Thursday, November 18, 2010

Public Lecture: Ari Ne'eman, "Neurodiversity and the College Campus"

Time: Monday, November 29, 3:30pm - 5:00pm 
Location: 311 Denney Hall, 164 W. 17th Ave, Ohio State campus, Columbus

Public Lecture: Ari Ne'eman, "Neurodiversity and the College Campus"

Acceptance. Inclusion. Rights. This is the work of the burgeoning neurodiversity movement, work that is of utmost importance to local communities. What can students, faculty, and community members alike do to advocate for autistic rights and facilitate social change?

Ari Ne'eman is the Founding President of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. He is an autistic adult and a leading advocate in the neurodiversity movement, frequently briefing policymakers and speaking publicly on disability and autism policy issues. In 2009, President Obama nominated Ari to the National Council on Disability, a federal agency charged with advising Congress and the President on disability policy issues. He was confirmed by the Senate in July 2010. In April 2010, he was appointed by Secretary Sebelius as a public member to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee.

Talk is free and open to the public.

Event sponsored by the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network at Ohio State, the Autism Society of Central Ohio, and Aspirations Ohio. Program brought to you by the Student Activity fee.

Facebook event page

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Media coverage of ASAN's Columbus Protest

Click here to view ABC 6's online coverage of ASAN's protest against Autism Speaks on October 10.

Below is the ABC 6 video about the walk and protest that aired on the 6pm and 11pm news on October 10. Please distribute widely. Nothing about us without us!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Protest Against Autism Speaks in Columbus

On Sunday, October 10, ASAN-Central Ohio/Ohio State protested Autism Speaks' Walk Now for Autism on the Ohio State campus, a protest that lasted four hours and attracted media attention from ABC-6, 10TV, and independent journalists. (See the end of this post or click here for video footage of the protest.)

Approximately 15 Autistic individuals and cross-disability allies protested Autism Speaks' lack of family and community support, its high executive pay, its lack of Autistic representation, and its eugenic aims. Protesters heavily emphasized that Autism Speaks only gives 4% of money raised to families and local communities.

Protesters face the crowd of walkers.

During the first half of the protest, protesters faced incoming traffic and held signs with slogans such as Listen to Me, I Have Autism, First Class Autistic, Second-Class Citizen, and Autism Speaks Does Not Speak for Me. Several interested individuals approached the group, some kind and supportive, others not. One such negative encounter involved a walker who claimed that Autism Speaks can't have Autistic leaders or board members because Autistic people are incapable of making important decisions.

From left to right, top to bottom: Benzion Chinn, Ross Edelman, Elizabeth Brewer, Justin Rooney, Erika Strandjord, Jessica Roeder, Noranne Cochran, and Melanie Yergeau.

During the second half of the event, protesters faced 18,000 walkers, many of whom were far more belligerent than those encountered during last year's protest. One walker screamed, "Are you all stupid?! You're all stupid!" This particular walker lunged toward the protesters and had to be pushed back by a friend and a walk official.

Others screamed, "You're a bunch of idiots!" and "How do you sleep at night?" Additionally, toward the end of the protest, a car full of walkers swerved at ASAN-OSU's faculty advisor as though they were going to hit her, and then drove off laughing. When protesters engaged in a dramatic reading of Jim Sinclair's "Don't Mourn for Us," a group of parents booed and yelled, "Go home! You suck!"

Protesters march in line formation.

Protesters chanted at several intervals, with slogans such as Nothing about us without us! We don't need a cure! and Autism Speaks needs to listen! At one point, a group of cheerleaders grew quite loud in their chants, and protesters responded with, 2, 4, 6, 8, Autism Speaks discriminates!

Campus police and certain walk officials took great care to protect ASAN's first amendment rights, for which the protesters are incredibly grateful. So too did State Representative Ted Celeste stop by, listen, and share kind words with the protesters. The reporters were also very gracious and willing to listen.

Faculty advisor Cynthia Selfe and student Jessica Roeder

ASAN-Central Ohio/Ohio State thanks those who were involved in the protest, including those who attended and those who assisted in planning. Individuals across the United States called and wrote cross-disability allies and Columbus media affiliates on our behalf, and many more spread the word via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other social media. So too did international members of the cross-disability community provide support and encouragement. Thank you. We appreciate all that you do.

Related Links

Friday, September 24, 2010

Protest Against Autism Speaks

Join us as we protest the Autism Speaks walk for autism on Sunday, October 10 from 8:30am to 12:00pm. [Visit our Facebook event listing.]

We will be protesting Autism Speaks' lack of community support, its support for eugenics, its unethical advertising practices, its failure to include any Autistic people in its decision-making processes, and its extraordinarily high executive pay.

We'll be meeting at the corner of Fred Taylor and Borror Drive (called Arena Dr. on google maps), right by the 4-H Center, and this is where we'll carry out our protest.

Campus map + driving directions:

For more information, contact us at


** Only four cents out of every dollar raised by Autism Speaks goes toward family support services.

**  Autism Speaks' rates of executive pay are the highest in the autism world, with annual salaries as high as $600,000 a year—roughly the amount raised at last year's walk in Columbus.

** Although Autism Speaks claims to speak for autistic people, it does not have—and never has had—even one autistic person on its board of directors or in its leadership.  This is far out of line with the mainstream of the disability community, where individuals with disabilities work side by side with family members, professionals, and others to achieve quality of life and equality of opportunity. 

** Autism Speaks has time and again compared life on the autism spectrum to potentially fatal situations, such as car crashes, hypothermia, cancer and AIDS. Citing the 1 in 110 incidence rate, founder Bob Wright claimed in April 2010, “No country can afford to lose one per cent of its population.”

** After Autism Speaks released its I Am Autism PSA last fall, ASAN held protests across the U.S., in Columbus, Boston, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Portland, Oregon, protests that received widespread local press coverage. Additionally, over 60 national and regional disability organizations – including the Arc of the United States, TASH, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and the National Council on Independent Living – signed a joint letter urging donors to rescind their support for the organization.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

ASAN-OSU attends Nisonger Autism Institute

On Wednesday, June 23, Benzion Chinn, Patrick Meehan, Melanie Yergeau, Whitney Brooks, and Hillary Spears attended the first annual Nisonger Autism Institute at Ohio State, a day-long conference that focused on transition issues across the lifespan.

Melanie, Benzion, and Patrick

Attendees primarily included service providers and researchers, and to a lesser extent included parents. Out of over 100 people, Benzion, Patrick, and Melanie were the only autistic self-advocates in attendance. Both Benzion and Patrick presented on behalf of Aspirations Ohio regarding transition into adulthood.

Whitney, Hillary, and Melanie

During the institute, ASAN members distributed ASAN literature and autistic pride buttons to many in the audience; additionally, the editor of Disability Studies Quarterly distributed information about the journal's recent issue on neurodiversity, which features the work of several ASAN members and supporters.

ASAN-Central Ohio is currently drafting feedback for the institute's organizers. Other recaps of the day's events can be found at Benzion's blog and Melanie's twitter archive.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

ASAN-Central Ohio celebrates Autistic Pride Day

On Saturday, June 19, ASAN-Central Ohio marched in the Columbus Pride parade. Marchers included Noranne Cochran, Justin Rooney, and Whitney Brooks.

 Justin, Noranne, and Whitney hold signs

Before the parade, members distributed autistic pride buttons to the crowds and received a good deal of positive response from autistic people and family members in attendance. During the parade, ASAN members held signs that read Autistic Pride, Autistic and Proud, Autistics 4 LGTBQ, and Diversity of All Colors. According to Stonewall Columbus, over 195,000 people were in attendance at the event.

Noranne talks with the crowd

Noranne and Justin hold up signs

Stephanie Ballam, Jeffrey Strasser, and Melanie Yergeau also participated in the event planning, as well as in the creation of the signs and buttons.

 Designing posters and buttons for APD

Autistic Pride buttons

To view more photos, please visit our Flickr site.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

ASAN President Ari Ne'eman Confirmed to National Council on Disability

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network would like to thank President Obama and the U.S. Senate for the nomination and confirmation of ASAN President Ari Ne'eman to serve as a member of the National Council on Disability (NCD). He will be the first Autistic person to serve as a member of NCD. An independent federal agency, NCD makes recommendations to the President and Congress on issues of importance to Americans with disabilities. To learn more about NCD, go to

An article about the confirmation can be found on Disability Scoop:

Friday, June 11, 2010

ASAN-Central Ohio at Multiple Perspectives on Access, Inclusion, and Disability

On Wednesday, April 28, several members of ASAN-Central Ohio presented at the Multiple Perspectives on Access, Inclusion and Disability conference at Ohio State. Presenters included Melanie Yergeau, Noranne Cochran, and Whitney Brooks (on behalf of Justin Rooney). Forty-two people were in attendance, and attendees included people with and without disabilities, educators, students, parents, friends, and professionals.

The panelists explored the various employment and education issues that autistic individuals face and approached these issues from a variety of perspectives: historical, social, cultural, and personal. ASAN-Central Ohio emphasized some practical ways in which employers and educators can create accessible environments for autistic people, as well as ways in which autistic individuals can effectively self-advocate for accommodations.

Melanie, president of ASAN-Central Ohio/OSU and PhD candidate, introduced the goals and work of ASAN and addressed the institutional barriers that autistic individuals routinely face in higher education (e.g., needing "non-traditional" accommodations and having difficulty getting needs met, participating in class and extracurricular/professionalization activities). She also shared some of her experiences as an autistic student, teacher, and researcher, and discussed best practices for creating more inclusive professional enviroments (e.g., respecting individual difference, encouraging alternate forms of participation, providing text transcripts/outlines of discussion points or conference papers, etc.).

Whitney, a PhD student at Ohio State, spoke on behalf of Justin Rooney (OSU staff) and provided a run-down of the many activities that ASAN-Central Ohio has engaged in over the past year. She also emphasized the necessity of connecting autistic individuals with others across disability communities and building larger communities of support.

Noranne, blogger and employee at a school for autistic children, shared some of her personal experiences as a student and employee. She also discussed the pros and cons associated with disclosing one’s disability to employers and colleagues,  how “coming out autistic” has the potential to provide understanding or cause alienation,  depending on the situation. Moreover, she stressed the need for educators and employers to regard autistic people first and foremost as individuals, and not as embodied stereotypes.

A photo of Daisha, Melanie, Noranne, and Zachary sitting at a lunch table
From left to right: Daisha, Melanie, Noranne, and Zachary sit at a lunch table

A photo of Noranne and Melanie standing in front of a sign that says Buckeye Brilliance
Noranne and Melanie in front of the Buckeye Brilliance wall

Friday, April 30, 2010

Thanks to Secretary Sebelius for IACC Appointment of Ari Ne'eman

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network applauds HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' appointment of ASAN President Ari Ne'eman to the Inter-Agency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC). The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) is a Federal advisory committee that coordinates all efforts within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concerning autism. ASAN has given regular public comment at the IACC in the past and looks forward to continuing to be an active part of the IACC process. To learn more about the IACC, go to

A news release has been posted on the Health & Human Services website:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Neurodiversity Awareness at Ohio State

On Tuesday, April 20, ASAN-Central Ohio/Ohio State protested Autism Speaks and their ableist brand of autism awareness, their lack of autistic leadership, and their eugenic aims.

Nine protesters with signs on the south oval. Slogans include Nothing about us without us, I can speak for myself, People not puzzles, and No more exploitation, hate speech, eugenics. Pictured are Alex Jenkins, Cindy Selfe, Melanie Yergeau, Lauren Obermark, Bridget Goggin, Tom Fish, Erika Strandjord, Katie DeLuca, and Heather Thompson-Gillis.

The protest was held on the South Oval lawn of the Ohio State campus, and fifteen protesters distributed several hundred flyers that 1) dispelled popular autism myths and 2) described why Autism Speaks does not speak for autistic individuals. Protesters posted a dozen signs across the South Oval, including a puzzle piece graveyard, pictured below.

Blue puzzle pieces, crossed out in red, are posted in the grass. A pink sign behind them reads "I am a person, not a puzzle."

 Melanie Yergeau, sitting next to a crossed-out photo of Jenny McCarthy, holds a sign that reads "Listen to me, I have autism."

In large part, the event was a counter-demonstration: on April 1 and 2, the Ohio State Autism Speaks student chapter posted 100 signs to the campus lawn, each bearing "1 in 110" on the front and stereotypical, fear-inducing slogans on the back. Among the Autism Speaks slogans were the following:
  • 80% of parents of children with autism get divorced
  • In most cases, parents are given a diagnosis of autism and left to figure out the next steps on their own
  • For every locked mind, there's a key to find
  • Support autism research: Disturb the sound of silence
  • Autism costs the nation over $35 billion per year
ASAN-Central Ohio/OSU protesters made clear their objections to such representations of autistic people, representations that promote autism as a marriage-ender, money-drainer, and soul-stealer. Several protesters formed a line and silently held posters, drawing the attention of those who walked past; others offered soda, cookies, and bouncy balls to passersby and engaged them in discussions about disability rights, self-advocacy, and autistic culture.

Prof. Cindy Selfe, faculty adviser, talks with a student

From left to right: Katie DeLuca (with sign that reads "people not puzzles"), Erika Strandjord (with sign that reads "every time you pity an autistic person, a kitten dies"), and Noranne Cochran (with sign).

Two student journalists interviewed and photographed protesters during the demonstration. Additionally, many autistic and non-autistic passersby expressed that they had learned something new and were glad to be educated. Early on during the protest, two leaders from the Autism Speaks student chapter made an appearance and approached ASAN members about the protest. ASAN reiterated its stance against neurobigotry.

Protesters form a circle around the sidewalk.

Many individuals contributed to the success of this event, from preparing signs to donating time and resources to joining us in the protest line. The Center for Student Leadership and Service and Coca-Cola donated beverages, and several students from the English Department and Nisonger Center lent their time and expertise.

Yellow sign in the lawn that reads: "You can't remove my autism without removing me."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Neurobigotry at Ohio State

On April 1 and 2, the Autism Speaks chapter at Ohio State displayed approximately 100 posters on the campus lawn, a spectacle they described as "autism awareness." Each sign read 1 in 110 on the front and sported slogans on the back, many of these slogans perpetuating fear and myths about autistic people.

An Autism Speaks sign that reads "Support Autism Research: Disturb the Sound of Silence"

Several members of ASAN-Central Ohio and Ohio State happened upon the signage while walking across campus and became visibly upset by them -- especially as they overheard other students and passersby concluding that autism is "scary" because, according to Autism Speaks, it's more prevalent than "diabetes, AIDS, and cancer combined" and causes an "80%" divorce rate among parents of autistic children.

A sign that reads "More children will be diagnosed this year with Autism than with diabetes, AIDS, and cancer combined."

A sign that reads: "80% of parents of children with autism get divorced." [emphasis in original]

A sign that reads "Autism knows no race, ethnicity, social boundary, family income, lifestyle, or education level"

A sign that reads "For every locked mind there's a key to find." Also pictured is a drawing of a key and Autism Speaks' iconic puzzle piece.

ASAN-Central Ohio/OSU strongly opposes the characterization of autistic people as having "locked minds," as needing others to "disturb their sound of silence" with eugenics. Autism Speaks continues to portray autistic people as disembodied numbers, numbers meant to instill alarm in the Columbus community.

Several Autism Speaks signs on the South Oval lawn

In response to such ableist rhetoric, ASAN-Central Ohio/OSU will be holding a counter-demonstration on Tuesday, April 20 from noon to 3pm on the South Oval (the lawn behind the new Ohio Union). We welcome anyone and everyone to join us as we protest neurobigotry in all of its forms. We will have signs on hand (though feel free to bring your own), including some alarming facts about Autism Speaks, its eugenic aims, its fear-spreading propaganda, and its unrepresentative leadership.

Additionally, ASAN-OSU began its own ad campaign on April 1, distributing flyers that dispel popular myths about autism and autistic people. Some examples of our flyers appear below.

Flyer that reads: "Myth: Autistic people don't have emotions. Fact: Non-autistic people often make us feel like crap."

Flyer that reads: "Myth: Autistic people need your pity. Fact: Every time you pity an autistic person, a kitten dies."

A flyer that reads: "Myth: Autistic people will never go to college. Fact: Who do you think made this sign?"

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Preventing harmful restraint and seclusion in schools


On behalf of APRAIS (the Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions and Seclusion), the Autistic Self Advocacy Network along with other APRAIS organizations is encouraging you to contact your congressional representatives during our National Call-In Day on February 26, 2010 and tell them to support the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act (H.R. 4247, S. 2860).

Recently, the House Committee on Education and Labor voted H.R. 4247 out of committee with a vote of 35 to 10. Your hard work has certainly made a difference, but we need your continued efforts to advance this important legislation. Specifically, we need your assistance to get the bill moved to the floor for a full House vote and to obtain Co-sponsors for the Senate version, S. 2860.

Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) introduced the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act in the Senate, but we need to increase the number of Senate Co-Sponsors and get this bill out of committee as soon as possible. Once passed, this legislation will provide students with and without disabilities vital protections against abuse in schools.


Ask your Congressional Representative to Co-sponsor H.R. 4247 and your Senators to Co-Sponsor S. 2860 on Friday, February 26th!!

  • To find out the names of your US Senators and Representative, click here [link to]
  • Dial the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for the offices of your US Senators and Representative
  • Ask to speak to the person working on education issues
  • Identify yourself as a constituent and the organization that you represent (if any)
Ari Ne'eman
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network
(202) 596-1056