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 ››

#Oprah2020 Would be a Disaster for the Autistic Community

#Oprah2020 was trending on social media last week. Speculation about Ms. Winfrey running for President became part of the morning news cycle after her inspiring Golden Globe acceptance speech. Oprah Winfrey has a fondness or pseudoscience. This fondness has caused harm to the medical community, the practice of psychology, and to our autism community in particular. If she runs I will neither support nor vote for her regardless of her wide global appeal, her great skills as a speaker, her famed generosity or her business acumen. “Why you hating on Auntie Oprah?” A human right activist friend of color asked me. “I don’t hate her.” I answered.  “I am upset about the massive harm she’s done.“ Oprah gave us Phil McGraw, Dr. Oz, and most hurtful to my son and the autistic community, Jenny McCarthy. With help from Oprah, Jenny McCarthy introduced the anti-vaccine movement to mainstream America. Does Oprah realize the harm she continues … 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 ››

New Compliance Tracking Drugs Violate Human Rights

Neurodivergent people are one of the few groups who can be deprived of our most basic forms of autonomy and privacy just because of who we are.  This includes confinement in institutional settings such as group homes, nursing homes and residential schools, as well as guardianship and court orders for the misleadingly-named “assisted outpatient treatment.”  Most recently, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved Abilify MyCite, an antipsychotic medication that tracks whether a person has taken it or not. Abilify MyCite further threatens the rights of people with psychosocial disabilities by putting us at risk of surveillance and all the consequences likely to follow from that. As is the case with most practices and technologies that restrict disabled people’s rights, nondisabled people are already defending the new medication as being both for neurodivergent people’s own good and for the convenience of their families and caregivers.  But like in … Continue Reading ››

Extreme Diets Damage Autistic People

Note: This article contains discussion of disordered eating. For many parents of a newly-diagnosed autistic child, a quick internet search into autism tells them that changing their child’s diet is a smart first step towards “improving” autistic behaviors or other co-occuring conditions. Despite the popularity of “autism diets”, research shows that there is insufficient proof that they do anything positive at all. Nevertheless, strictly regimenting the diet of autistic children continues to be common. I was one of those autistic children, and my parents thought they were doing what was best for me. Though parents may believe this is for the benefit of their child, my own experience on an autism diet led to permanent harm. Growing up, I was not allowed to eat a laundry list of seemingly random foods: dairy, sesame seeds, mangoes, peanuts, whole wheat. In order to avoid explaining my autism diagnosis to me, my … Continue Reading ››