We’re pleased to announce the accepted presentations for the Association for Autistic Community’s annual conference. Check out our sessions and make sure to register soon! Scholarships are available – e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more details or with any questions.
Bev Harp, MSW – Finally at the Table and Trying not to Flip it
For several years now, you have been standing outside, holding the
sign that says Nothing About Us Without Us while inside parents and
professionals defined your needs and determined what services you
might be allowed to access. Finally, a few autistics are being
invited to participate on local and state advisory boards. Maybe you
are one of them. Quite possibly, you are finding the inside colder,
more difficult to navigate than the outside ever was.
How do you determine whether or not your participation might benefit
you or other autistic people? What if you suspect you are being
tokenized? How do you ensure that your communication needs are
understood and accommodated? How do you make yourself heard above the
voices that cry epidemic and demand ever more funding for therapies
you consider harmful? In a roomful of people, some of whom may be
hostile to your presence, what steps do you take to avoid meltdown?
What is your response to the prevalent use of functioning labels and
being told that you are “not like my child?”
You may even be working for an organization that serves or claims to
serve autistic people. In these cases, the stakes can be even higher,
as a single flipped table can end an otherwise beneficial employment
situation. What happens when a supervisor or colleague requests a
letter of support for a new project that does not appear to be in the
best interests of autistic people? How is one to respond when an
otherwise good employer insists on supporting an infamous
anti-autistic event or seeks to collaborate with agencies whose
practices we believe to be harmful? Where does one draw the line when
working to elicit change from the “inside?”
This presentation will explore logistical and ethical concerns
associated with attending meetings of autism societies, serving on
advisory boards, and working professionally in fields related to
autism and/or autistic advocacy. The presenter is an autistic person
with a master´s degree in social work who has experience working for
a state university on projects to support autistics and others with
Savannah Breakstone – Twittering Community: Using Twitter Chats to
Build Autistic (and Disability) Community
As time and social media has gone on, the disability community and in
particular the autistic community have carved out a place for
themselves on each platform. One method of doing this on twitter is
through the use of twitterchats.
A Twitter chat is a way of connecting with people about a topic or
shared interest at a specific point in time on Twitter. It uses a
combination of a set hashtag (Such as #Autchat or #AutismMeans) and
typically some guiding questions to create a space for interested
people to connect and discuss the topic. The time span can be as
defined as a single hour, or can be set for a day- though a more
specific time span tends to give more of a sense of being together on
one thing, and tends to generate a more concentrated stream of tweets
especially in specific communities.
During my presentation, I will be talking about what a Twitter chat
is in more detail. I will talk about how they are typically structured, including enough background to allow someone to consider starting their own. I will also talk about tips for more effective
use of the twitterchat format for community building versus campaign
building. Included will be some things I’ve noticed to make it more
accessible to participate in, as well as tips for easier
participation in a twitterchat.
Sparrow Rose Jones – Sleep Issues and How to Address Them:
Adapting Standard Circadian
Autistic people have a genetic pre-disposition to sleep disruptions
and disorders. 35% to 40% of people in the general population
experience serious sleep disruptions but looking at research leads me
to estimate that as many as 75% of Autistics endure chronic sleep
issues with a noted predisposition for circadian rhythm disorders.
This presentation will discuss, using accessible layman’s terms,
enough of the biological mechanisms of sleep to help attendees gain
some understanding of how sleep and circadian rhythms work. This
knowledge gives individuals the power to adapt sleep advice for their
Scott Robertson – Achieving Neurodiversity Friendly Work
This interactive presentation will discuss strategies, approaches, and
resources that autistic people can use to secure, maintain, and succeed
at work in jobs in competitive, integrated employment. It will also
describe approaches to improve the neurodiversity friendliness of
workplaces, attain needed accommodations, and remove cognitive, sensory,
and social barriers. Additionally, it will speak about the issues and
concerns surrounding potential disclosure and selective disclosure of
autism and other disability identities in the workplace.
Ruti Regan – Coping with ableism without destroying yourself or
becoming a jerk
Being autistic or otherwise disabled in an ableist culture is really
hard. Most of us face terrifying and demeaning discrimination at least
some of the time. Some of us live in fear of life-threatening
discrimination. Most of us have been seriously harmed by people who
meant well. Many of us have been through demeaning therapy that taught
us that we weren´t good enough. Many of us have been abused. Many of
us have been abused by people who exploited our disability or other
people´s ableism to get away with it. And so on.
It´s hard to see yourself as a full person when others don´t treat
you like one. There are practical skills that help. I will explain what
some of them are. It can also be very confusing to figure out how to fight for your rights
and humanity without turning your whole life into a battleground. It´s
important to have things in your life other than fighting. I will
explain why this is important in concrete terms, and practical skills
that help make it possible.
When you have to fight for your humanity on a regular basis, it can also
be easy to misinterpret every conflict as an attack on your humanity.
This mistake leads to being mean to people who don´t deserve it, and
causes a number of other problems. This part will be about practical
skills for assessing what kind of situation you´re actually dealing
with, and possible responses to various situations.
Another complicating factor is that many of the actions that nondisabled
people use to show respect and consideration may be physically or
cognitively impossible for us to manage reliably. This is often seen as
meaning that disabled people can´t show respect (or that it´s
ableist to expect us to be considerate of others). What it actually
means is that we sometimes need to find alternative ways to show respect
and be considerate. This part will be about practical skills for
treating each other well when some of the socially expected ways of
doing so aren´t possible for us.
Kit Mead – Autism, Awareness Campaigns, and the Mental Health
This presentation will focus on the interaction between autism and the
mental health care system in the United States, and how society has
failed Autistic people by continually spreading damaging “awareness”
campaigns and dangerous propaganda, and leading to increased rates of
PTSD and trauma from repeated abuse and bullying. It will also discuss
how this drives many into a mental health care system that is profoundly
broken because it is based on the medical model of disability and mental
Finn Gardiner – Autism Info Matters: Data Collection,
Participatory Action Research and the Autistic Community
Autism Info Matters is a presentation about a participatory action research
project that gauged attitudes about the creation of an integrated autism
database in Massachusetts in order to deliver final recommendations to the
state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services. The presenter will be describing
the way the project came about, the methods we used, and the final
recommendations we developed that will be delivered to EOHHS.
Sarah R. Pripas – Freelancing for Autistic People: Possibilities and Perils
The number of independent contractors in today’s economy has been growing
steadily. For autistic people who may encounter discrimination and lack of
accessibility in the standard workforce, the option to freelance is one
that may be particularly appealing. Freelancers can work as writers,
editors, graphic designers, web designers, programmers, musicians, and in
many other areas. However, freelancing comes with many challenges that may
be particularly challenging for autistic people. These include doing taxes
as a freelancer, budgeting during lean times, and marketing and finding
clients. While there are many resources available for aspiring freelancers,
most of these tend to utilize a neurotypical perspective. In this
presentation/discussion, I would like to discuss how autistic people can
approach these challenges in a way that works for us, given our differences
in communication and executive functioning.
Autistic people may be particularly vulnerable to scams and exploitative
contracts targeting freelancers. Drawing from my own knowledge and
experience as a freelance writer and editor, I will discuss common places
to find freelance work such as Upwork and Craigslist, reviewing the
benefits and drawbacks of these platforms.
Alexis Andrie Toliver – Race, Disability, and Police Brutality:
When Will Black Disabled Lives Matter?
The intersections of race and disability are hardly discussed. Why? Possibly because disability is highly stigmatized in communities of color. As a result of this, we have held few too little discussions on race and disability; particularly, how this increases the likelihood to be brutalized by police officers.
Our generation has seen a rise in radical activists that have appealing hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName. Such movements have raised awareness on state incited violence against people of color; however, the disability aspect of this narrative rarely been discussed. Being black puts one at a higher risk of being brutalized, shot, and killed by police. However, being disabled further heightens this probability. Ezell Ford, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Quintonio LeGrier, and Tanisha Anderson are just a few of the black, disabled victims of police brutality. A few days ago, it was announced that the cops that murdered Jeremy McDole will face no charges. Jeremy McDole was a black, unarmed, disabled man, that was murdered in his wheelchair 2 seconds after a cop ordered him to put his hands up. Jeremy McDole was murdered as a result of ableism and racism; yet, his narrative is rarely told. There have been few to none hashtags and movements for him. Now is the time to stand up for Jeremy McDole. The truth is, disabled folks are more than half the victims of police shootings. It is time (for those of us that are able) to rise up against this. I am simply tired of living in a system where neither my black nor disabled life matters.
As disabled activists, it is time for us to stand against police brutality. This presentation is not a talk, but a call to action. We are at a point where the goal turns from raising awareness to creating action. We are at a point where actions have to be taken to simply stay alive as disabled people of color. Raising awareness amongst the able bodied is great, but if the masses aren’t standing for and with us, what is the point? We must bring forth actions that force the recognition of our lives and significance. It is time for black disabled lives to matter.