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.
Thomas ‘Blind Tom’ Wiggins was born in Columbus, Georgia, in 1848, on a slave plantation owned by Wiley Jones. Though Tom was originally designated to be sold off or left for dead for his blindness and presumed uselessness on a slave plantation, Tom’s mother fought to keep him with the rest of his family by arranging to have herself, her husband, Tom, and her two other children sold as a group to a different master, General James Bethune. Though the diagnosis did not exist in the nineteenth century, current historians believe that Wiggins was an autistic savant. Savant syndrome is a kind of neurodivergence in which people experience major differences between their abilities and disabilities. For example, someone can be a brilliant violinist and be unable to read, write or do mathematics. Tom showed these traits. While Wiggins’s ability to play and compose music was extraordinary, he was mostly non-speaking and … Continue Reading ››
Editor's note: This article is the first of a four part series highlighting Black and neurodivergent leaders and historical figures, in honor Black History Month. Each leader was selected by Finn Gardiner, a contemporary Black and Autistic leader and scholar. Harriet Tubman is widely known as a brave Black woman who led herself and hundreds of other slaves to freedom through the loose network of safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. What is less known, however, is that Tubman was also disabled and neurodivergent. Born Araminta Ross, Tubman was born on a relatively small plantation at the beginning of the 19th century. Tubman took her husband’s surname upon marriage and changed her first name to Harriet around the same time. From the age of five, Tubman was forced to perform strenuous tasks for other slaveholding households, including looking after other families’ children, trapping muskrats, and other work that would be stressful … Continue Reading ››
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 ››
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 ››