindt as a partner, that possibly refers to the company’s past support of the organization. This represents a welcome change from years past. Since 2009, Lindt has partnered with Autism Speaks during the month of April through its Lindt Gold Bunny Celebrity Auction. The coincidence of Autism Awareness Month with Easter enabled the fundraiser. In previous years, between 60 and 90 celebrities signed Lindt’s signature GOLD … Continue Reading ››

The Lucidity Project

When Max reaches new levels of depressive despair she’s exhausted most of her conventional treatment options. She’s tried a range of different medications and therapies, all of which failed to work or made her symptoms worse. But a completely unconventional option is put on the table in Abbey Campbell Cook’s new novel The Lucidity Project: Dream therapy on the astral plane guided by a psychic guru. Needless to say, The Lucidity Project requires a certain level of suspension of disbelief from empirically-minded readers. The premise that Max must spend 21 days on a haunted Caribbean island and do psychic work in order to find relief from her relentless depression is clearly far-fetched. Nonetheless, The Lucidity Project offers a stimulating and radical re-imagining of what mental illness is, or could be. It understands depression as a superpower rather than a deficit. It would either be incredibly New Agey or a mistake (depending on … Continue Reading ››

This Week in Neurodiversity

Each Friday at NOSmag, I post some links relevant to neurodiversity news and culture criticism around the web. This is what I’ve been reading and that I think you should be reading too. Feel free to add links of your own in the comments and email suggestions for future link roundups to nos.editorial@gmail.com or Tweet us @NOSeditorial.

Effective Altruism and Disability Rights are Incompatible

Earlier this month, members of the University of Victoria Effective Altruism Club were surprised to find themselves a target of protest as they hosted a talk from celebrity philosophy professor Peter Singer. After all, Singer is known worldwide for his views on animal rights and charitable giving. He was lecturing on the effective altruist movement, his effort to make charitable giving more effective by measuring impact and encouraging donors to shift their contributions to specific interventions in the developing world believed to have the lowest cost per life saved. And yet, for much of his career, Singer has been known for another reason: As the philosopher making the case for legalizing the murder of disabled infants. Throughout his career, Singer has been a critic of laws designed to protect disabled people. In his 1979 book, Practical Ethics, he made the case for allowing parents to kill children with spina bifida and … Continue Reading ››

Nina Simone: Black Activist, Bipolar Savant

I've been on a journey to bring disabled African American history into the light by reclaiming the disabled identities of history makers. There is a hidden rule that unless such revelations are unavoidable, a person's disabled identity is best ignored. When such disability is so inseparable from the arc of the figure's life it cannot be erased, then disability is made the scapegoat for anything negative befalling such a person. Nina Simone was what I'll call a bipolar savant.  She was neurodivergent and did her best work as an activist completely unaware she was bipolar and suffering from PTSD. As such, the disability community should embrace her as a savant in the wider sphere of neurodivergent people who demonstrate talent usually limited to the label autistic savant. The recent purchase of Nina Simone’s birthplace by four African American artists who are now restoring it has brought media spotlight back on Ms. Simone and her legacy. This gives … Continue Reading ››

It Shouldn’t Be Legal for So-called Care Workers to Kill Your Cat

William Dean died on October 16, 2016, from natural causes. A lawsuit on his behalf was still being brought against the state of Maine. In March 2017, I found the article “State can’t be sued for selling property, euthanizing cat of man in its care, Maine’s top court rules,” and remembered the case at once. The Supreme Court of Maine ruled that lawyers suing on behalf of Dean’s estate could not sue the Maine Department of Health and Human Services for selling his properties and euthanizing his cat. In May 2012, Dean, a man with an autism spectrum diagnosis and mental health needs, was institutionalized in Dorothea Dix Hospital in Bangor, Maine. He had entered a mental health crisis following the death of his mother. Sometime subsequently, the state of Maine euthanized a 10-year-old Himalayan cat named Caterpillar. She had been Dean’s companion for some time. The state had successfully … Continue Reading ››

Trump Department of Labor Pick Will Not Oppose Subminimum Wage

For disability rights activists concerned with the subminimum wage, a critical moment happened during the March 22 confirmation hearing for R. Alexander Acosta, Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Labor. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) questioned Acosta about the subminimum wage. According to Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers can pay employees with disabilities an hourly wage that is well below the national minimum wage. These work arrangements are commonly referred to as sheltered workshops. While Hassan’s question was encouraging, Acosta’s response was decidedly less so. Acosta stated that he supports the right of individual states (such as New Hampshire, where Hassan served as governor from 2013 to 2016) to implement measures that eliminate the subminimum wage. However, Acosta indicated that he will not steps to eliminate the subminimum wage on a national scale. Acosta defended the subminimum wage. He stated, “I think this is a very … Continue Reading ››

This Week in Neurodiversity

Each Friday at NOSmag, I’m going to post some links relevant to neurodiversity news and culture criticism around the web. This is what I’ve been reading and that I think you should be reading too. Feel free to add links of your own in the comments and email suggestions for future link roundups to nos.editorial@gmail.com or Tweet us @NOSeditorial.

Chiron, James Baldwin, and Autistic Experience

Two days after an Academy Awards where Moonlight won ‘Best Picture’, a line of over 1,000 people wrapped three city blocks awaiting to see its showing at the palatial Castro Theatre in San Francisco. As the first winner to feature a queer storyline as well as an entirely black cast, that enthusiastic turnout was understandable - especially among populations that saw themselves reflected for the first time in a Best Picture winner. Great art, and Moonlight is certainly great art, has the ability to not only offer a cultural critique but to pull out from the viewer an intimate connection to the work presented before them. Great art can draw that connection even if the viewer’s own life and story only passively relate to the subject they are engaging with (plenty of people have seemed to passionately connect with the themes of the hit Broadway musical ‘Hamilton’ despite never having lived … Continue Reading ››

In Defense of Effective Altruism

When I saw the recent protests by disability rights advocates of Peter Singer’s talk at an effective altruism club, I cringed. I support disability rights because I am a disabled person and I do, in fact, have a sense of self-interest. I support effective altruism because I was aware of all the suffering there was in the world and I felt powerless to actually do anything about it. Through evidence and reason, effective altruists try to figure out how ordinary people can best improve the world. We ask questions like “if you want people in the developing world to be better off economically, is it better to pay for deworming treatments because children without worms grow up to earn more money, or just to give them cash?” And “if you’re trying to do good, is it better to get a high-earning job so you can donate lots of … Continue Reading ››

This Week in Neurodiversity

Each Friday at NOSmag, I’m going to post some links relevant to neurodiversity news and culture criticism around the web. This is what I’ve been reading and that I think you should be reading too. Feel free to add links of your own in the comments and email suggestions for future link roundups to nos.editorial@gmail.com or Tweet us @NOSeditorial.

Farms for Disabled People aren’t a New Idea

Every few weeks, or at least with mind-boggling rapidity, a publication decides it has hit upon a great new idea to solve housing support issues for disabled adults, including those with mental health disabilities. They run a piece about nature-based farmstead “communities” of disabled people and staff who support them, and the “therapeutic” values of said farmsteads. They describe them often as a positive alternative to institutions, but these settings fail to qualify as alternatives to institutions. They are institutions. The idea that nature-based, isolated settings benefit mental health is popular today. For context, I define nature-based care  as “sending disabled people off to rural areas to be in the quiet aura of the country so that their mental health and/or other disabilities heal,” also historically known as “institutionalization,” regardless of whether the people wanted to go there.The articles and their authors fail to mention that these farmsteads are institutions that segregate … Continue Reading ››

Medicaid Block Granting is Going to Kill Us

Congressional Republicans recently introduced the American Health Care Act, or “TrumpCare,” a potential replacement for the ACA. This bill has the backing of Trump, Ryan, and other Republican leaders. The AHCA includes a proposal to convert Medicaid into a series of block grants as a way to save the government money on health coverage. Block grants are a type of federal funding that allocates a set amount to state governments to run programs like Medicaid. According to the Republicans, block grants will give more freedom to the states and allow more flexibility to be innovative. In theory, devolving more control to the states will allow local governments to more adequately identify which citizens need specific kinds of care. Unfortunately, these promises from the GOP don’t match the reality of what Medicaid block grants mean, especially for the low-income and disabled people who are dependent on Medicaid coverage to stay alive. … Continue Reading ››

How Kellyanne Conway Sits Doesn’t Matter

Recently, White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway was photographed kneeling on the couch in the Oval Office, staring intently at her phone, as a crowd of dignified African American educational leaders in suits posed for a photo with President Trump. Some of the social media responses were genuinely funny, some were cruel, some posed serious concerns, and some were just plain ridiculous. But the overall picture they form is, not surprisingly, an unfairly judgmental one. Many commenters accused Conway of uncouthness and unladylike behavior. Many faulted Conway's upbringing. For example, one  comment I saw asked if she “even had a mother,” implying that anyone with parents would know better than to put their feet on the sofa. This is part of a much larger trend of judging human beings, particularly women, by their appearance and behavior at every moment. It's remarkable how much we believe we can tell about a person … Continue Reading ››

Speechless O-S-Oscar P-A-Party Reinforces a Dangerous Stereotype

I love ABC’s Speechless.  It is one of my favorite shows currently on the air. As someone with cerebral palsy, I’m beyond thrilled that someone like me is finally being shown on TV as just a regular character, not a “special” guest to teach the non-disabled characters the meaning of kindness. Micah Fowler, who plays JJ, actually has cerebral palsy, a fact that excites me to no end. Unfortunately,the show has a worrying trend of sort of sideways swiping a trope or stereotype about disability, but not directly subverting it.  It’s like after the first few episodes, the show lost its nerve.  And nowhere was that more obvious than the latest episode, O-S-Oscar P-A-Party. In it, Maya hosts an Oscars viewing party for her support group of “special needs” moms. The moms are your typical stereotype of a mom parenting a kid with a disability – Perpetually messy, sweatpants-wearing, warrior moms … Continue Reading ››

Keah Brown: Disabled, Cute and on a Mission

Keah Brown is a journalist and writer whose work has appeared in ESPNW, Teen Vogue, Lenny Letter and other publications. She also runs an amazing Twitter.  Recently, Keah launched the #DisabledAndCute hashtag declaring herself and anyone who cared to contribute their own selfies cute. It has since become a huge hashtag, with people from all around the world with many types of disabilities and with many different intersections contributing their own cuteness and self love. Magazines and content aggregator sites alike have posted galleries from the tag, and Keah was even interviewed for TV. I decided I wanted to interview Keah and talk about the tag, representation, intersectionality, and writing. Savannah: I loved the way that the hashtag uses the attractive rather than patronizing use of cute. Could you talk a little about how you landed on cute?   Keah: the word … Continue Reading ››

End Silence from National Organizations on Dietrich Assault

The Dietrich, Idaho locker room assault victim needs to matter to organizations in disability rights advocacy and mental health advocacy.  He needs to matter to human rights advocacy groups. He needs to matter to civil rights groups, and groups advocating against hate crimes.  He needs to matter to advocacy organizations that fight to help survivors of torture. The silence from national disability advocacy organizations makes it clear that when it comes to crimes against disabled victims, Black lives don’t matter. This silence is complete and familiar. This silence is a further indignity on this 18-year-old African American disabled victim. What happened to this innocent Black victim screaming in a cold storage closet of locker room at a public high school didn’t matter to the prosecutor. It didn’t matter to the town’s football team.  The victim’s lifelong trauma didn’t matter to the judge, who shouted insulting accusations at the victim’s parents in open … Continue Reading ››

My Disability Does Not Make Me Too Dangerous to Own a Gun

“Just 4.5 grains- right there.” I stood next to my stepfather in his father’s garage, watching the scale as I measured gunpowder for the bullet cartridge we were assembling. While 9mm bullets can take more, this is the amount his father taught him when he was a kid. He helped me through assembling the bullet, the cartridge, and finally the primer. “If there’s ever an issue getting parts, this part is the part that will be hardest to source. You can reuse other parts, or make your own gun powder, but the primers aren’t reusable.” I didn’t grow up in a militia. This isn’t some cautionary tale. This is one of the basic rites of passage in my area: To have a family member train you in gun safety and use. It’s part of what it means to be an adult in Appalachian Pennsylvania. The day … Continue Reading ››

President Trump, There is no Autism Epidemic

I understand if it is hard to keep up with the news coming out of this White House. I don’t envy newsroom editors nor the White House Communications Office. With so much breaking news, you may have missed the episode this week where the President expressed his alarm with the growing rate of autism diagnoses. The President should be alarmed by what we have learned from the growing rate of autism diagnoses. As a former White House Presidential Appointee with a background of knowledge on both autism and how epidemics grow, I can tell you that he absolutely should be. But, it’s not for the reason that he thinks. On Tuesday, the President held a Parent-Teacher Conference Listening Session at the White House attended by Vice President Pence, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Senior White House Advisor Kellyanne Conway, and teachers and school administrators from across the country. One particular exchange … Continue Reading ››

ACLU Report on TSA SPOT Program Overlooks Risks for Disabled Travelers

On February 8, 2016, the ACLU came out with a study of more than 13,000 documents they received from a lawsuit leveled against the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). What the ACLU discovered is that the TSA’s Screening Passengers By Observation Techniques (SPOT) program does not detect suspicious people or terrorists, is not based on any empirical scientific evidence, and is racially discriminatory. The SPOT program makes use of supposed Behavior Detection Officers (BDOs), which look at the nervous tics and behaviors of passengers making their way through crowded airports and try to find evidence of “stress, fear, and deception.” I read through the ACLU report and its associated lawsuit and had to agree: The TSA’s SPOT program was ineffectual at best and racially discriminatory at worst. There is one group of people that wasn’t mentioned in the ACLU’s report that is important for understanding how harmful the TSA’s program is: People … Continue Reading ››

DNC Holds Forum on Disability Issues for Chair Candidates

On Sunday evening, the National Association of Democratic Disability Caucuses held a virtual candidate forum with candidates for Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Marked by its hosts as a historic step in building a more inclusive party, the forum offered candidates the opportunity to directly engage disabled DNC members ahead of the DNC’s meeting in Atlanta on February 25. There, members of the Democratic National Committee from across the country will gather to elect the body’s next chair. “We have to understand as a community that platitudes and promises are not going to cut it,” chair candidate and former Rock the Vote president Jehmu Greene stated in her closing remarks. Greene was noting the need, in her opinion, for the next DNC Chair to focus less on politics and more on organizing. Reflecting Greene’s opinion and the … Continue Reading ››

5 Ways to Make Your Web Content More Neurodiversity Inclusive

When most people think about accessibility in technology, their first thought may be about accessibility for blind or D/deaf people: captioning, visual descriptions or Braille conversion. Blind and D/deaf people aren’t the only ones who benefit from inclusive technology, though. Autistic people, people with learning disabilities, people with ADHD and other neurodivergent people also have access needs that site designers and developers can meet. Here are five ways you can make your websites and apps more accessible for neurodivergent people. Use subtitles/captions. Subtitles and captions for online videos aren’t just for D/deaf people or people with hearing loss. Many autistic people and other people with disabilities can have auditory processing difficulties that make it hard to understand spoken, recorded language. Using subtitles helps people follow what they’re listening to. Subtitles can also help people retain what they’ve heard long after they’ve finished watching the video. Avoid flashing images and clashing palettes. Quickly … Continue Reading ››

This Week in Neurodiversity

Each Friday at NOSmag, I’m going to post some links relevant to neurodiversity news and culture criticism around the web. This is what I’ve been reading and that I think you should be reading too. Feel free to add links of your own in the comments and email suggestions for future link roundups to nos.editorial@gmail.com or Tweet us @NOSeditorial.

Jeff Sessions’ Praise of 1924 Johnson-Reed Act Recalls a Dark Past

As President Calvin Coolidge signed the 1924 Johnson-Reed Act, he stated, "America must remain American." The Johnson-Reed Act, until 1965, restricted immigration of multiple racial and ethnic minorities into the United States before World War II, including Eastern European Jews. Many of these Jews later died in the Holocaust. The Act restricted these racial and ethnic groups in part due to eugenics “science” that said these groups were more likely to be “socially inadequate,” and become a “public burden.” Eugenicist Harry Laughlin, who managed the Eugenics Record Office, testified in 1920 about foreign-born groups in hospitals for the “insane.” His testimony included the remark, “the Italians, Russians, Austrians (largely Jews) constitute a large proportion of the insane.” Laughlin had been appointed around 1922 as the “Expert Eugenics Agent” to the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, and much of his research and testimonies provided the justification … Continue Reading ››

We Need Research on Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

Note: This post contains medical language and discussion of early death. Are many young adults with autism dying preventable deaths because they and their families are unaware of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome? When I was a member of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), I commented when representatives from Autistica UK presented on early death for adults with autism. They didn’t mention Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. I talked about Ehlers-Danlos, my son, and the fear that no one is researching or talking about this. I hadn’t heard anyone previously, and I haven’t seen anything on the topic since. That’s a problem. It’s especially a problem for me and my son. My son was a serious baby.  He was a bit floppy, delayed in crawling, sitting, and walking.  He learned to do all three before he was 14 months old. What he did not do was speak. After several rounds of diagnostic testing, he was diagnosed … Continue Reading ››

There are Bigger Threats to Autistics Than Autism Speaks

Autism Speaks is anti-autistic. Autism Speaks spends too much money on cause and cure research rather than things that are actually helpful.  Autism Speaks would like to ensure that future generations of autistic people are never born. All of those things are true. But you know what else is true? Autism Speaks is not the only threat to autistic people’s well-being and autonomy right now. In fact, in the era of Donald Trump’s presidency, it is hard to make the case that Autism Speaks is even close to the biggest threat. This is not a defense of Autism Speaks. Like most autistic people involved in the neurodiversity community, I am disgusted with Autism Speaks’ long history of ableism. However, I do question whether anti-Autism Speaks activism should be our number one priority as a community at this point. When we focus all of our energies on Autism Speaks, it becomes easy to forget … Continue Reading ››

This Week in Neurodiversity

Each Friday at NOSmag, I’m going to post some links relevant to neurodiversity news and culture criticism around the web. This is what I’ve been reading and that I think you should be reading too. Feel free to add links of your own in the comments and email suggestions for future link roundups to nos.editorial@gmail.com.

Remembering Stephon Watts is Essential to Neurodiversity

Note: The following piece contains graphic descriptions of police violence. February 1st is important for two reasons. It’s the first day of Black History Month. Figures like Harriet Tubman, Leroy Moore, Stephen Wiltshire, Vilissa Thompson, Blind Tom Wiggins and Brad Lomax are iconic in the African Diaspora. They are also Deaf, disabled, and/or neurodivergent. Disability is often erased and overlooked when discussing black history. It shouldn’t be. February 1st is also the day that shook Calumet City, IL and the black and disability communities as a whole. This year, February 1st marks the fifth anniversary of Stephon Watts’death. Stephon Watts was a 15-year-old African-American male teen on the autism spectrum. He was interested in computers and aspired to one day become a computer programmer. Five years ago, he was murdered by police. In 2012, the Calumet City police arrived at Stephon Watts’ home. They were there to … Continue Reading ››

Someone Should Help Disabled People Run for Office

In the wake of the 2016 election, voters across America disappointed with the November 8th results mobilized to express their desire for progress. From social media pledges and petitions to large-scale movements like the record-breaking Women’s March on Washington, Americans found creative ways to express their opinions on a divisive election. For more than a few citizens, the election mobilized them to push their civic participation to a new level: Running for office. Organizations devoted to supporting “average citizens” interested in running for office saw a spike in interest across the country. She Should Run, an organization and political incubator that offers nonpartisan training for women interested in running for office, saw 4,500 new sign-ups following the election. There are a large number of programs across the country that provide support similar to, and … Continue Reading ››

Autism Speaks: How Long Does It Take to Look into It?

Team pages for the Autism Speaks Walks are pretty standard fare. You can go to each page to learn a little bit about a team who is pledging to raise money and donate to them yourself. A quick search of participants shows a wide variety of folks including companies, families, and organizations, which made the “Soldiers of Odin Canada - Ontario South Division“ not particularly unique outside of the comparatively large roster (most team pages are for about 2 people, Soldiers’ page has 10). That is of course, unless you know who the Soldiers of Odin are. At first glance, one might assume they’re just a biker group. Both the name and their team picture, featuring a number of guy all wearing leathers and jean vests, suggest as much. Being a biker group is fine. Bikers have been making the headlines for … Continue Reading ››

Dissociative Identity Disorder is not a B-Movie Monster

Split is M. Night Shyamalan's latest film. Over the course of its story, teenage girls are brutally attacked, watch their friends die, and get both their entrails and strategically sexy parts of their clothing ripped to pieces by a monster. The characters are one-dimensional and unrealistic, nothing more than plot devices. It's basically your generic B-movie, except for one very crucial difference: The monster isn’t the result of a science experiment gone horribly wrong or a supernatural demon. The “monster” is a person with DID, or Dissociative Identity Disorder. Honestly, saying 'person' is a bit of a stretch as Shyamalan never treats Kevin, our monster, with any shred of humanity. In Shyamalan's vision of mental illness, Kevin doesn't get to be a person. Every other character, no matter how flat, has a life outside of the horror narrative. Kevin's entire existence, in contrast, is that of brutal violence and … Continue Reading ››

This Week in Neurodiversity

Each Friday at NOSmag, I'm going to post some links relevant to neurodiversity news and culture criticism around the web. This is what I've been reading and that I think you should be reading too. Feel free to add links of your own in the comments! Watch the Appointments: Ari Ne'eman discusses why White House appointments matter when it comes to figuring out the Trump Administration's priorities when it comes to disability. #AccessibleOrganizingMeans: Alice Wong of Disability Visibility Project made a Storify of an important post-Women's March discussion -- How can we make sure organizing is accessible to disabled people? Not Everyone Wants the Cures the Cures Act is After: Comedian Maysoon Zayid discusses the fact that some disabled people don't want to be cured. Autism and Infantilization in Video Games: Madeleine Slade discusses autistic representation in some contemporary video games, including the smash-hit Undertale. Congress Should Rescind … Continue Reading ››

We are Here: Being Disabled at the Women’s March on Washington

What started out as a small group of women coming together after the election turned into one of the largest demonstrations in American history. It was for women. It was peaceful. It was sassy. And importantly, it incorporated a population that is often excluded from progressive causes: The disabled community. But you might not have known that from media coverage or even the programming of the Women’s March itself. When you have a disability getting to and participating in  demonstrations involves detailed advance planning. In order to help out, the Women’s March had an ADA tent. I volunteered While working in the ADA tent, I heard from many people who had difficulty on buses and airlines, difficulty trying to rent or borrow mobility equipment, and difficulty asking friends and family to help support them during the march. I asked a friend to come, not only because I wanted her to be … Continue Reading ››

Can We All Stop Talking About The ‘Disabled Reporter’ Incident Now?

Serge F. Kovaleski is a Pulitzer-awarded investigative reporter at The New York Times.  He has been a journalist for more than 30 years and has worked for the New York Times since 2006. Kovaleski has been in the media quite a lot recently, but most times I see his image or hear him discussed, his name has been stripped away.  He has been re-shaped into the iconic “disabled reporter mocked by Donald Trump.” I am not defending Trump’s mockery.  It was childish and despicable.  That said, in the long litany of Trump’s offenses against human decency, it is not the worst thing Donald Trump has done during this election cycle.  But Kovaleski has been treated poorly now by both sides and it’s time to stop presenting him as a token in ongoing political battles. Trump is not the only one to assault Kovaleski’s humanity.  Since Trump’s ridicule , the story has been … Continue Reading ››

Disability is not an Asterisk: Eric Garcia Interviews Dylan Matthews

Vox.com’s evening newsletter Vox Sentences headlines are a mix of the serious, with a bit of gallows humor such as “Congratulations, President-elect Trump. Here’s the World You’re Inheriting” and “How to Keep Bears out of Schools, Explained for Trump’s Ed Secretary.” One half of that newsletter is Dylan Matthews, a correspondent at Vox.com since its founding. He is also on the autism spectrum. Dylan has been a fixture writing about politics for more than decade now, beginning to write blog about politics under the title of minipundit at the age of 14. He eventually wrote for Slate, Salon, the American Prospect and the New Republic before he cut his teeth as at his college newspaper, the Harvard Crimson. He eventually began writing for the Washington Post under Wonkblog, which was run by Ezra Klein. When Klein left the Washington Post to start Vox.com, Matthews joined him and to … Continue Reading ››

Why NOS Matters

What makes a people? For the last two decades, the Autistic community has struggled with that question. As a community first defined by doctors and researchers, portrayed to the public mainly by outsiders, and often born to non-autistic parents, it can be hard to sort out who we are and how we should relate to each other. Despite these difficulties, the last few years have found us starting to figure things out. Thanks to an active blogosphere, advocacy organizations like ASAN and AWN, and a strong coalition of leaders young and old working to build our grassroots, the Autistic culture, community and identity is stronger now than it has ever been. In the words of Jim Sinclair, the neurodiversity movement’s earliest leader, "Our community is still young, but a generation of autistic children has already grown up having experience and familiarity with autistic togetherness." The Autistic identity has grown … Continue Reading ››

Building the Plane While We’re Flying It

Note: A version of this piece was originally published at Thinking Person's Guide to Autism as a part of a series of post highlighting autism and accommodations during Autism Acceptance Month. Three books are in the corner of a cubicle. The titles are "Neurotribes," "Rosemary," and "Loud Hands." Beside them, a color communication badge is attached to the cubicle wall. A stim toy and Einstein sticky notes are holding the books in place. The statistics around autism and employment can be incredibly discouraging. Forty-two percent of autistic people in their twenties -- people like me -- are unemployed, even though only 26% of overall young disabled people are out of work. This might seem counter-intuitive. After all, if someone can do well in college or even graduate school, surely they should be able to do well once they join the workforce? Unfortunately, … Continue Reading ››

Autistic Enough?

Two people point at a number that is either a six or a nine on the floor. One is saying it is a six and one is saying it is a nine.
Pop quiz: Which cartoon drawing lacks Theory of Mind?
For the past few days, I’ve been working my way through In a Different Key, a new book about the history of autism. There are many things wrong with In a Different Key. The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism has been livetweeting a read-through, and I think they cover a lot of the ethical problems with the book – Justifying the murder of disabled kids and minimizing the problems with punishing autistic people with cattle prods and electric shocks is troubling, to say the least. I plan on writing more about that, and I encourage … Continue Reading ››

I Don’t Have Stories, I Have a Medical History

This is an image of Sara Luterman as a child. She is wearing a red sweater and leggings. She has brown hair and glasses. Sara is holding a basketball that is larger than her head. Four years ago, I was volunteering at the hydrocephalus center for a fairly famous hospital. I had been invited to sit in on an important meeting or procedure – I don’t actually remember which at this point. What I do remember is that I was going to be late. I remember the consuming sense of dread, rage and confusion increased with every passing minute I sat in my car. I couldn’t be late. I didn’t know how to be late. So I did the only thing that seemed sensible to me at the time: I turned the car around and went home. Then I didn’t speak … Continue Reading ››

Advice for Therapists from a Neurodiversity Advocate

Thanks to the success of Steve Silberman’s ‘Neurotribes,’ therapists and service providers have become aware of neurodiversity. On one hand, this is wonderful. A concept Autistic self-advocates have been celebrating for years has hit the mainstream. It seems that therapists and service providers are finally listening to autistic people speak. On the other hand, there seem to be many misunderstandings about what neurodiversity, and by extension allyship, entails. Therapy can only be enriched by neurodiversity, if therapists will let it.

A common misconception about neurodiversity is that we are pushing the idea that autism is not a disability. It's true that in general, neurodiversity advocates believe that autism is not a ‘disorder.’ You'd be hard pressed to find advocates who don't consider autism a disability, though. We know, through our lived experience, that autism is a disability. The world we live in was not built for us. Or at … Continue Reading ››

Autism Self-Diagnosis is not Special Snowflake Syndrome

Recently, 4chan-flavored trolls invaded the #autchat hashtag. For the uninitiated, Autchat is a bi-weekly discussion group for Autistic people. Past topics have included friendship, autistic representation in media and strategies for coping with executive dysfunction. The community is usually warm, welcoming and a great place to learn. Instead, participants were told to commit suicide or drink bleach to ‘cure’ autism. The source of their ire? An Autchat regular and middle-aged mother of two described herself as ‘informally diagnosed.’ Autism self-diagnosis is a topic that can evoke strong feelings in many people. It isn’t unusual for adults to self-diagnose. It also isn’t unusual to get a lot of push back or even violent threats for self-diagnosis. Why does self-diagnosis make people so angry? More importantly, why do people self-diagnose in the first place? The hostility directed at self-diagnosis is, fundamentally, based in ignorance of what factors lead to its existence: Healthcare … Continue Reading ››

I See Amazing Potential in Sesame Street

This week, Sesame Workshop launched a campaign, ‘See Amazing,’ to help educate their audience about autism. A new puppet, Julia, helps beloved characters Elmo and Abby Cadabby model how to interact positively with autistic children in a digital storybook. Parents and siblings of autistic children share their experiences and provide a glimpse into their lives. A new music video, The Amazing Song, stresses that people communicate differently and that’s OK. All children are amazing in their own way. The ‘See Amazing’ campaign is heartwarming and accepting. Full disclosure, I cried (in a good way) the first time I saw the video for The Amazing Song. Instead of asserting that alternative forms of communication and expression, like hand flapping, are wrong or pathological, they’re presented as simple difference. In videos that feature real people, autistic children communicate using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices … Continue Reading ››

Bernie Sanders is Wrong About Roseburg

This is a screencap of Bernie Sanders speaking about the campus shooting in Oregon on MSNBC This Tuesday, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders once again linked the recent mass shooting at Umqua Community College to mental illness. This wasn’t the first time Sanders has conflated the two issues and that makes me nervous. Mental health policy based on the assumption that mentally ill people are more likely to murder others is not only untrue, but heaps stigma onto an already vulnerable population. The day of the massacre, Bernie Sanders appeared on MSNBC. One of the first policy positions he took on the subject was that people who are mentally ill should not be able to own guns. Personally, I don’t have any desire to own a gun, but it’s utterly fallacious to lump disabled people and violent criminals together without even a pause. In the … Continue Reading ››

What It’s Like to Be David

This is an image of a person holding a sign. Their face and legs are out of the frame. The sign reads, "Nothing About Us Without Us."
This is your intrepid author.
Last weekend, I protested an Autism Speaks rally at the National Mall. A handful of us, mostly Autistic, stood and watched as thousands of people went to raise money for the biggest autism organization in the United States. Upbeat music blared from an enormous stage. Cheerful college students and families with young children packed the sidewalks, despite the dismal weather. Some people wore homemade t-shirts and hoodies with their autistic relatives’ smiling faces emblazoned across the front. These people are, for the most part, good people. They care about their families. They care about their communities. They love the autistic people in their lives and want to do … Continue Reading ››

Screen Backlash is a Disability Issue

A mother, a father and two children are looking at their cell phones and tablets while sitting together at the dinner table. It seems like hardly a week passes without some pearl-clutching thinkpiece bemoaning how social media is destroying meaningful human interaction. People are looking at their screens instead of making eye contact. We aren't using our mouths to talk to each other. Instead of telling each other how we feel in detail, we click the “like” button to express approval. We sit next to each other in cafes and don’t look up. This phenomenon has been described as the end of intimacy. However, it’s the exact opposite. As an Autistic person, I’ve never felt more understood or free. I’ve always felt more comfortable communicating in text. In high school, I had a lot of difficulty making friends. I was bullied. I’d happily expound … Continue Reading ››

Martin Shkreli is a Fool, Not a Supervillain

When Martin Shkreli’s company, Turing Pharma, purchased the rights to a drug, Daraprim, and hiked the price from $13.50 to $750 per pill, my first response was outrage, along with the rest of the internet. Unlike most of the internet, I also felt a distinctive jolt of fear. I am part of the small population of people who rely on Daraprim. Many articles describe Daraprim as a drug used to treat AIDS, but that’s not quite accurate. Daraprim treats toxoplasmosis. About a quarter of Americans are infected with toxoplasmosis, but for most, it’s not anything serious. Some people feel some minor flu-like symptoms for a few weeks, if they feel anything at all. For pregnant mothers and people who are immunocompromised however, toxoplasmosis is something much, much worse. Without the benefit of a healthy, developed immune system, toxoplasmosis causes ocular and neurological damage. Most of the people at serious risk are AIDS … Continue Reading ››

This is not the End

  Last September, I started thinking about an online magazine for the neurodiversity community, and what that would look like. I wanted a platform that would amplify our voices so that we could be better heard, in whatever language or communication suited us best. Together, our voices could be louder, bigger and brighter. I wanted to make a platform where the fact that we can and do speak for ourselves could not be ignored. This was the seed that would eventually grow into NOS Magazine. There were setbacks. I had a bout with cervical cancer (and won), but it slowed the project considerably. I kept going. I read everything I could about how to make crowdfunding work. I examined similar projects. Christine Paluch helped me build a web site while I refreshed my WordPress skills. Morénike Onaiwu and Mariyama Scott offered their services as editors. Ari Ne'eman introduced me to many of the … Continue Reading ››