Reflections on a Changing World

Reflections on a Changing World

The neurodiversity movement got its start in the early 1990s, when a few autistic people got together on mailing lists and dared to imagine a day when they would be seen as equals in society.  Their conversations were, at that time, largely unknown to the world.  The prevailing stereotypes about autism were so extreme that the very existence of autistic people who were capable of having such conversations was generally thought impossible.

It took another decade, and the advent of blogging, before pro-neurodiversity sites burst onto the Internet in large numbers.  Some of these sites had modest aims, looking to dispel the worst of the prejudices by simply showing the public that autistics could indeed write coherent articles and have intelligent conversations.  Others had more ambitious goals, posting specific, in-depth criticisms of society’s attitudes toward autistics and setting forth a detailed civil rights agenda.  Most fell somewhere in the middle.

How much progress has our society made, since then, toward acceptance of its autistic citizens?  While many are still without jobs in 2011, we’re seeing more efforts to enforce antidiscrimination laws and to include autistic applicants in diversity hiring programs.  Although the schools still have a long way to go, they’re slowly learning how to educate our children in respectful and inclusive ways.  There’s not nearly as much of the ugly rhetoric that was commonplace just a few years ago.  As with other minority groups that have become integrated into mainstream society, just seeing autistic people on a regular basis — both in online venues and in schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods — has brought about more understanding, while showing up ignorant prejudices for what they really are.

Because so many beneficial changes have taken place in recent years, some neurodiversity sites already are outdated.  Aspergian Pride, created to highlight stories about the accomplishments and positive qualities of autistic people, has become an antiquated reminder of a time when many otherwise reasonable folks thought there weren’t any to be found.  Accordingly, the blog is being closed as of today, July 27, 2011, although the site will stay up for historical purposes.  Many thanks to all who have contributed their time, energy, and wisdom to bring us this far.

Other resources:
Treating Sleep Apnea Through Lifestyle Modifications
Does the colder weather make sleep apnea worse?
Worldwide Resistance to Autism Speaks

Worldwide Resistance to Autism Speaks

Worldwide Resistance

Since Autism Speaks released its appalling video “I Am Autism” earlier this week, to widespread global condemnation from parents and autistic self-advocates alike, British blogger Socrates of The New Republic has taken a leading role in organizing resistance to this latest atrocious effort to demonize autistic people.

He has taken the top Google spot from Autism Speaks with a parody of the “I Am Autism” video. To show your support for his efforts, go to his blog and leave a message in the comments! And if you have a blog or other website where you can express your views, please write your own post making clear why Autism Speaks does not speak for you. It’s past time to put an end to their hatred.

Other resources:
Treating Sleep Apnea Through Lifestyle Modifications
Aspergian Story
Treating Nighttime Reflux from GERD With Sleep Apnea CPAP Machine

Aspergian Story

Aspergian Story

Created in 2002, Aspergia.com sought to address autistic culture and civil rights issues at a time when there was very little public discussion of autism outside the medical paradigm. In addition to posting provocative articles, the site was home to a forum community where lively debate took place on many issues related to society’s views of autism. The forum closed in July 2004, and several other discussion sites were founded by members of Aspergia’s community. These sites included Aspergian Island, Aspergian Pride, Wrong Planet, Aspies for Freedom, Fractalus, and FAM. Although some of these sites are no longer active, and the people of Aspergia’s community are widely scattered, the historical role of Aspergia.com in the development of both the neurodiversity movement and the international autistic culture deserves to be recognized.

One of the articles posted on Aspergia.com, entitled The Aspergian Mythos and Ethos, was a fictional origin myth that described autistic people as the descendants of a dispersed ancient tribe. This short story, in combination with the site’s other articles, posed a speculative question for readers to ponder: How would society treat autistic people if, rather than being defined in medical terms, autistics were seen as a minority race?

Some unfortunate misconceptions about the story have arisen over the years, such as that it reflected a separatist and/or supremacist view. This is very far from the actual intent. No claims were ever made that the story was anything other than creative fiction or that autistics were superior to anyone else.

A condensed version of the story appears below:

THE MYTH OF THE ASPERGIAN DIASPORA

Very long ago, on a distant, fabled island whose true name and location have been obscured by the passage of time, there dwelt an isolated race known for gazing out upon the ocean and seeing, far beyond its billowing mists, visions of great and mysterious things. Although history contains no record of what they called themselves, their island has been described in mythical tales as Aspergia, a land of colossal towers and wondrous inventions.

It may be that Aspergia was lost in the great flood, or perhaps an earthquake caused that proud land to sink beneath the waters; the true tale will never be known. The survivors scattered in a vast diaspora to far-flung countries where they intermarried with, and soon became assimilated by, the other races they encountered. Within a few short generations, their history and culture had been almost entirely forgotten. Only fragments persisted in legend.

The migration of the Aspergians contributed to advances in human society as their inquisitive, determined minds explored the mysteries of the natural world, developed new technologies, and created epic works of art and literature. Some tribes revered these forthright, far-seeing people as prophets and shamans. Humanity’s emergence from the caves and mud huts of the ancient world was not without conflict and fear of the unknown, however. Always there were some who clung desperately to the old ways and sought to destroy the bringers of change, declaring them to be heretics or hunting them down as witches.

During a particularly benighted period in the modern era, many young people with strong Aspergian traits were stigmatized as less capable than other children. Their keen intellectual curiosity, perseverance, truthfulness, creativity, and passion for discovery were described as symptoms of a mental disorder. Then, like other minority groups in recent times, the Aspergians came together as a proud and united community to demand equal rights, social tolerance, and respect for their differences.

Other resources:
Cure Ignorance
Does the colder weather make sleep apnea worse?
Treating Nighttime Reflux from GERD With Sleep Apnea CPAP Machine

Cure Ignorance

Cure Ignorance

When Aspergian Pride came into being in 2004, one of the main concerns in our community was the public’s lack of knowledge about autistic people.  The Internet and the mass media were filled with inaccurate and often profoundly negative and harmful stereotypes.  Autism awareness efforts organized by professionals and advocacy groups, however well-intentioned they might have been, often had such an alarmist tone that they did little more than perpetuate mass hysteria.  As a result, the civil rights of autistic people seemed to be in serious jeopardy.  Prenatal testing and eugenic abortion were openly advocated as a solution to the huge burden on society that our existence was proclaimed to be.  Many of us feared that our community was at imminent risk of genocide.

It was during these difficult times that Aspergian Pride proposed a cure for the public’s ignorance to ensure that others would respect and value our diversity, instead of calling for our eradication.  A forum (later replaced by a blog) highlighted accomplishments and positive experiences within our community. In addition, Aspergian Pride put together an extensive directory of pride, advocacy, and resource links, which could be freely copied for the purpose of raising public awareness of the autistic civil rights movement.  Those who supported this goal were invited to join the “Cure for Ignorance Campaign” by creating a website advocating social acceptance of neurodiversity or, more simply, by adding an extra page to an existing site with a few paragraphs explaining why the site owner supported the neurodiversity movement and the civil rights of autistic people.  Websites that joined this campaign would post Aspergian Pride’s list of links and would be added to the list.

Some of the websites that originally supported the campaign no longer exist and have been removed from the list.  There are others that are no longer being updated.  Aspergian Pride’s current resource directory includes a number of inactive sites that may have historical value for the autistic community.  Not all of the sites on the list were part of the “Cure for Ignorance Campaign,” and the inclusion of any particular site on the list does not imply an endorsement of Aspergian Pride by that site.

Other resources:
Treating Sleep Apnea Through Lifestyle Modifications
Does the colder weather make sleep apnea worse?
Treating Nighttime Reflux from GERD With Sleep Apnea CPAP Machine