Category Archives: News

Lack of Racial Diversity Highlighted at Autism Meeting

Last week, the quarterly Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee meeting took place. IACC is a government advisory panel responsible for setting federal research priorities. A thread running throughout the six hour meeting was representation and diversity, or lack thereof, both  in autism community leadership positions and within IACC itself. In many ways, the sessions were a string of events demonstrating not only the need for more autistic representation, but the need for racial diversity. There are currently only two autistic members of IACC. A third autistic member, Amy Goodman, stepped down in 2017. Similarly, IACC's membership is almost entirely white. Dr. Marcella Ronyak, IACC member and Deputy Director of the Division of Behavioral Health for the Indian Health Service, gave the first presentation of the day. She began by asking how many people in the room had a good understanding of what Indian Health Services is and what it is that they … Continue Reading ››

Ford Foundation Turns a Corner on Disability Rights

In 2016, the Ford Foundation made a commitment to social justice. Unfortunately, their early efforts were plagued with missteps when it came todisability community issues. In 2017, the Ford Foundation made a commitment to centering disability rights. The result of this new effort is still in its early phases, but the work they have done on disability so far has been nothing short of extraordinary, and there is even more to come. Speaking with NOS Magazine, Noorain Khan of the Ford Foundation was  candid about the process of growing much-needed knowledge on disability. "2017 was us diving in, meeting with activists, self-advocates, folks in government, nonprofits, and other funders... [We] met with any disability organization that requested a meeting. This shaped [our] knowledge and the knowledge of the Ford Foundation itself." "[The Ford Foundation] knew that we couldn’t do this by ourselves." They hired disabled consultants and brought disability … Continue Reading ››

Big Talk, Little Actual Change for Autism Speaks’ Research Agenda

Last week, Autism Speaks released their new “Strategic Plan for Science 2018-2020.” The new strategic plan follows a wording change to their mission statement and a 2017 stakeholder survey. The survey was primarily about Autism Speaks’ research funding. The kinds of research they fund impacts autistic people, since according to an IACC document, they are the third largest funder of autism research. According to many experts, it doesn’t appear that Autism Speaks significantly changed their strategic science planning. The survey results, published in October 2017, have some important highlights. One question asked about research areas to avoid; of the responses, “most indicated opposition to research aimed at curing or preventing autism.” A specific response included “Researching a cure or genetic markers of autism. Preventing or curing autism is a form of eugenics, which is an abhorrent idea.” A further trend of the survey included: “Opposition to cure/prevention/ABA; more … 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 ››

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 ››