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?"