Sesame Street Has Betrayed Autistics

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In 2015, Sesame Street introduced an autistic Muppet named Julia, their first new Muppet in years. When I saw this, I was cautiously optimistic. They had aligned themselves with two groups, ASAN (the Autism Self-Advocacy Network) and Autism Speaks. This was a cause for concern, as one company is actually run by autistics, for autistics. The other is a hate group. Let’s not mince words, that’s precisely what Autism Speaks is.

It seemed at first that ASAN was the group they were listening to the most. Julia was made into a girl, which was a great idea. Most of the time when an autistic character is depicted, they are usually boys. This would be an ideal way to show the audience that both boys and girls can be autistic. Having her be friends with Elmo, Abby Cadabra, and Big Bird was also a great idea, as all three characters are popular with the children who watch. They showed both the strengths and weaknesses of autism, and did not seem to depict it as something terrible, just something that made Julia unique. Her puppeteer was even someone who had an autistic child. And she also had two rods for her arms so she could stim by flapping them.

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Bookworm: To Siri With Love by Judith Newman

boycotttosiriMy mom gets Reader’s Digest each month. In the October 2017 issue, they published an excerpt from Judith Newman’s book To Siri With Love. The excerpt piqued my interest, so I borrowed it from the library. On the exact day I started reading it, I saw a campaign on Facebook using the hashtag “#BoycotttoSiri” I read the articles about the book and was heartbroken.  This mother can’t be this bad, can she? Spoiler alert–she is.

There is a type of mother in the autism community called the “autism mom.” This is a mother who sees herself as a martyr because of the “suffering” she goes through for her child. She will complain endlessly about how terrible it is to raise a child. They rarely, if ever, celebrate the joys of motherhood because they don’t see it as joyful. They see it as a burden.  That is my first problem with this book. She even has the audacity to ask if her child is thinking and say she is unsure if autism should be cured. (The correct answer to that question that should never even be asked is NO! Not yes, or maybe, or unsure–NO!) The reason this is a problem is that these parents don’t seem to realize that EVERY parent has difficulty raising children, even the ones who aren’t autistic can be difficult! This does NOT make you a martyr.

My second problem is how she treats autism advocates. She is very condescending about them, almost as if she doesn’t value their opinion. In fact, when autistic YouTube personality Amythest Schaber called her out for calling her a “manic pixie dream girl” (a derogatory term for overtly cheerful women. Because autistic women can’t possibly be cheerful), Newman didn’t apologize–she gaslighted her! She made it seem as if, by not asking for her permission to be quoted, she was doing her a favor. A “nice surprise”, she called it. She then called her a brat because Schaber still persisted to criticize her dehumanizing book. In short, if you don’t share her POV, you’re not worth her time.

Continue reading “Bookworm: To Siri With Love by Judith Newman”

One Faith, Many Paths: Jannah Leah

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This is my first interview with an Eastern Orthodox Catholic. Thank you, Jannah Leah.

1) How was your childhood?

Fairly average, I guess. About the biggest thing that impacted me was my parents’ divorce when I was six. I was also bullied all throughout school, which affected my self-esteem. To this day, I still suffer from self-esteem issues.

2) How did you become a Christian?

Really it was a combination of a few factors. I have suffered from depression for most of my life and in some ways faith has aided with that.  I also have an interest in history, theology, etc.  Religion is a subject that I’ve always found quite fascinating despite my family’s own irreligious background.

To give the short answer, I chose to become Christian because the messages were appealing to me.  I also found the historical evidence for Christianity, particularly Orthodoxy, to be overwhelming. No other religion can claim their historical figures performed public miracles.

3) How has your family taken your conversion to Christianity, given that they do not share your beliefs?

It’s been mixed. My mother is of the mindset that it’s a good thing if it’s what makes me happy. Others still don’t really know since they’re not particularly fond of religion.

4) You said that you used to be somewhat of a troll. What led to the change?

I guess the easiest answer would be that I simply grew bored of it and matured.  It also got rather tedious to have to constantly create new Facebook accounts.

5. When were you diagnosed as autistic?

I was fourteen I believe. Somewhere in my early teens.

Continue reading “One Faith, Many Paths: Jannah Leah”

One Faith, Many Paths: Trevor Justin Gawthorne

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This month for my “One Faith, Many Paths” project, I decided to interview one of the members of my Autistic Christians group on FB. Here’s Trevor Gawthorne from Down Under!

1. How old were you when you became Christian? When I was 16. I got bullied a lot over it.

2. What was your childhood like? It was all right. Most of it was decent. Eight years old was the last time I remember it being good.

3.When were you diagnosed with autism? Did you receive any help? I was diagnosed at 6 with autism and ADHD.

4. What is your current job? Unemployed.

Continue reading “One Faith, Many Paths: Trevor Justin Gawthorne”

The Child Behind the Glass

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As someone who uses Facebook, I see many articles about autism shared around, and often from an ableist perspective. One way to tell if the article you’re reading is going to be full of misinformation is if you see the image above. I hate it. HATE IT! Allow me to explain why.

First off, it conveys the image that autistic people are isolated from society. They are not. Yes, many are extremely introverted, or in some cases they may even be non-verbal. But neither should be a barrier to communication. There are more ways to communicate than with words: hugs, handshakes, giving someone a “high-five”, waving, etc.

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The Death of Suzanne Wright

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I opened my Facebook this morning and discovered that Suzanne Wright, one of the founders of Autism $peaks, has died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 69. I knew right away that I had to make a blog topic about this.

I am not sure how I should respond to this. Autism $peaks is an organization that is misunderstood by the press and vilified (and rightfully so) by the autistic community. Despite their motto being “It’s time to listen”, they have not once listened to the people they claim to represent. Their platform has always been not helping autistic people, but curing them of autism. They see autism as a disease. They do not wish to understand us. The only way to truly “cure” a person of autism is for that person to not exist at all.

Suzanne Wright started her organization because her own grandson was diagnosed with autism. She felt as though autism had taken her grandchild away from her. But that’s the thing–people like her do not realize that EVERY child is difficult to raise. Would it have been better if her child was born without autism? Not necessarily. Her grandchild would still have difficulties and struggles. And the child would have been a completely different child. Continue reading “The Death of Suzanne Wright”

The Fictional Spectrum: Linus Van Pelt (Peanuts)

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“I love mankind. It’s people I can’t stand!”

As many of you know from my other two articles about Peanuts, it’s one of my all-time favorite comic strips.  My favorite character is Linus Van Pelt, the middle child of the Van Pelt family. In fact, I think he may be autistic.

Of all the characters in the strip, Linus seems the most intelligent. His dialogue is often prone to monologues. He will go on talking about any topic he is most interested in, especially the Great Pumpkin, baseball, or the Bible.  In the Christmas special, he’s the only one who still knows the true meaning of the holiday–everyone else is too wrapped up in the frivolity and consumerism.  In Halloween stories, he’s the only kid who believes in the Great Pumpkin, and the rest of the kids often ridicule him for this. His interest in baseball rivals that of Charlie Brown’s.

Linus’s biggest weakness is his “security blanket”. He’s rarely seen without it, often sucking his thumb while holding it. Perhaps holding it gives him comfort, like holding a stuffed animal does for some children. Whenever Lucy tries to break him of this habit, he will become anxious and panic. Lucy is the only person who even tries to separate him from his blanket. (Well, there’s Snoopy on some occasions, but he just does it as a prank if nothing else.)

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