Alek Minassian’s Plea of Not Criminally Responsible is an Insult to Justice and All Autistic People

Image Description: Black Label with White writing that says "Actually Autistic"
Image Description: Black Label with White writing that says “Actually Autistic”

Alek Minassian killed ten people: Ji Hun Kim, So He Chung, Anne Marie D’Amico, Andrea Bradden, Chul “Eddie” Min Kang, Beutis Renuka Amarasingha, Geraldine Brady, Munir Abdo Habib Najjar, and Mary Elizabeth Forsyth. He is also responsible for injuring sixteen other people. After the attack in 2018 it was reported that Minassian is autistic. I too am autistic, and I worried at the time that negative associations with Minassian might carry over to increased prejudice against autistic people in general.

I could not have imagined that Minassian and his legal team would attempt to claim that he was not criminally responsible for so much death and harm because he is autistic. I, and many of my peers in the autistic community, are horrified by this development.

The argument relies on serious misconceptions of autistic people and ignores the differing realities autistic people face if they are not straight white men. Autistic women are often not diagnosed until later in life and often learn to mask their autistic traits (at the expense of their mental health) because of social expectations for women and girls. People rarely question whether the entitlement and sexually predatory behaviour exhibited by some white autistic men is not in fact inherent to their autism, but rather that they simply have not been held to a high enough standard and have routinely not faced consequences for their actions. And this is certainly a white privilege offered to men like Alek Minassian, as it is certainly not extended to autistic men and boys of colour. Men like Arnaldo Rios Soto whose caregiver was shot because They believed the toy Arnaldo was holding was a gun.

This legal defense is only possible for Alek Minassian because he is a white autistic man, who benefits from a cultural understanding of autism that often ignores the existence of—much less the starkly different realities of—autistic people who are not straight white men.

The legal defense also relies on a primary misconception of autism. Other autistic people and I watch in horror as Minassian is described in court as not having empathy and having that tied directly to his being autistic. The idea that autistic people lack empathy is simply untrue and there is plenty of contemporary research to back this up. Sue Fletcher-Watson and Geoffrey Bird theorize that past research has used flawed terminology and measurements to determine autistic empathy.

Minassian is described as only understanding wrongfulness on an intellectual level— a statement I find particularly difficult to parse. As an autistic person, I understand perfectly well that mass murder is wrong. I also understand the human toll that occurs after such an event takes place. It is not just that people have died and been injured. There is the secondary victimization experienced by the families who lost loved ones, people whose injuries might have resulted in permanent disabilities, and the ongoing trauma experienced by everyone touched by this event.

The defense has further claimed that Minassian’s autistic way of thinking is “similar to a psychosis”. This is absurd. I have experienced an actual diagnosed psychosis; it was very different than my autistic way of thinking. The consequences of my being a psychotic autistic were that I didn’t leave my apartment for several days, said some inappropriate things on Twitter, and spent eight days in a locked psychiatric ward, after which, I spent months finding the right balance of medications to keep that from happening again.

Getting blocked by a few people on Twitter for having a psychotic episode, is a far cry from planning and carrying out mass murder. All of which he did while apparently completely aware of what he was doing.

Disability, particularly a disability that impacts how a person relates to the world, is a convenient scapegoat. It is so convenient that at times prosecutors themselves have assumed that something must be psychiatrically wrong simply to make sense of horrible events. Consider Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Brevik, who killed 77 people in 2011. He was quickly diagnosed as having schizophrenia, a diagnosis that was later removed.

Disability is a convenient and perhaps even comfortable scapegoat that explains why horrible things happen. It, however, ignores the insidious nature of white supremacy and misogyny that are prevalent in Incel online communities. It ignores a long history of regular people rationalizing committing atrocities. Disability is a convenient boogey man that allows people to deny accountability to bigoted belief systems. I can only hope that it will ultimately be recognized that Alek Minassian is a man who was radicalized by misogyny and that he is punished accordingly.

How to Support Me and My Work

The outbreak of COVID-19 has created a lot of financial precarity for me, so I would really appreciate any assistance you are able to offer

Please if you are able help the most vulnerable in your communities by practicing social distancing responsibly and by not hoarding resources.

I personally am experiencing financial difficulties as a result of Covid-19 and would appreciate any assistance you can offer, even if it’s just to share this blog post.

If you are able please consider helping me financially during this time. My situation is quite precarious.

You can support me on Patreon

Become a Patron!

You can buy me a coffee

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Or send me money directly through Paypal

paypal.me/crippledscholar

Statistics Canada isn’t Collecting Information on Disability During the Pandemic

Image Description: The Statistics Canada logo, a Canadian flag with the words “statistics Canada” on top and “Statistique Canada” on the bottom

Statistics Canada (Stats Can) has run three public survey since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic began shutting down public life in March. None of those surveys has considered the unique concerns of disabled Canadians in the survey questions themselves or even in the demographic information collected at the end of the survey. This is a serious oversight as disabled Canadians and permanent residents have been particularly hard hit by the virus. We are often higher risk of serious infection and the impact of the changes to the day to day running of public life have created additional barriers to disabled people in getting our basic needs met.

During this pandemic, disabled people have had their continued access to food threatened. We have had our continued access to ongoing care threatened. We have seen the impact of years of mismanagement of long-term care facilities create a situation where disabled people and the elderly have are disproportionately the casualties of this disease. This last becoming so bad that the Ontario government is currently dealing with a scathing report from the military who had to be called in to cover staffing shortfalls. On top of all that disabled people are facing potential medical discrimination if we should catch the virus as a result of discriminatory emergency triage protocols.

In the face of all that Canada’s national statistics agency has not seen fit to consider the needs or realities of disabled people. It is as though we do not exist at all.

It should not need to be stated that disabled people matter and that the issues and barriers we face during a national emergency deserve to be considered and studied. We already know from heart breaking stories that disabled people are suffering and being failed during this time. If disabled people must suffer these injustices we at least deserve for them to count as more than heart wrenching anecdotes that people can brush off as isolated incidents.

Disabled people deserve to have a voice as a group that has our own specific and measurable concerns and experiences during this pandemic.

Statistics Canada should be doing better. We deserve to be seen and recognized.

How to Support Me and My Work

The outbreak of COVID-19 has created a lot of financial precarity for me, so I would really appreciate any assistance you are able to offer

Please if you are able help the most vulnerable in your communities by practicing social distancing responsibly and by not hoarding resources.

I personally am experiencing financial difficulties as a result of Covid-19 and would appreciate any assistance you can offer, even if it’s just to share this blog post.

If you are able please consider helping me financially during this time. My situation is quite precarious.

You can support me on Patreon

Become a Patron!

You can buy me a coffee

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Or send me money directly through Paypal

paypal.me/crippledscholar

Influencer/YouTuber Mika Stauffer and her Husband Dissolve Adoption of their Disabled Son: A Disabled Adoptee’s Perspective

Content warnings for discussion of adoption, racism and child abuse

Image description: A white couple Myka and James Stauffer sit on a white bed while both wearing white shirts. Myka has dyed blonde hair and is wearing glasses, James has a beard and is bald
Image description: A white couple Myka and James Stauffer sit on a white bed while both wearing white shirts. Myka has dyed blonde hair and is wearing glasses, James has a beard and is bald

Mika Stauffer is a YouTuber and Instagram influencer. She has hundreds of thousands of followers and she has just revealed that she and her husband James have dissolved the adoption of their autistic son Huxley who they adopted from China.

This is a story that is steeped in racism that I am not best placed to talk about/ If you read this please also seek out commentary from transracial and transnational adoptees. They can best contextualize the impacts of the racism involved in this tragedy.

Transracial is an accepted term in the adoption community reffering to adopted children whose parents do not share the child’s race.

Huxley Stauffer is a transracial adoptee.

I myself am a disabled adoptee and I have experience with being the child that my parents did not expect and the consequences that I experienced as a result of that.

I tweeted about it yesterday.

While I was never “rehomed” (a term more appropriate when speaking about pets not children), my parents very much resented my disabilities.

My parents decided early on that they would not allow themselves to be inconvenienced by my cerebral palsy. So they decided that I just needed to grow out of it.

As growing out of brain damage was not a thing I could accomplish, I was punished for not living up to their expectations. Often if I needed help with something, I just had to accept that it wasn’t going to get done or I couldn’t have it. I could also expect to be lectured on how the situation was entirely my fault for not trying hard enough.

The abuse and neglect surrounding my physical limitations came primarily from my mother, though she taught the rest of the family to have the same unreasonable expectations of me. My father put me through daily psychological hell because I was undiagnosed autistic and I hated his form of “humour” which largely comprised getting into my space while miming violence and refusing to stop calling me hated knicknames or retelling heavily embellished stories twisted to humiliate me.

He drove me to tears on a nearly daily basis. This behaviour was also normalized in the family and it was always my fault for being upset by it.

One of the things he frequently brought up was a story he had heard second hand from a coworker. I had been going door to door selling Girl Guide cookies and knew that I was approaching the home of someone I knew. Rather understandably I chose to exploit this connection in order to sell cookies. I told him that I knew who he was and that he worked with my dad and that he should buy cookies. He bought cookies.

When he relayed this story to my dad at work, I’m certain he was just sharing a cute story involving his co-workers kid. He definitely didn’t know that I would be harassed with this story for years after.

My dad came home and gleefully retold this story in a sing songy voice, implying that I had behaved ridiculously. I burst into tears. Thus established as something that was guaranteed to get under my skin, my dad would chant “I know you and you know my dad” at me insistently as though this was the most ridiculous thing a 6 year selling cookies could ever do.

It was so ingrained as a hilarious and timeless story that even after my dad died my family kept doing it. One day we had that coworker to dinner and my mother dropped a sing song “I know you and you know my dad” into the conversation thinking this man was in on the joke. He stared atr her blankly until she awkwardly changed the subject.

To him it was just a long forgotten anecdote about a friend’s cute kid. However, for me it became something that resulted in decades of harassment.

I used to beg dad to stop harassing me. I tried talking to him about it like an adult but he was too convinced that I was the problem, I had to just get over it and learn to laugh.

Unsurprisingly years of psychological abuse eventually turned physically violent and at that point dad also threatened “I can send you back where you came from”.

It is important here to make clear that throughout my childhood I was constantly told everything was my fault. If I couldn’t figure out how to do something, I was lazy and not trying hard enough. If I complained about the ever present harassment that I experienced, I was told it was my own fault and if I stopped reacting to it, it would stop.

So being told that by a parent even an abusive one that I was still “other” and potentially disposable was devastating even as I was the victim of a physical assault.

One of the things that I find interesting (read: concerning) about the Mika Stauffer debacle aside from the fact that this child was used for views and financial gain before being effectively thrown away (which has been written about thoroughly elsewhere) is that there seems to be little focus on the role of James Stauffer, Myka’s husband.

Much of the ire is being directed at her while her husband is not being targeted with the same degree of censure.

So I just want to remind everyone that James Stauffer abandoned this child too. He would have been involved in the decisions.

The hell I lived through is not an isolated incident. It is the experience of far to many disabled children whether they are adopted or not. We need to hold the parents of disabled children to a higher standard based on outcomes for the child and not simply assume that “they are doing the best that they can”

How to Support Me and My Work

The outbreak of COVID-19 has created a lot of financial precarity for me, so I would really appreciate any assistance you are able to offer

Please if you are able help the most vulnerable in your communities by practicing social distancing responsibly and by not hoarding resources.

I personally am experiencing financial difficulties as a result of Covid-19 and would appreciate any assistance you can offer, even if it’s just to share this blog post.

If you are able please consider helping me financially during this time. My situation is quite precarious.

You can support me on Patreon

Become a Patron!

You can buy me a coffee

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Or send me money directly through Paypal

paypal.me/crippledscholar

Cripping Quarantine: Corona Virus, Disability, and Mental Health

Content Warning for mentions of mental health and abuse

Image Description: The words "STAY HOME" written seven times in shades of green, purple, red, and yellow on a pale mint background
Image Description: The words “STAY HOME” written seven times in shades of green, purple, red, and yellow on a pale mint background

I have been in self isolation since March 16, I have only gone out twice since then and those trips were unavoidable to collect prescriptions. On March 16th, I woke up early because I knew that more serious restrictions due to the coronavirus were likely about to come into effect soon and I wanted to make certain that I had enough of my medications to hopefully weather a lengthy stay indoors so I was going to my local doctor’s office. I have preexisting conditions that may put me at higher risk for a severe COVID-19 infection. Those same preexisting conditions also put me at risk of potentially being denied life saving care in the event that I need a respirator.

I as a mad, physically disabled, autistic person may not meet the standards of the often terrifying triage that is taking place in areas where hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of too many patients with too few resources.

Better if I just don’t leave my apartment, my doctor agrees.

March 16th it turns out was the day everything was going to start shutting down, including the medical clinic I had just arrived at. The staff had apparently received word overnight that they should no longer see patients on site and start figuring out how to set up appointments over video chat.

As I and about a dozen other people waited outside the unexpectedly closed clinic for word from the staff inside, we tried to keep 6 feet apart. Ultimately, the doctors decked out in plastic scrubs, gloves, and face masks decided to see patients while only allowing us into the clinic two at a time.

My doctor renewed my two regular anti-anxiety medications and also wrote me a third prescription for Lorazepam to be taken as needed just in case. While I did not question the additional prescription I rather cockily assumed that I would be fine with my regular regiment of meds. I’d been doing very well up to that point hadn’t I?

It only took a few hours for some very severe anxiety to kick in as I realized that maintaining access to food was going to be difficult. The demand on delivery services which prior to the outbreak had never been a problem was suddenly very difficult. This in turn created a lot of financial anxiety as I realized that if I was going to get enough to eat during quarantine, I would be spending more on service fees as what orders I could get through showed up with less than half my requested items. Since then even getting a delivery slot has often been impossible. I may end up having to rely on takeout delivery which is much more accessible but also far more expensive.

I have been grateful for my doctor’s consideration that I might be put under even more stress and her efforts to lesson that burden repeatedly.

At the start of all this none of the emergency assistance measures had been put in place so the financial concerns were particularly stressful. Since the implementation of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and other form of financial assistance, some of those concerns have been alleviated but because the criteria for eligibility is ever changing and because all applications are being approved, the stress has just been put off for a later date. I now have to worry about having this money clawed back next tax season when I will most definitely no longer have it. I’m pretty sure I qualify but there is always that doubt lingering in the back of my mind.

Aside from the stress caused by figuring out how to survive in a changed world, I have also found myself succumbing to some of the symptoms of the shared trauma of this pandemic. For the first couple of weeks I tried to remain active and productive. I exercised as much as possible in the confines of my apartment, I tried to diligently work on my comprehensive exams. I ultimately succumbed to terrible emotional exhaustion which was made worse by the almost nightly vivid nightmares.

I have more recently slowed down significantly. I spend much of my time reading novels while only getting minimal work done. While I am not making great gains on my comprehensive exams, my stress level is much lower and I am sleeping better.

Please give yourselves permission to just give up expectations, it’s the best advice I can give you in this situation.

One of the things that I and several of my disabled friends have noticed during this time is that with the while world isolating, it brings the extent of our own isolation in general into sharp focus. It’s not normal to be a recluse when everyone is doing it.

To make matter worse, I haven’t been able to stay as reclusive as I’d like to. Two weeks ago, my estranged mother with whom I have not spoken for nearly two years decided to use the pandemic and my mental health history to try and force contact. She did this by calling York Campus Security on me. I have no idea what she told them. All I know is that one minute I was contentedly watching YouTube videos and the next I was answering the door of my apartment to two security guards because “a family member (my mother) had called and expressed concern for me”.

They seemed quite surprised that I was up and dressed and was not displaying any characteristics of either illness or distress. They even asked me to show them my student card so they could verify that they were speaking to the right person. While they were apologetic, it did not stop them from informing the university that I had been subjected to a wellness check. Based on the email I got from them it is clear that they did not explain that the check had been unnecessary. I also told them that I was not in contact with my family and had not been since well before the current global crisis started. I have no faith however that a security service that would subject someone to medical overreach my the university would have had the decency not to call my mother back after her interference and “concern” proved to be unfounded.

It is important to remember that abuse is actually more common now even for those of us who have put over 1000 miles between ourselves and our abusers.

That episode took me days to recover from and the university has no interest in recognizing that they have acted as a proxy for an abuser twice now.

In the midst of all this stress and coping, the one new thing that I have been working on is finally figuring out how to do my own makeup. Here is a picture of me trying to be goth

View this post on Instagram

#wednesdayaddams with better white balance

A post shared by Kim Sauder (@kimberleysauder) on

Image Desrcription: A pale woman with dark lipstick stands against a woodgrain wall. The shot is from below giving the impression that she might be lying down. She is wearing a dress reminiscent of Wednesday Addams

You can see some of my other attempts on my Instagram but be forewarned, I am not good at selfies or Instagram.

This pandemic has been hard on all of us but it has been an additional burden on disabled people as the response has not meaningfully considered our needs. People receiving disability benefits are largely not receiving further aid despite CERB being higher than disability payments. We are also a population that already relied on grocery delivery and nothing has been put in place to ensure that we maintain access to those services. Many of us do not have the option to even choose to risk our health and pop to the store. Shopping was already inaccessible to us.

This is such a stressful time and I am making my way through it, the best that I can. I hope that better policies are coming for disabled people but I’m also not holding my breath.

How to Support Me and My Work

The outbreak of COVID-19 has created a lot of financial precarity for me, so I would really appreciate any assistance you are able to offer

Please if you are able help the most vulnerable in your communities by practicing social distancing responsibly and by not hoarding resources.

I personally am experiencing financial difficulties as a result of Covid-19 and would appreciate any assistance you can offer, even if it’s just to share this blog post.

If you are able please consider helping me financially during this time. My situation is quite precarious.

You can support me on Patreon

Become a Patron!

You can buy me a coffee

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Or send me money directly through Paypal

paypal.me/crippledscholar

Sarah Kurchak’s “I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder” is the Memoir Everyone Should Read Right Now

Image description: Book cover for I overcame my Autism and all I got was this Lousy Anxiety Disorder. The title is shown at the top under an endorsement from Hannah Gadsby which reads “A treat to read, I’d recommend this book to anyone who struggles to connect to the world, even if you don’t call that struggle Autism” A head and shoulders shot of the author a white woman with pink hair with her head resting on her arm takes up the bottom of the cover.
Image description: Book cover for I overcame my Autism and all I got was this Lousy Anxiety Disorder. The title is shown at the top under an endorsement from Hannah Gadsby which reads “A treat to read, I’d recommend this book to anyone who struggles to connect to the world, even if you don’t call that struggle Autism” A head and shoulders shot of the author a white woman with pink hair with her head resting on her arm takes up the bottom of the cover.

Thank goodness for whoever decided to release the memoir I overcame my Autism and all I got was this Lousy Anxiety Disorder by Sarah Kurchak early on April 2nd. I immediately downloaded the ebook, though hardcopies are also theoretically also currently available in Canada but shipping delays might keep you from getting it until May (because global pandemic). Americans who want a hard copy will have to wait for September 22 international publication date (hopefully no more pandemic).

Sarah’s memoir is written in the form of connected essays in the form of a “How To Succeed” while directly challenging the idea that she actually knows how to do that. The book is an important challenge to the concept of “overcoming autism” and is a necessary example of the consequences of giving in to the pressures of trying to perform “normalcy” in an attempt to fit in.

More narratives by autistic people are something the world really needs. If only to break the monotony and statistical inaccuracy of the stories (far to frequently fictional and inaccurate) of straight white autistic men. Author Sarah Kurchak tries to challenge the unreality of what the wider world thinks about autistic people (and I can only hope she succeeds in chipping away at that bullshit). One of the most important themes that she discusses in her memoir is the issue of being believed and how often autistic people are challenged on both their autisticness and the validity of their opinions and experiences in relation to relevance to the broader autistic community.

As she points out one of the biggest Autism charities which has a dearth of autistic people in influential roles is called Autism Speaks (an organization that is widely unpopular with actual autistic people).

As Sarah explains in the introduction about a neurotypical response to her as yet unpublished teen sex comedy (which I desperately hope becomes a real book someday soon) that it was “REAL and raw”

For as long as autistic narratives are dominated and controlled by others, these are the concerns that will fester in the pit of my stomach and the back of my brain every time I sit down at my laptop, start to rock from side to side, and write.I have no interest in being told that my writing is real. I need my work to tell you that I am.

This is but one of the first of many poignant quotes mixed with wry and often comical anecdotes while also dealing with serious and heart wrenchingexperiences. This book is not about “what it is like to be autistic” no matter how frequently I reacted with “yep, me too”. It is a challenge to that monolith. It is about Sarah as an individual among individuals who may share common struggles experienced in an unending variety of of ways in a world really not designed for us.

This book is unrecognizable within the genre of autism narratives and that is one of my favourite things about it. I genuinely hope to see more books not like it but which also challenge the far to prevalent monolithic view of autistic people but as individuals whose stories matter outside the niche genre of autistic narratives.

The book is funny, sad, and serious and I highly recommend it as a really good read to absolutely everyone.

I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder: A Memoir is available in ebook and paperback in Canada from Indigo and Amazon

It is available in ebook form in the United States from Amazon and will be available in paperback on September 22.

We’re all stuck inside anyway so why not read a really good book.

How to Support Me and My Work

The outbreak of COVID-19 has created a lot of financial precarity for me, so I would really appreciate any assistance you are able to offer

Please if you are able help the most vulnerable in your communities by practicing social distancing responsibly and by not hoarding resources.

I personally am experiencing financial difficulties as a result of Covid-19 and would appreciate any assistance you can offer, even if it’s just to share this blog post.

If you are able please consider helping me financially during this time. My situation is quite precarious.

You can support me on Patreon

Become a Patron!

You can buy me a coffee

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Or send me money directly through Paypal

paypal.me/crippledscholar

Autism Awareness Month in the Time of Covid-19: Support Actually Autistic People…Seriously

Image Description: Photo of a blackboard that says "Support #ActuallyAutistic People" with a multicoloured infinity symbol at the bottom
Image Description: Photo of a blackboard that says “Support #ActuallyAutistic People” with a multicoloured infinity symbol at the bottom

Once again April is nearly upon us and along with it the baggage of Autism Awareness Month. Autistic people often dread April with it’s frequently dehumanizing rhetoric about us and a focus on Autism Charities that are often very unpopular with the people they claim to support. April often seems less about raising awareness for autistic people (whatever that actually means) and more a very pervasive fundraising campaign for Autism Organizations whose goals and actions are often in opposition to those of autistic people.

Autistic people exist, you are now aware, can we move on to acceptance and meaningful inclusion and support now?

Traditionally, April is full of people “Lighting It Up Blue” a campaign created by Autism org Autism Speaks. Puzzle piece imagery also abounds which is also largely associated with Autism Speaks but which has become so synonymous with autism that many organizations use it. It is a common feature in April Autism fundraising campaigns. I have seen puzzle piece pedicures which raised money for an organization that had no autistic representation in its governance.

Each year many autistic people protest the corporatization of autism initiatives. We protest the use of the puzzle piece to represent us as we believe it implies that we are broken and require putting back together. The negative associations of puzzle piece iconography has been backed up by research.

Autistic people tend to prefer the symbol of a rainbow infinity symbol which celebrates neurodiversity.

Image Description: Infinity symbol in a rainbow gradient
Image Description: Infinity symbol in a rainbow gradient

One of the most common issues of contention is the continued popularity and public support for Autism Speaks which is so unpopular in the autistic community that many consider it a hate group. We have been explaining why for years. There are many accounts by autistic people explaining their continued dislike of the world’s largest autism charity. There are even videos.

Yet, every year when an autistic person expresses dread of April and the inevitable inundation of Autism Speaks fundraising, we still get asked why?

This year is different though. This year we are heading into April in the middle of a global pandemic. This year might offer autistic people a brief reprieve from what many of us have renamed “Autism Bewareness Month”. It will be harder for organizations like Autism Speaks to roll out their huge campaigns in a world that is social distancing (something that autistic people are really good at by the way).

That does not mean that the world should look away from autistic people this April. This year is instead an opportunity to refocus on supporting autistic people more directly.

I know that I am not alone as an autistic person in experiencing a heightened state of financial anxiety as a result of social distancing. I also have a physical disability that adds nutritional anxiety as I cannot grocery shop on my own both because of physical barriers and that I am a higher risk for serious coronavirus infection.

Many of us might already be champions at social distancing but we are particularly at risk of extreme poverty and not being able to find the supports we need to get through this pandemic safely.

So this year I would ask that if you are able that you directly support autistic individuals and organizations that are run by and for autistic people.

You can support me by sending me money directly through paypal (I will include more ways to support me and my work at the end of this post).

You can also support autistic creator like Amythest Schaber (whose video can be viewed earlier in this post). Amythest is also an artist with a shop on Redbubble where they sell beautiful autism and disability inspired art.

Image description and art print of the word Neurovidersity in a rainbow gradient with sparks like neurological connections on a black background. It can be purchased here

There are also autistic authors who write beautiful autistic characters. I recommend On The Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis.

My friend and amazing writer Sarah Kurchak has a memoir coming out on April 2, and the book launch has been cancelled due to coronavirus but you can and should preorder her book I Overcame My Autism and all I Got was this Lousy Anxiety Disorder. Autistic comedian extraordinaire Hannah Gadsby is a fan.

Image description: Book cover for I 
overcame my Autism and all I got was this Lousy Anxiety Disorder. The title is shown at the top under an endorsement from Hannah Gadsby which reads "A treat to read, I'd recommend this book to anyone who struggles to connect to the world, even if you don't call that struggle Autism"  A head and shoulders shot of the author a white woman with pink hair with her head resting on her arm takes up the bottom of the cover.
Image description: Book cover for I
overcame my Autism and all I got was this Lousy Anxiety Disorder. The title is shown at the top under an endorsement from Hannah Gadsby which reads “A treat to read, I’d recommend this book to anyone who struggles to connect to the world, even if you don’t call that struggle Autism” A head and shoulders shot of the author a white woman with pink hair with her head resting on her arm takes up the bottom of the cover.

You should also go watch Gadsby’s phenomenal comedy special Nanette on Netflix.

These are just a few of the amazing autistic people you could be supporting and learning from this April. We are sheltering in place after all, what else are you going to do?

Aside from directly financially supporting autistic individuals, you can also support better autism organizations whose leadership is full of autistic voices and whose goals more clearly support the wellbeing of autistic people. Organizations like The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, The Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network, and Autistics 4 Autistics.

In the midst of the stress and fear that this pandemic has caused please don’t forget autistic people this April. Use the opportunity of the time afforded by social distancing to learn more about autistic people from autistic people rather than making a shallow visual show of support that benefits a charity more than the people who require the support.

Let’s get past autism awareness and move on to autism acceptance and inclusion.

How to Support Me and My Work

The outbreak of COVID-19 has created a lot of financial precarity for me, so I would really appreciate any assistance you are able to offer

Please if you are able help the most vulnerable in your communities by practicing social distancing responsibly and by not hoarding resources.

I personally am experiencing financial difficulties as a result of Covid-19 and would appreciate any assistance you can offer, even if it’s just to share this blog post.

If you are able please consider helping me financially during this time. My situation is quite precarious.

You can support me on Patreon

Become a Patron!

You can buy me a coffee

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Or send me money directly through Paypal

paypal.me/crippledscholar

Crip Camp: It is Necessary and Important

Image Description: Poster for the Netflix Documentary Crip Camp. The Title is in white in the upper left corner. In the background are  white buildings in the foreground a shirtless black man leans a guitar over his right shoulder while pushing a white young man wearing trousers and a white shirt in his wheelchair
Image Description: Poster for the Netflix Documentary Crip Camp. The Title is in white in the upper left corner. In the background are white buildings in the foreground a shirtless black man leans a guitar over his right shoulder while pushing a white young man wearing trousers and a white shirt in his wheelchair

Near the beginning of the film Crip Camp which premiered today on Netflix, a girl named Valerie sees that she is being filmed and asks “Is this necessary? Is this important?” The answer is of course, yes this was very important.

I am so grateful for this film. It is absolutely unrepentant for disabled people.

The film covers the birth of the American disability rights movement which is traced back to Camp Jened, a camp for disabled people run as the film puts it by “hippies” from the 1950s to the 1970s. The film then shows how ideas and relationships created at Camp Jened resulted in civil disobedience like the 504 sit in which paved the way for more accessibility and laid the groundwork for the ADA.


Fighting for the AdA of course took significant activism and throughout all the time that disabled people in the United States were fighting for legal improvements to better their quality of life, you will find people who met at Camp Jened and who stayed connected and who organized for change.

Throughout the film many of the voices we hear discuss how they grew into their disabled identities and learned to reject the discriminatory attitudes that they faced and also reject the internalized ableism that they had learned growing up being the only disabled people in their communities.

Image description: a poster with a black background. It has the words challenged, handicapped, handi-capable, differently abled, divers-abled, special needs in white followed by red X’s beneath in a larger font is the word Disabled followed by a red check mark.
This poster is designed by Amythest Schaber and can be ordered here

It is through finding community that these people who improved the lives of so many others were able to do so.

This is very much a film about disability and disabled people. If the title Crip Camp wasn’t enough of a hint.

It was so powerful to watch. I finished it feeling sad that I never had the opportunity to go to Camp Jened and be part of the amazing burgeoning of the disability rights movement. Unfortunately, not everyone got the point of Crip Camp.

It is always a precarious situation when nondisabled people begin sharing their understandings of disability stories. In a film where several people clearly rejected the idea of overcoming disability as toxic and damaging, reviewer, Peter Debruge concluded this as the takeaway from the film.

In the end, “Crip Camp” isn’t about disability so much as the incredible ability this community showed, overcoming physical barriers and personal discomfort in order to be taken seriously. But that doesn’t mean the movie has to be 100% serious, and LeBrecht and company recognize that a little irreverence makes the journey that much more universal.

I cannot stress enough thhat while there is a lot of joy and triumph in the film, they did not however overcome physical barriers. They demanded that those physical barriers be removed. It’s like Debruge doesn’t even know what the 504 sit in accomplished. Did he even watch the movie?

I must be acknowledged that Debruge has a history of writing badly about disability. In his review of the controversial Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, he initially included this passage,

Text Reads: In the interest of full disclosure, allow me to confess: I’m a sucker for quadriplegic movies. Didn’t put it together until “Don’t Worry” really started to jive (which happens right about the moment Van Sant reveals the cause of Callahan’s injury), but there’s something about seeing real people contend with such extreme disability that gets me nearly every time. Whether they’ve been crippled since birth (a la “The Sessions”) or later in life (“The Sea Inside,” “The Theory of Everything”), their stories have a way of reminding us what really matters. Add to that the circle of support severely handicapped individuals require, and I’m in rapture, for there is nothing more beautiful in all of cinema — nothing — than genuine caregiving.

This section was swiftly criticized and summarily removed without acknowledgement that changes had been made. The review didn’t exactly improve much with the omission. It arill includes passages like this,

their stories have a way of reminding able-bodied people what they take for granted, while serving to bridge the perception of difference and discomfort that no doubt contributes to an under-representation of handicapped characters in general. In Callahan’s case, his alcoholism indirectly caused his injury, and the circle of sincere human support that gathers around him — both for overcoming his addiction and adapting to his condition — is so beautiful as to justify the controversy of its casting.

So it is certain that at the very least Peter Debruge as learned nothing. It is important to watch how important films like Crip Camp are received my nondisabled audiences. The oppressor has an infinite capacity to simply ignore the story as it is intended to be told.

John Callahan (the man profiled in Don’t Worry) never set out to inspire nondisabled people. He was more the kind of guy to tell them to Fuck, Off.

Crip Camp is a documentary about the amazing and grueling work disabled people have had to put in to be seen as human beings just as they are. Not the pseudo-humanity that is inferred by narratives of overcoming.

Crip Camp is an absolute much watch. I would also ask you to seek out opinions and reviews written by disabled people. These will help you broaden your understanding of the film and the barriers we continue to face.

Oh, did I mention, one summer at Camp Jened, there was an outbreak of crabs so the disability rights movement was born out of a bunch of horny teenagers. Which is clearly amazing.

Go watch the movie people.

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