April is Autism Awareness Month. With autism being an increasingly common diagnosis, my social media timelines are becoming inundated with posts encouraging everyone to wear blue. Jigsaw puzzle pieces are in abundance. Unfortunately, while most of these posts are well meaning, distressingly few of them are from #ActuallyAutistic people. Many times, these posts have been made by the parents of autistic kids. Sometimes, they are from more distant friends and relations.
I’m not autistic. So, I am not positioned to criticize the content of these awareness posts. I am, however, a part of the larger disability community where it is all too common for voices of the family members of disabled people to drown out those who experience disability directly. This is a serious problem.
The Right Voices Need to be Heard
It’s critically important for the parent advocates of disabled kids to be heard. The problem arises when they are the only or the loudest voice in the room. One reason it is a problem is because the needs and barriers experienced by a child are different than those faced by an adult. So, if all the social and political power is in the hands of parents raising awareness of what they believe their child needs to have a better life, there will be little attention left over to focus on what the disabled adults are saying. Parents and family members themselves should, and sometimes do, appreciate this fact. After all, they know that their kids will eventually grow up and be the adult that deserves to be taken seriously.
So, I want to encourage readers to check out what I would consider three of the most important blogs to come out of the neurodiversity or autistic self-advocacy movements. Here are three leading voices of autistic adults that we can all learn a lot from.
First, I urge you to check out Cal’s Blog, by Cal Montgomery. Cal has been writing about disability for decades and has taught me so much. Among other things, Cal has a deep knowledge of the history of the disability movement’s breadth. He often references the legacy of leaders with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These individuals are not usually recognized alongside the physically impaired activists, whose work that lead to the passage of the ADA is more commonly recognized.
Lydia X.Z. Brown
Another well-known thought leader amongst autistic adults is Lydia X.Z. Brown and their blog Autistic Hoya. Lydia is a trained lawyer, among other things, and their knowledge of disability politics and policy is incredibly expansive. This blog is deliberately intersectional in its approach, so it covers an enormous amount of ground.
Finally, I would recommend checking out the blog Just Stimming by Julia Bascom. Julia is the current executive director of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, but most of her posts go back more than a decade and well before she was a well-recognized leader. Many of them are carefully crafted reflections on her own life as an autistic person, which I find gives them a lot of depth and punch.
All three of these blogs don’t seem to be updated very often these days. They are resources that I learned a lot from over the years, but I am betting there are many newer bloggers that are now active but don’t yet have the near celebrity status of Cal, Lydia and Julia amongst those that follow disability activism.
Thus, I need to take some of my own advice this April and seek out writing from more #ActuallyAutistic adults that I can learn from.
About Joe Stramondo: Joe is an assistant professor at San Diego University and is extremely active in the disability community. Joe uses an Edge 3 Power Wheelchair to maintain his mobility and independence. In his spare time, Joe strives to be the best father he can to his children. Click here to learn more about Joe.
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