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."


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad it went well. :)

Melanie Yergeau said...

Thanks! We were quite pleased with how things turned out! :)

Adelaide Dupont said...

Hoping fewer kittens die as a result of this exercise!

Anonymous said...

hi i am proud that asan is getting truth out there i have aspergers i would like more info about asan

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