Autism Registries are Dangerous

Cranston, Rhode Island, has just established a voluntary registry to record information on autistic people between the ages of 6 and 21. The registry is managed by the Cranston Police Department and is intended to help autistic young people who interact with the police. Autism registries aren’t limited to Cranston. Several US states and Canadian provinces have databases that require or encourage professionals to enter information about autistic patients. Some registries, like Montana’s and New Jersey’s, are mandatory. Autism registries present a real threat to autistic people’s civil rights, privacy and autonomy. In 2015, I conducted research with the Human Services Research Institute and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Our goal was to gauge attitudes towards the creation of a statewide autism database in Massachusetts The state government was considering creating a database similar to databases in other states. We recruited a  “citizen’s jury.”A citizen’s jury is a type of … Continue Reading ››

First Openly Autistic Woman Elected to Public Office

After the November 7, 2017 election, Sarah Selvaggi Hernandez became a member of the Enfield, Connecticut board of education. Selvaggi Hernandez is an occupational therapist, assistant professor, and now one of the first openly autistic people elected to political office. Sarah Selvaggi Hernandez first considered the possibility of running for office last January. She became politically involved during Bernie Sanders’ primary campaign. After Sanders failed to secure the nomination, Selvaggi Hernandez wanted to remain involved at the local level. She felt profoundly disappointed with local politics and particularly the education system. Two of Selvaggi Hernandez’s three children currently attend school in Enfield. Around the same time as Selvaggi Hernandez pondered running for office, the chairman of Enfield’s Board of Education started posting racist and inflammatory memes on social media. Selvaggi Hernandez said of the memes, “Two of them targeted Hispanic students (literally entitled ‘magnet school students’), which is obviously unacceptable.” the Enfield Board … Continue Reading ››

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 ››