Tomorrow Is Too Long to Wait for Inclusion

Getting Over the Biggest Obstacle to Inclusion

obstacle to inclusion; lego figurine standing close to the edge at the top of the empire state building in NYC

How do you get over the biggest obstacle to inclusion? In November of 2011, I wrote a blog post for SpecialEducationAdvisor.com about educators getting over the fear of inclusive education. Here is an excerpt.

Even under the best of circumstances, there is always a bit of trepidation when starting something new. Think about the first time you rode a bike, drove a car, your first kiss, or really anytime you have ever taken a risk. The thrill and terror of it all can be overwhelming. I liken this feeling to the first time I took one of my students (a boy with severe autism and challenging behaviors) and put him in a 4th grade general education classroom. It was my first teaching job, in a self-contained classroom for students with autism in California and I was challenged by one of my professors at Cal State University Fullerton to begin the process of including my students in general education. At this time, there was little support for inclusion at my school (not even for Art, Music or PE – mainly because we did not have those programs due to budget constraints). Even so, I believed it was the right thing to do and began trying to change the hearts and minds of my colleagues. It was not easy at first, but after explaining that I was not simply going to “dump” my students off in their class, they were definitely more receptive.

This tends to be the biggest fear of people who are opposed to a “full inclusion” model. There are different definitions of “full inclusion” but one I prefer is apparent when we talk about the idea of Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). What is the environment that will least hinder the student from being educated with their typically-developing peers while still accessing the general curriculum (what everyone is being taught) in a meaningful way? There is no one-size-fits-all approach to inclusion just like there is no one-size-fits-all approach to general education (no matter how hard we want there to be). But…I am getting ahead of myself. In regards to my 4th grader who was now going to be included into a Math block in general education, I began to feel the anxiety creep up in me as the day approached. Would he keep his challenging behaviors in check? Would the class accept him when he started to script movie lines? Would the general education teacher think I was crazy for putting her up to this?

Diffusing and answering the inevitable questions was the big key into alleviating everyone’s fear. I spoke to the class before we started and explained my student, while having some differences in the way he experienced the world, was still a 4th grade boy who liked movies, music and playing on the computer. He liked Math, which is why we decided this was the best time for him to join his peers. It was also important to take the uncomfortable questions of “why does he do this,” or “why does he do that,” and answer them with the utmost respect and dignity to their new classmate. Perhaps honest communication is the best way to gain his peers’ trust…kids are too smart and usually know when you are trying to put one over on them. Once we got that out of the way, acceptance was the easy part.

Inclusion, at its very heart is a noble cause because it brings dignity to human beings when it otherwise would separate those who need love the most. Fear may be an obstacle but it certainly is not an excuse.

Source: Special Education Advisor: Fear Factor – Getting over the biggest obstacle to inclusion

Photo Credit: clement127/Flickr

You Just Can’t Take Me Anywhere!

can't take me anywhere

My parents used to say, “We just can’t take you anywhere,” meaning I could not be trusted not to cause a “scene” – and for parents who valued appearances in society as they did, this was quite the denouncement.

It has only been four months since I emerged from extreme isolation and denial of my social difficulties – the way I dealt with it was by NOT dealing with it: staying isolated and alone, the way I like it. I honestly prefer to be alone, and, until recently assumed most autistics were like me.

NOT so. Even some of the most severely impacted are not as misanthropic as I; in fact, they are surprisingly affectionate. I am beginning to consider perhaps my hermit-like qualities are not even related to autism at all. However, the fact remains – I am still as averse to being with other people for more than an hour at a time, maximum. I simply do not LIKE them when I am required to be in their presence. They irritate me supremely and my hostility and aggression, when irritated, is still not completely under my control. I no longer profess to “hate” them as I did vehemently when younger (and before Buddhist training), but still resent any occasion where I must interact face to face, unless it is a structured activity with clear rules, like sporting activities or firefighting. One on one contact is preferable, as there are not as many variables to attend to, but I prefer digital and online communication – I express myself best there and do not get as frustrated, as I control the interaction and can step away when necessary when getting frustrated.

As a child and adult (up until 1999, when my last documented episode of public aggression occurred), I was extremely aggressive, and, for this reason, was placed in very restrictive settings where they could physically restrain me. I saw no reason not to be so violent until multiple arrests and beatings from the police forced me to re-evaluate my public lashing out. At that time, I discovered Buddhism and its practice of non-violence and rose to the challenge of changing my behavior. I was successful; however, my primary strategy was to limit my exposure to provocative situations, which meant not venturing into public except when I most others are not present- i.e., never being out in rush hour, going to an all – night supermarket at 4 AM, etc. This did not completely curb my physical and verbal assaultiveness – as recently as a few weeks ago I hit my support person as he was attempting to restrain me from engaging in another obnoxious behavior – disruptive yelling late at night. The difference is now I feel remorse and truly do not want to be this way.

Here is an article on aggression in ASD: Aggression in autism spectrum disorder: presentation and treatment options

The article above spends much time discussing antipsychotic medications, which have been tried on me, to no avail. First off, I am extremely sensitive to the neurological side effects such as Parkinsonianism/Extra Pyramidal Symptoms. My diaphragm seizes up, and I cannot move the muscles needed to breathe. This makes antipsychotics potentially deadly for me. They also did not ameliorate any of my behavior issues, and since I do not have a thought disorder (schizophrenia), they are useless and harmful for me. Ritalin and the stimulants, which I was on for many years, also do not help in the long run. Neither do any of the other classes of drugs and, believe me, I have been on them all. Buddhist practice and the willingness to change are the only things which have worked for me, and for that I am grateful.

Thank you, Autistry Studios, for helping me seek resources which may help with self-control, like this one:

aggression2

It may seem simplistic, but I have never attempted anything like this. Only the challenge of following the Buddhist precepts has inspired me to try. When others were trying to control me, I resisted strenuously -and my will is incredibly strong.

I am doing better regarding aggression, but have a long way to go – had I not ventured out on those two days I may still be under the illusion I now have it all under control.

On the bright side – I no longer fight with strangers – nearly all aggression is verbal now, and even that is infrequent as I know my triggers and usually avoid them. I also did not wear my weighted vest, which DOES help calm me -and both days I FORGOT MY SQUISHIES! It is remarkable how much these items calm me. It is also remarkable how often I forget this.

As far as lashing out at my support guy – I AM sorry, and even that episode was minor.

Photo Credit: Ben Seidelman/Flickr

Source:  Just Can’t Take Me Anywhere! – Autistry And Me

I am Christian Espicha, an adult woman with autism. Though diagnosed as a young child with autism, partly because I also possess a genius IQ, I did not receive appropriate services until recently when I became a client at Autistry Studios in San Rafael, CA. Recently, at age 45, I was the oldest member of the Humboldt County Structure Firefighting Academy to graduate. Also, I completed EMT training and worked as a firefighter/EMT in Trinity County, California. I performed, with my fellow firefighters, mountain rescues, and recoveries assisted the Forest Service with fires in the Trinity National Forest and assisted with water rescues/recoveries on the Trinity River. I am also a writer and artist. See my website at https://www.autistryandme.wordpress.com and autistryandme on Facebook and follow me @Screenshotaut on Twitter.

 

My Life with Autism: A Speech by Jordan White

jordan white; young white male wearing glasses sitting in front of a computer with the Kennesaw State University logo on it


My Life with Autism – A Speech by Jordan White… by sampsoninc916

A friend of mine spoke to our school staff (Kincaid Elementary School – Marietta, GA) about his life with autism and being included in general education during Exceptional Children Week. This video was from April 2011. The complete transcript is provided below.

Since the publication of this video, Jordan has graduated from Kennesaw State University (KSU) with a degree in computer science and is currently employed in the field of technology. You can read more about Jordan from the article “No Boundaries” published on the KSU website.

My Life with Autism – A Speech by Jordan White and Family

Tim: I just want to echo what Jodie said, yesterday was awesome the assembly was mind blowing so that was really, really a special time. Today we have Jordan along with David and Patty White they are our special quest David is friend of mine and we just started talking on day about Jordan and I was like I really want our staff to hear his story. So I thought the best kind of way first of all I want Jordan to know our staff is super nice and they’re going to smile and they are going to be completely attentive to what you are about to say you know so no worries we are all friends here. And also how I wanted to set it up I kind of thought David and Patty can kind of ask Jordan some questions his experience growing up in Cobb County schools kind of his journey towards where he is now Tennessee State University and so we’ll kind of start with that and if I feel like you know I want to add some questions I can and then if we have time we’ll open up for questions for everyone else. So why don’t David and Patty why don’t you, you know the beginning I suppose.

Patty: Introduce yourself Jordan.

Jordan: Hello

Audience: Hi

Jordan: My name is Jordan White Noel White and I was born on September 16th 1991 in Orlando Florida and I was born autistic, when my parents had me they never really knew I was autistic until I turned 3 or 2 years old and the doctors soon found out I was autistic and had trouble learning to speak learn how to socialise learning as well as learning how to be the best I could possibly be and kind of way for me no one exactly no one really understood autism and then again no one understands it today. So that’s the best choice for them to put me in a place where in a place where regular students that if I learned how to be like regular students I might be able to have a chance to succeed so they put me in a preschool and I choked and so this include dong other activities other students did, yeah I sometimes had problems in that class like the fact that I really wanted to make precision cuts on photographs making trying to write that well sometimes even my dad would come into the class room and show me some pictures so I could identify them and he actually, my mom and dad too their time to get a bunch of therapists to really help me learn so I would be prepared for the next step in the school and I think there was flash cards lean how to there was an audio test where I had to listen to a tape and stuff and I pointed to this what the sound sounds like where the sound came from  and it kind of evolve in those days we lived in  Alabama Henson, Alabama and so how for some reason we decided to move to a different city in Alabama so we moved to Huntsville. In Huntsville I chose a school well mom and dad chose a school, they chose a school the Tower of Light school. One time in one of those classes I looked at a year book and found that the school was built in the 50’s and I had no connect with that era so anyway they took they gave me classes to go to and basically it’s not like periods but like 1st period, 2nd period, 3rd period that school what we had was one class and sometimes you would walk in a line or go to another class which taught specific subjects and they would dismiss me from dismiss me at 5:30 and we would kind of walk in line and we would go out to the parking lot, the carpool where mom was waiting. Well my first classroom from kindergarten was with Miss Pool and she was sort of realized that I was autistic so the best thing she could possible do was to take some advice from my parents and they worked out some and I think they must have worked out a period of system where I a green light for good behaviour and red light for bad behaviour and basically if I was in the green light zone then I might be able to actually be improving, if I was in the red light zone maybe bad behaviour.

Patty: Can I stop you on second for a minute? So Jordan has gotten to kindergarten and he was diagnosed at 3. We started pouring all of our resources into therapies, speech, occupational therapy everything because it’s our impression with autism if you don’t teach them how to speak and they didn’t learn how to interact by the time they were 5 or 6 you know their brain started changing the way it formed and such so we really poured a lot into that and it made a huge difference. When he was 4 he started talking and I was going to conventions all over the place trying to learn about autism because it was kind of new 20years ago not nearly as common and well understood as it is today. He ended up going into regular included classrooms at kindergarten he had already taught himself how to read, recite his alphabet, read all his patterns and all his colours with puzzles he went crazy. But his IQ test 79 I think he didn’t test well or communicate or anything but he was brilliant and they recognized that there was great potential so they did go ahead and let him be fully included, he was pulled out to resource or special ED or (unclear 8:42) for social skills, speech training and facial training but academically he was always included because he did really well with all of that part. He was like the first student who had gone through who was included for academics and pulled out for other stuff which kind of the opposite of what normally happens but he was fully included as a kinder garner and started doing great. But it was difficult for the teacher in a lot of ways the team worked between the parents, the resource director, special authority there and the kid creating systems that we understood normally worked you know that communication, interaction was huge in making it successful and bring home what they were doing and reinforce it. I think is one of the things that was such a huge success between the parents and the teachers willing to try what we suggested because we knew our kid better than anybody else and we had been working with him for years and kind of had ideas what helped him as far as motivate him. If they listened to what we would say it would make their lives a lot easier and helped him to be so successful, we kept that partnership going even now he at Tennessee State and my husband is an adjunct professor and he communicated with the professors so that if there is questions or how do we tell him something or you know discuss with him they even now they’ll discuss it really patiently for the success for the kid. I think it helped Jordan that his parents were on board with it, we were not in denial in any way and we were going to fix this problem our mind set primarily was that he lives in a regular world and he’s got to interact with that regular world and it’s not going to modify for him necessarily so we do as much as we can to teach him to be who he is in that world. Because he’s going to live in it and hopefully be independent and successful in that world so we want to modify what we can and what’s reasonable but we also want him to have to modify and adjust to the world that he was placed in so

David: Let me ask you a quick question about elementary school. Do you remember anybody who was special in elementary school?

Jordan: Of course I do, in 2nd grade there were 2 girls who (unclear 11:13)and Melissa but most of the time I most of the time there was this kid named Hogan not to be mistaken with Hulk Hogan but he was a sort of a big one I must say. Well what happened was he actually was there for me he seemed to be somewhat like my protector in there like he kind of protected me from bullying. I never had one bully in all my life I was pretty amazed because I never understood why a bully represented the media.

David: Who was your favourite teacher in elementary school do you remember ant name now?

Jordan: Well

David: Was it Miss Brannon

Jordan: I love Miss Brannon she was a wonderful woman she was the resource director. She let me do many things in that class, well she kind of taught me stuff about my body and how to manage it and al well as curtsied and stuff and I was allowed to talk about my interest and she helped me a bit with learning some words and stuff so basically she let me play a few games involving teachings of words and maths so I may be able to understand better about words. There was this word game where I had to collect stuff a slide scroll if you know those from video game history and there is this one game involving me as a train and the limit was 999 basically a numbers train and you press number and it would just go to that place that’s on the train track.

Patty: Jordon has always been good with numbers and one of our discipline system even when he was in 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 3rd grade was for him to collects points and when he got so many points he would get to go buy one of him favourite Thomas Tank characters or something like that he would keep up with them in his head so he and he could always tell exactly and  it was like a 100 points system not just you know a few points but he would know when it was 72 he always knew how many gains or loss that’s 2 points we take it away if you are not going to settle down right now. And because he’s black and white honest, it’s right or it’s wrong and he approaches the world that way he couldn’t lie about whether he loss points or not. It worked because he would have to be honest just because that’s what autism is. Its’ what it is just yes or its no, it’s black or its white; it’s not that grey area. The resource teacher was very good at using his strengths playing to those playing to his interests in trying to create the motivating system that they used and that was huge and using peers like he said his friends. They always try to sit him by in every classroom he always has one or two little nurturing girls that want to help or want to mother somebody and that’s where Jordan would be sitting and they love him to death and keep him on track whatever. There is always some friends like that abound you (crosstalk-well yeah) even in high school he had those friends..

David: That’s even gone all the way up to high school and Tennessee State as well students have always kind of taken to Jordan they understand that he’s in class he trying, he’s working really hard and

Patty: They usually respect his intelligence and always he’s going to help them and if he’s on their team they are going to get all the answers right then they just work with him, work with him and the teacher has spun it as a positive thing and put that emphasis on the child and the student in the room take it that way and they learn from the situation and they grow learning how to deal with this person who is different from them. And the rate autism is growing in our society one out of hundred and ten I think it is now boys for sure, they are going to have to deal with a lot of them and they are smart like Jordan the ones that are going to come along and they are all starting to come to college and this first big wave they are going to get degrees they are going to be out in the world place with these kids and they need to know how  to interact with then if they had them all through elementary school they would be much better people when they get to young adulthood.

David: So at this point Jordan graduated with honours from (unclear16:46) high school so he still has a scholarship due (crosstalk-yeah) and what did you graduate in?

Jordan: Computer Science and class one and two film unit one and two basically

David: Go ahead tell them about you’re characters in your film.

Patty: This involves movies, movies trivia, producer, actors all their names, what dates they came out

Jordan: Well what happens is that you know while I was making movies I was trying to add characters of my own I mean comparing with doing dumb stuff on YouTube I was trying to actually tell a story. Basically there were certain characters that I wanted to use to tell that story and help that story along of course I wasn’t exactly go at first but then I always jump at the top and every film I made I tried to improve and basically I’m at the point where I can direct character by a certain motivation actually to be the best he can be to. Basically there’s one character of mine Samson who looks a lot like me and

Patty: When Jordon was about seven we felt that he was getting too focused on TV and stuff so we cancelled TV in our house so he wasn’t, he has 2 brothers and sisters and of course they were all divested but we cancelled the TV and his way of kind of dealing with it was to start creating his own shows and characters (crosstalk-universe) his own universe basically where we were all in. Not that he retreated into it but he played with it and he drew it on paper and he would have pages he’d flip through and in his mind it was like different screens he was looking at, it was just really fascinating. But he kept those characters added to them and made (unclear 19:12) maybe he would create them on Popsicle sticks and move them around and take pictures of them and edit movies and he just started his second, what is your paper you just did?

Jordon: The farm project

Patty: Yeah or his English composition class he had the choice of doing it as a multimedia or a written paper and he is extremely good with sentence structure and his spelling and grammar is excellent. But he chose multimedia so he just made a little movie where he pulled in movie clips and all kinds of stuff

Jordon: I give credit to those people who almost believed because they would come up as honest

Patty: And that’s the right thing to do give credit for the work, give them credit for it

Jordon: And well

Patty: Just a second

Presenter: So Jordon this is for earlier, what did you find as you got older Jordon and you started going into middle school and high school was there any point where it became really hard to be in regular you know regular classes? Like did it get harder as you got older?

Jordon: Yes it did basically I was a bit stressed out by the fact that I was getting a little more look than usual and the fact analyse literature and I also had to write essay that point to the person specifications about, I’m not exactly that I don’t know if I’m actually good at writing essays I wish I am but I don’t. I’m good at stories and personal I remember those times.

Patty: He wants to write what he wants to write always.

David: we had a little, little problem in 10th grade he was in private school and we had some anger issues about being too good with the computer and so he ended up missing a lot of school and cancelled them out the first test that you took and I believe your history class (unclear 21:36) remember and you sat together with people who were watching over you and he twelve students, here’s the best grade

Patty: Jordon had the top grade in (unclear 21:50) class. Jordon he went to public school starting in 3k with the 3 year old class room, he was put in a room with a couple of fairly profound kids when he was 3 and we lived in Florida.  And we moved to Alabama and they wanted to do it again to be in a room with all ages of kids you know lining up pencils not that that’s bad but it was a vast array of ages they were teaching some over here to use washing machines and they had little four old Jordon you know in the same room. So we were not pleased with that so we put him in our church preschool and provided an aid to be him so that, that would be manageable and actually the public school would pay for half of it because we kind of pushed that issue some. So he did that and he started regular kindergarten with public school too at the end of 4th grade when we moved to this town from small Alabama to big city and these great big school with so many people this school seems to me to feel very much like the little school he was in was a neighbourhood school in a town but being on a smaller scale. There were 3 of each grade instead of probably 10 you know having. You know some of these schools around here are so huge but we were just not comfortable with him going right in at the middle of the year and we started home schooling and he stayed home and he being the you know the right and wrong kind of guy he is I would just give him a list and he would just check, the perfect home school student

David: (Unclear23:21) ten fifteen

Patty: Yeah but he knew he wasn’t getting his social interaction and I wasn’t trained in special Ed or anything so we knew he needed to be with kids and be forced to be regular in the world and not that home school aren’t but they are isolated and his biggest need is social skills and so that’s why we had to have that and my other son was at North Park Christian at the time so we talked to them and they were willing to give it a try probationary from one year to the next and he stayed through to the middle of10th grade that’s when he came to (unclear 23:56) and that was a fabulous move the best we were kind of afraid to do it because still a little bit sheltered about it but it was a fabulous experience and excellent support and that was the first time he had ever had peer coach and when he was in high school public school they provided the peer coach. Because he was in advance classes they were pushing the limits with all the other students and he could do the work but behaviourally he was sometimes distracting and so then he was beginning to get up and walk the halls and they couldn’t just let him do that without an aid and you know some of those kind of things and to reach over and give him the stress ball to squeeze or whatever needed to happen

David: So he was so on one hand he was (unclear 24:37) and on one hand he was (unclear 24:38) a real difficult thing for a (unclear 24:42) because that’s rare to have that combination so they worked greatly with us and I can’t say enough about (unclear 24:51) they did a great job with Jordan and Tennessee State has been incredible with their flexibility the special services they have they get it. The wave of autistic kids coming through it’s not going to stop and it’s going to benefit the normal kids because they are going to manage kids like this someday. Microsoft they are already starting autistics to do coding some of these bigger companies understand where their strength are so  you’re likely going to managing them in the future and they will be in your communities as well.

Jordan: Please I sort of feel that I’m been sort of speaking too much

Patty: Maybe they want to ask you some questions.

Jordan: Okay, you can ask me some questions, oh yeah.

Audience: Jordan when did you know that you had autism?

Jordan: Well I think my parents told me.

David: But when did you realize it Jordan?

Jordan: I think I must, I think I was about maybe 99 or 2000

Patty: How old were you?

Jordan: About eight or nine.

Audience: Did that change things for you?

Jordan: A little I think but what happened was I seemed to try to understand it, yeah it might have changed things a bit.

Patty: I don’t think he really spoke it and said I’m having trouble with this I’m autistic and so that’s why I’m having a difficult time with till I would say the last 2 years. He didn’t start using that as an explanation for other people to understand why he was stressed out at that moment or anything like that. But it’s been very helpful for people around him and we felt from the beginning that it was very helpful to in every situation he’s been in to for all the people around to understand what was going on so when he’d show up at a church or show up a birthday party to say you know it must have been (unclear 27:22). He didn’t have a lot of friends because it was awkward but to go in and say Jordan is autistic and it’s a positive thing because of that he can do this and he can do that and this is wonderful but I don’t even know this and that and the other and we are wide open to chatting about it you know it’s an open door situation but it helps you to know and almost every time he’d start in a class and a couple days into the new year or new situation we would you know go out and have a special airing for Jordan while the teacher would explain to the other students with our permission so that they understood too you know I just felt that was always best for him and for all the people involved to understand what was going on. But yeah I think you started talking about it recently, say mom how much.

Jordan: Of course

Audience: Can you tell us what when you were in school what was the hardest thing for you and what was the easiest thing for you?

Jordan: Well when I went to school?

Audience: Yes

Jordan:  Okay well one of the hardest things for me when I went to school was trying to dealt with some of the extreme social situations, the you know crazy stuff happening and the also the changes in the schedule heck the lunch time was sometimes noisy. The one about changing the schedule I might have freaked out so other things that was hard was sometimes getting frustrated about doing things right and things not going my way. Of course one time I lunch wasn’t what I want so I kind of took that lunch sheet and crossed out the (unclear 29:51) and changed it to (crosstalk-the easiest?)Maybe the easiest thing was the good times like when I actually did stuff that I knew I could do and actually improving on my skills and hanging out with these people who loved me and they were trying their best to take care of me as well as and show me which like possible do to make things to keep me satisfied and on field day. Field day was kind of a good day because I would be getting some good treats especially (unclear 31:09) yeah some popcorn and pizza

Patty: He loves to eat, didn’t always love to eat very, very picky with his food from a young child and then I guess from around 4 or 5 years old we started deciding he could live off of hamburgers and chicken nuggets for the rest of his life and had to force entry of new foods and we picked things that was common in life as opposed to what would be good for him because we wanted a successful better kid so we picked pizza, we picked hot dogs we picked stuff that would be in a social situation he would need to be able to eat spaghetti whatever would be served mostly likely when he was out in public and try to teach him how to learn to eat all that stuff  and  he (unclear 32:03)

David: So Jordan it’s all most time to get going so tell them thank you.

Jordan: Well thank you for having me and I wish you in your education and I also thank you for helping to improve this world for people like me and making sure that these kids do their absolute best in the future.

Tim: Just one more minute before everyone leaves behind where Gail where Sidney sits is a bookcase and on that bookcase are books about exceptional children, gifted kids, kids with autism and we have the  Temple Grandin movie it’s like your own blockbuster script it’s great. There are a lot of movies and I try to buy movies that are applicable you know to our kids but they are just really good so if you haven’t seen it please check it out it’s there for us and the parents. There is also a movies called Including Samuel it’s a documentary about a film maker who son has cerebral palsy among things and they live in New Hampshire and him being fully involved in general education he is 4 or 5 years old in this film. There are a couple of books, Why Bright Kids Get Poor Grades, Being Smart About Gifted Children, there are probably almost half the books that are over there about gifted education because we don’t want to forget about our target kids and also Quick Guide To Inclusion this is a new book just really simple one kind of page ideas of how to make inclusion work in our schools in special grade. So you know we’ve got the bulletin board over there on the other side I’ve seen some people posting stuff and really excited about that, we have the resource library these things are here for all of us to take advantage so we can you know I mean Kincaid is just an awesome place already but I want to make sure everyone feels equipped and you know ready to take the challenge on for helping our kids and doing the best we can, right Jordan?

Jordan: Yeah

Tim: Alright so I think that all I have so

Forum Facilitator: I’d like to thank let’s give a round of applause so thank you for coming in and talking to our staff and thank you Tim for taking the time to organizing it. It was very motivating and at this time we are finished adjourned and don’t forget we have some cookies over here that Tim brought for us.

End of Transcript

Photo Credit: KSU

 

A Place for Parents: Autistics and Allies

Sticker of two people holding hands.

By Larkin Taylor-Parker

Disagreements between stakeholders of various kinds are fairly common in the disability community, but conflict plagues autism discourse. The place of parents is particularly contentious. As I prepared for this post, I glanced around the Internet for what had already been said. There are too many existing attempts to fix this with a blog post, or, worse, one that oversimplifies the conflict or makes a straw man of one side. I decided this would not be another iteration of an endemic, useless thing. As I read others’ thoughts on the subject, I happened on a year-old article called Who Should Lead the Autism Rights Movement? Instantly, I knew how to articulate the problem and solution.

The answer to that question is obvious: people whose lives are most shaped by society’s decisions on what to do with autistic people deserve the final say. Social change that undermines oppression has never been ally-led. Agency as charitable donation is a contradiction in terms. We must take it for ourselves, not wait until others deign to bestow it. The thrust of every argument I have seen against our leadership is that we are too disabled to have a say in our future. I see this sentiment often. It comes couched in sympathy, recommended for convenience’s sake, and presented in the tired terminology of a moldy eugenics textbook in my vintage and antiquarian collection. I have never seen these claims hold up to scrutiny. The arguments are full of transparent fallacies. Besides, Autistics and other people with disabilities are challenging notions of our incapacity in numbers hard to dismiss as anecdotal evidence. Given a measure of control over our lives, we usually improve them. We will always know more about how to do that than allistic* people. We know our priorities, experiences, needs.

Parents may not be able to set the agenda, but they have a natural role in neurodiversity and disability rights efforts. It is partly restraint. They can be quiet in our safe spaces and encourage others to do likewise. They can stop calling anyone capable of typing insufficiently disabled to have valid opinions. They can stop speaking for and talking over us. However, not everything we need from them is passivity. There are active roles no one could better fulfill.

The media asks them about autism before it does us. Parents have the opportunity to amplify our voices where they would otherwise be ignored, redirect questions, challenge purely negative perceptions. Parents can raise money for worthy causes and organizations. The silver lining of the Autism Speaks problem is that many learned fundraising. Parents can raise assertive autistic children with a healthy sense of self-worth. They can bring up kids who carve a place for themselves in the world and understand their right to be here. Parents can stand with autistic children and adults as we demand a fair chance at rich, full, dignified lives.

As parents work to ensure they are on our side, autistics should help. We must find a healthy middle ground between the extremes of ignoring ableism and writing decent people off for one ignorant word. This is more than being humane. It is pragmatism. We need allies more than most groups. At just over one percent of the population, we will never have the numbers to go it alone.

*non-autistic

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2012 and has been updated with a new author bio as well as a new featured image. 

Larkin Taylor-Parker is a second-year law student at the University of Georgia. She is interested in disability rights, the experiences of young professionals from historically marginalized groups, and fixing internet culture. She is also an avid recreational tuba player.

Striving for Community as a God-Loving Aspie

man looking up towards heaven thinking about god

By Timotheus “Pharaoh” Gordon

Being autistic and striving to be a Christian is very rigorous at times, especially if there are little resources or examples for such community.

I’ve been practicing Christianity for about a year and two months. It may have been a difficult year of struggles; heck I still have to work on (e.g., having MY OWN convictions that are based on the Bible, not solely word-of-mouth). But I’m growing more convinced that through the power of the Trinity, even autistic people can change the world as Jesus did.

I love studying the bible, praying for people, helping out people, going to mission trips (to take pictures of those experiences), and hanging out.  Sometimes, I would blog about my faith on my website.

Yet, I don’t really feel like a member of the church at times. I interact with people, but not as well in huge crowds (so many people and too noisy). It seems like some would see this as not wanting to fellowship when it’s only part of my autism. I feel like very few of my peers understand my challenges with fellowshipping. I also struggle with emotional meanings behind certain passages.

I’m scared even more when it appears that I’m alone in the fight to stick with Christianity as an autistic person.  I met two boys in a Birmingham church who are autistic, but I’ve yet to find autistic adults who are Christian. How can I be an autistic Christian if there is lack of adequate examples of such persons out there?

I believe that first step in seeing more autistic Christians (especially those who are living independently and are verbal) is to provide resources that could help them grow in the faith. The catch is that resources have to come from someone or an entity who fully understands autistic Christians’ hardships in the world. Resources could even come from a person in the autistic spectrum who been the faith for a long time (e.g., at least 2 years). Providing spiritual guidance from the verbal, independent autistic’s point of view is more beneficial than turning to a place or someone with limited/stereotypical knowledge of the condition.

Meanwhile, more Christians that are autistic should network with each other and share their testimonies to non-autistic Christians. That will inspire many people and convince of how God could work through anyone.

With those, I would hope to see news of more autistic Christians making a difference in people’s lives and less of parent’s woes with raising an autistic child in a Christian household.

(sidebar) Links related to Autistic Christians:

Autism Society (Religion and Autism): http://www.autism-society.org/living-with-autism/family-issues/religion-and-autism.html

Books and Resources on Religion, Spirituality, and Moral Development: http://www.neurodiversity.com/religion.html

Christianity and Autism Forum: http://www.aspiesforfreedom.com/showthread.php?tid=21631

James Tuttle (autism advocate, political advocate, and commentator on spiritual issues): https://www.facebook.com/pages/James-Tuttle/23053891623

Spectrum Ministries: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Spectrum-Ministires

Photo Credit: Carlos Solares/Flickr

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2012 and has been edited for clarity, has a new author bio and has as a new featured image.

Timotheus GordonBorn and raised on the south side of Chicago, Timotheus “Pharaoh” Gordon has loved the power of writing since 3rd grade when he copied love poems and read history literature in his free time. He got married to poetry in 2003 after turning in a humorous poem on his daily routine for a homework assignment. Writing, especially poetry, also helped him develop a voice as an African-American male with autism.
He is a freelance writer and blogger specializing in autism acceptance, social commentary, sports, cosplay, and comic/anime conventions. He is published in online publications such as Football.com, Creative Loafing Atlanta, and Yahoo Contributor Network. In addition, he takes event pictures at anime/comic conventions, rallies, college events, class reunions, 5K races, and church functions. Along with those two professions,  am currently an independent marketing representative, where I utilize social media and word-of-mouth to provide essential productions and show people how they can gain financial independence. Connect with him on Twitter @TimotheusGordon or his other social media outlets.

Why Autism Speaks Hurts Us

a collection of blue puzzles pieces with one red piece in the midst of them

By Amy Sequenzia

Autism Speaks…Are You Listening?

When I was little and started to type, I was saying things like “life with autism is insanity”.  I didn’t recognize autism as an important part of who I am and I was only repeating what I heard. My parents were supportive of my typing and loved me deeply. But they also were told that I could never be happy as long as I “had” autism. The efforts, “experts” said, from families and advocates, should be towards supporting research to find a cure.

That was a long time ago. At some point in my life, I started thinking for myself and accepting autism as the most important part of my personality. I am autistic and that’s who I am. It wasn’t easy and it was bumpy. But if today I am accepted by a growing number of people, if more people read and value what I write, it is because I accepted myself as I am. And I am a proud autistic woman!

Saying Autism Needs to Be Defeated Sends the Wrong Message

I do not have the advocacy organizations of my younger years to thank for that. Back then, they proclaimed in their names that they would “defeat” and “cure” autism – NOW!  They were saying that I had to be defeated, cured from a terrible condition, exterminated. They never paused to think that I, and other autistics, did not really want to be discarded as undesirable. And it is scary when people keep saying that we don’t deserve to be here.

Today things seem to be even worse. Even for me, although I have found my place and my voice. My family and close friends have accepted me as autistic, but the challenges I face are made worse by the negativity Autism Speaks and their followers link with being autistic.  Things are worse because those organizations that once wanted to see me gone, today follow the lead of Autism Speaks.

Most of the Money Raised Goes to Research Not Services

Autism Speaks is a powerful organization, with support of many celebrities and easy media access. I believe most of the celebrities that help making Autism Speaks so recognizable don’t have an understanding of what autism is. They probably want to help and they buy into the picture of despair spread by Autism Speaks.

The same is true for the thousands of people going to “autism walks” and donating money to Autism Speaks. They don’t know, or refuse to acknowledge, that the message they are supporting is that society should fear and segregate their children; they don’t know, or refuse to acknowledge, that all the money raised will not be used to help their children with education, services or accommodations that can make navigate the world a little easier for their children; they don’t know, or refuse to acknowledge, that a lot of the money is used to advertise their children as burdens, as people society should shun, isolate and eventually eliminate.

I Am Disabled and Different, but Not Less

We, autistics, know this well and, with our allies, have been very vocal about the damages Autism Speaks is doing to our lives and to our future.  I keep thinking about my life. Accepting myself was a difficult and long process. My self-esteem was low and I did not have consistent support. People in my life were torn between believing the messages of despair and gloom, and seeing me as a whole person – disabled and different, but not less.

Eventually, we were able to move forward in our process and this is my point: I cannot avoid thinking that it could have been easier, that time would not have been lost and that I could have had many opportunities – now gone – in my life if my family had been offered more support instead of being told I was too defective and that my only chance to be a “real person” was if I could be fixed.

We Need to Cure False Assumptions About Autism

But I am here today, speaking out, despite the predictions of a lesser life. If organizations like Autism Speaks were really thinking about us, they would stop spreading fear of autism and they would start talking to us, the only true experts on autism. They would then help us achieve the goal to cure what really needs to be cured: the false assumptions of what life as an autistic person is, what life with an autistic person is.

And I mean talking to all of us. I for example, am one of the adults Autism Speaks considers helpless and a burden to society. I am said to be a tragedy for my family, although I am not and Autism Speaks cannot tell my family how they should feel about me. I can give the so-called “experts” valuable information about how to better help me with the difficulties I face.

Families Need a Message of Hope Not Despair

Autism Speaks hurts us when families of newly diagnosed autistic children have their energy drained by the negative messages they get from that organization. The fear and the bleak future is all they get. They start resenting the child in front of them and they start hoping for a “better”, “non-defective” child. They waste their energy trying to fix what is not broken, what is simply different. And the autistic individuals are silenced, with an uneasy feeling that we are disappointing to the people we love, that no matter how much we try, we will never be good enough, ever.

If the messages and information they get come from Autism Speaks, they never see autistics that are happy, accomplished, successful and thriving, as autistics, in our own way; or the families that are not suffering, despairing, afraid of the future or depressed because a child is autistic; they don’t see that, fear replaced by acceptance, no longer makes sense. When more families accept autism, they work for the rights of every autistic. And this is a good goal.

We Can All Thrive in Our Own Way

Autism Speaks hurts us when they use all their resources trying to make us look like not good enough for society. We need to fight for acceptance, so that families, allies, educators and policy makers can re-direct their energy to what is uniquely important to each autistic child and adult, so that we can all thrive, in our own pace, in our own way.

No burden, no tragedy, no fear, no despair. Those concepts come from Autism Speaks, an organization that never listened to autistics, and is not interested in listening to us. They don’t have the insight, the expertise and ultimately, the right to direct the conversation about autism. This right belongs to us and we are the only ones who can decide who our allies are, who can speak on our behalf.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally written in 2012 and has been updated with a new featured image, headings and author bio. 

Photo Credit: Flickr/rawdonfox

Amy_Sequenzia_150x150Amy Sequenzia blogs regularly for Ollibean and Autism Women’s Network.

Five of Our Best Posts on Autism Acceptance

AutismAcceptance

While autism acceptance or at the very least autism awareness receives the spotlight in April, we at Think Inclusive promote autism acceptance year round. Over the past few years we proudly published pieces geared to help our readers better understand autism. For a limited time we open the Think Inclusive archives to the general public so everyone can read or reread our best autism content. Enjoy!

Why Autism Speaks Hurts Us” by Amy Sequenzia (Guest Blogger)

Leaders in a movement essentially shape attitudes towards the given issue, an occurrence guest blogger Amy Sequenzia puts into context regarding Autism Speaks and autism advocacy. Autism Speaks’ negative view on the disability influenced Amy to see her autism negatively. However, through life experiences she eventually abandoned those notions to recognize autism as an important part to her personality. In “Why Autism Speaks Hurts Us” Amy highlights the dangers Autism Speaks casts.

My Decision to Homeschool My Son with Autism” by Allison Trotter (Guest Blogger)

In her Think Inclusive guest post Allison Trotter addresses autism and education. Specifically, Allison discusses why she decided to homeschool her autistic son Jackson. Using an analogy she demonstrates a student with autism can learn in the large school setting but successful placement requires one critical element, an element Jackson’s school unfortunately lacked.

The Best Argument Against Autism Speaks: A Special Educator’s Perspective” by Tim Villegas

If guest blogger Amy Sequenzia’s previously highlighted post didn’t remedy your curiosity about why so many call foul on Autism Speaks, Think Inclusive founder Tim Villegas will. Tim shares his passionate, thorough, and compelling argument against Autism Speaks, even using the organization’s own words to identify their missteps. As Tim’s title suggests he offers a special educator’s perspective on the situation.

Passing: How to Play Normal” by Larkin Taylor-Parker (Guest Blogger)

After reading guest blogger Larkin Taylor-Parker’s post you may become more self-conscious over what you say and around whom. Larkin’s Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis lands her on the autism spectrum. Yet due to Larkin’s parents heavily criticizing her social behavior as a child she learned to “play normal,” faking behaviors to gain acceptance from us neurotypical people. Judging by Larkin’s last paragraph that acceptance appears not the Holy Grail we on the outside might envision.

Autistic: On the Outside Looking In” by Steve Summers (Guest Blogger)

Autistic people who don’t adapt to our neurotypical way will probably experience social exclusion, the topic guest blogger Steve Summers addresses in his post. Steve expresses the hurt and confusion he feels encountering exclusion. These instances range from someone hiding a “Happy Birthday” Facebook post he gave to not getting invited to parties. All in all Steve’s insights stands a great conversation starter about autism and socializing.

Photo Credit: Philippa Willitts

We Created Wearable QR Codes to Keep Our Son Safe

a picture of erin and bruce wilson with their son jay

By Erin Wilson

My fun-loving and active 14-year-old son, Jay, has severe autism. He has found benefit and great enjoyment through inclusion programs at school and in his extra-curricular activities.

Inclusion Helps Develop Lifelong Acceptance

We are fortunate that our school district has a great push-in “buddy program” which brings general education students and special education students together on a regular basis. It has been the catalyst of many successful encounters not only for Jay but also his peers, who have greatly benefited from their exposure to a person with severe autism who also has minimal speech. The exposure helps them to develop a lifelong acceptance of people who are differently-abled.

A Karate Instructor First Encouraged Us to Include Jay in Regular Classes

We work to keep Jay active. After several years of private lessons at a school of the American Taekwondo Association, his instructor urged us to place Jay in a mainstream class. We were resistant at first, afraid he might disrupt the class, bother the other students, or become a topic of complaints among parents in the waiting area. I was especially worried that he may get more attention than the other students, which could upset the other parents. Our instructor assured us that she would not allow those complaints in her school, and she paved the way by speaking with each parent and student about autism and our son. She went one step beyond that by appointing one of her teen students as Jay’s one-on-one for needed support.

Having Jay Learn with Typical Peers Has Improved His Behavior

Seven years later, Jay is still active and thriving in martial arts. He’s grown up with many of the families we once worried would complain about him–instead, they encourage us by noting his progress and successes. His behavior has improved when it comes to waiting in one place for class to start, raising his hand to get the instructor’s attention, and putting on his shoes independently. He has bonded with his peers and they truly seem to “get” him.

Educating Organizations About Inclusive Practices Is Important

All classes and programs offered through our city must include provisions for people with special needs and ensure accessibility to everyone. Jay has attended classes such as ice skating, trampoline, and day camp with the help of a one-on-one aide. The city’s Board Certified Behavior Analyst has been instrumental in providing strategies for Jay to be included. Under their guidance, he has participated in community outings to places such as museums, the circus, and amusement parks.

Jay Communicates with His Peers in Non-Typical Ways

One summer, Jay became fascinated by swimming behind people so he could “high-five” their feet. A group of girls regularly swam ahead so that he could high-five their feet along the way. They wanted him to follow them exclusively and would even act a bit possessive when he would follow other swimmers. They had found ways to interact non-verbally with him and were protective of his friendship!

Like Others on the Autism Spectrum, Jay Has Become Lost

Like others on the autism spectrum, Jay has eloped from what we thought were safe places. He’s become lost at school despite a one-to-two ratio (one adult to two children). He eloped during a well-manned field trip to an amusement park, despite the many aides and safeguards. And despite the growth inclusion has brought for him, in these unexpected situations, we cannot count on Jay to advocate for himself.

We Created Wearable QR Codes to Aid Jay If He Ever Is Lost Again

My husband Bruce and I set out to find a way to alert people of Jay’s condition should the need arise. We created wearable items with personal QR codes that link to a live web-based profile of vital information about the wearer. We also founded IfiNeedHelp.org, a non-profit organization with a purpose of getting these communication tools into the hands of individuals, organizations, and other groups that support the autism and wider disability community.

Our Patches Keep Thousands of Wearers Safe with Vital Information Seconds Away

Now, Jay and thousands of other wearers have patches and other “wearables” that instantly communicate critical facts, including a contact person and other emergency medical and behavioral information when scanned or manually entered into the site. We feel better knowing that Jay and other people on the autism spectrum can attend inclusion programs and other opportunities with a greater sense of well-being, thanks to an assurance of clear communication for those who cannot advocate for themselves.

Photo Credit: Erin and Bruce Wilson

Think Inclusive is part of If I Need Help’s Associate Program. Use the coupon code “Think Inclusive” for 5% off your order.

portrait of erin wilson

Erin Wilson is co founder of non profit IfiNeedHelp.org with her husband Bruce. Their energetic and fun loving 14 year old son Jay has severe autism and was lost in the past. Creating If I Need Help has been a labor of love to protect him and others who have special needs.

Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover

Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover

By Amy Williams

Don’t judge a book by its cover. 

I silently repeat that phrase to myself a lot these days.

As I overhear parents in the checkout line at the grocery store, my heart breaks. I hear whispers, “If that were my kid…” or “I can’t believe that kid…” ricocheting down the aisles. On social media I see posts from my “friends” shaming other moms in regards to how a child was behaving in Target or at the local Applebee’s. I thought I had left this passive aggressive cruelty behind in middle school, but now suddenly I am aware of it again.

Over the past ten years, I have been working with a variety of children in public schools and daycares. I thought I had a solid foundation of understanding children and the different abilities and comprehension levels they display—or so I thought.

Twelve years ago, we were blessed when our family friends asked us to be their son’s godparents. Of course we said yes! This little guy is an extension of our family and fits right in with our biological sons. He is the sweetest and most compassionate child, and unlike my older boys, still wants to hold my hand on walks.

We love him.

But all this love has opened my eyes to another problem I was completely unaware of until the past few years. Around the first grade, we found out our godson has a mild form of autism. Previously, we had chalked up his behavior as a little temper, an artistic view of the world, or he’s just a child. He was found to be on the spectrum and began receiving services to help him overcome his nuances.

After his diagnosis, I was suddenly aware of how others judged him or his parents. I overheard mean comments about how he should not be allowed in a restaurant if all he was going to do was refuse to eat. What the people didn’t know was that he had begun to see a feeding specialist and was overcoming severe food aversions. That morning was a huge breakthrough for him, because he asked to try new food: a muffin at this particular eatery.

I sat with my friend enjoying a stolen minute sipping coffee, chatting, and deflecting mean glances from an elderly couple a table behind us. As our coffee turned tepid, we laughed and shared moments from our week. Our talk did take a serious turn, however, when my friend told me how her son had been complaining that kids were not nice to him.

Unfortunately, children with special needs are two to three times more likely to be victims of bullying than their peer counterparts, and cyberbullying is taking bullying to a whole new level. It is quickly reaching epidemic proportions, but it is especially prevalent among children. Research states that 87 percent of our youth have witnessed or experienced acts of cyberbullying. We can almost guarantee that our own children have encountered digital aggression at some point in their lives.

And my godson is no exception. It has been a few years since that morning in the cafe, but he now contends with mean remarks or phrases over games he frequently plays on his tablet or console. Often, he is unaware others are being cruel, he thinks they are being his friends and doesn’t understand the undertones of the names the bullies use. He just enjoys interacting with others.

Our friends addressed this issue with his teachers and taught him that some words are not okay to use and are not funny. He has been taught to handle his reactions through role playing, and now he gives very little reinforcement to bullying behaviors.

Even though the cyberbullying is improving for him, words still cause pain. Children with special needs might be targeted more often, but it is essential people try not to judge or shame others over appearances or behaviors. It is impossible to understand the battles someone is overcoming.

As parents, we are given the unique chance to lead by example and to be mindful of how we use words around our children. Our kids are watching us and following our cues. If we talk about a child in the grocery store or blast others on social media, we are contributing to the problem. The bullying cycle can end with us. By modeling kindness, our children will be able to turn over a new page.

What is one thing you will do to stop cyberbullying?

Author_Amy WilliamsAmy Williams is a journalist based in Southern California. As a mother of two, she has learned a lot of things the hard way, and hopes to use her experience as a parent to help other parents raise their children to be the best that they can be.

 

Passing: How to Play Normal

image of a tuba laying on its side on a wooden surface

By Larkin Taylor-Parker

I look like someone you might trust to hold the spare key if we were neighbors. We could eat at the same restaurant or cross paths in the grocery store. We might forage the same yard sales. I look like I could be someone you know. You might not believe me if I told you I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at age six. Unnoticed, I often overhear your discussions on what to do with us. I have heard your opinion on DSM changes. I saw your puzzle piece tattoo. I listened as you equated my label with violence, called people like me ‘unemployable,’ claimed it is irresponsible of us to have children, suggested we would be happier in institutions. I heard your retard joke. You never guessed an autistic might be listening.

I look normal. That does not make me part of the over-diagnosis epidemic if it exists. I thought two classmates of vaguely similar appearance were one person for my first six weeks at Decatur High School. That was one of my many embarrassing adventures with face-blindness. Tone of voice is a second language in which I am barely conversant. Instead of words, my mental landscape is structure. It is a good configuration for rhetorical skills, speed-reading, and semantic memory. I think of my full course-load at Agnes Scott as people born rich consider money, rarely, with the dim awareness that others worry about such things. I detest noise. I cannot read nonverbal cues. What I can do is pretend to be you.

I started playing tuba at twelve, but passing for *allistic is my longest running show. It takes more practice to fake facial expressions than make a forty-pound horn play sixteenth notes. Tuba can be self-taught. Learning to pass took me years of practice with a special method: every time my family went out in public when I was a child, the ride home was a lecture on my failings. I was upbraided for gait, demeanor, eye contact, manner and content of speech. The reward for perfect success was a moment of rare parental affection. As in music, I learned my part in life. I look you in the eye and smile. I have been taught to move through the world without making you uncomfortable. I modulate, adjust, check you for uneasiness, measure myself against memorized parameters every waking moment so you can pass me on the sidewalk without seeing disability.

You value me because I am useful in some ways now. You assume I will be more so when I finish my education. I run in your circles sans any illusion of membership. As I understand it, we have a deal. You tolerate me because I do things well, or soon will, and have learned not to make you squirm. I give you undying gratitude for allowing me to live on the fringes. I can almost accept this state of affairs. We are often colleagues, occasionally friends. In other cases, I prefer to avoid you. My discontentment with our agreement is the fine print. Autistics who cannot or will not mimic you well enough to preserve a status quo in which you are not confronted with the way we are, whose gifts you consider less handy, are lucky if you deign to place them in decent group homes.

No one likes malcontents, but I have to be one of those neurodiversity people. I can look at individuals who need services and see a common humanity that demands action. As much as you bemoan my lack of empathy, I wonder why you struggle to see it. In the future, you can expect me to be less quiet and grateful. Assume I will bother you, knock on your door, make the problems of people like me moral issues. When I was a child, you thought “getting over” my special interests was good for me. I think it might help you to spend less time obsessing over normalcy. I may not worry so much about passing. It would do you good to work through your problems with diversity. Tomorrow, I might not smile. I might not look you in the eye.

*non-autistic

Photo Credit: Charles Hutchins/Flickr

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2012 and has been updated with a new author bio as well as a new featured image. 

Larkin Taylor-Parker is a second-year law student at the University of Georgia. She is interested in disability rights, the experiences of young professionals from historically marginalized groups, and fixing internet culture. She is also an avid recreational tuba player.

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