Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Unity - They Do Have a Point

One thing that curebies often say to autistic self-advocates, when we criticize their advocacy efforts, is that we need 'unity'. We're all dealing with autism, they say, so we should stand together.

This comment generally enrages the self-advocate. 'Why should we unify with you when you won't listen to our concerns?' We say. 'Your advocacy efforts are doing more harm to us than good.' I know, that's what I've said myself.

And I still find the idea that we should ally with the likes of Autism Speaks ridiculous. It would be like LGTB rights activists allying with Exodus International, just because they're all dealing with homosexuality.

But there is a grain of truth to that statement, and that is that most people don't disagree on everything. And when you find an area that you agree with a person, it's no contradiction to stand in support of them on that issue - even if you disagree with other opinions they hold.

I attended an autism conference awhile back, where one of the presenters was doing a major sell job for ABA. I found his attitudes and his practices despicable, particularly how he reacted to an actual autistic person trying to question his treatments (he simultaneously claimed I was obviously not autistic based on five seconds of interaction, and claimed that I couldn't judge his ABA program based on watching him present about it for 2 hours!). And the chairwoman of the conference seemed to be practically in love with him, and wanted everyone to fawn over him like she did. I got a pretty poor opinion of her from that conference.

But then I saw her as a speaker in a different conference, a conference on inclusion. There, I heard her talk about how the school called her to tell her it had taken three adult men to restrain her son, when she had specifically told them never to restrain him. She talked about how violence is not acceptable in the management of disabled children, how she wanted her son to feel safe in his school. And I came up to her afterward to talk about how much I appreciated her saying that, and how the teachers in my school used to drag me out of hiding places by my arms, holding me hard enough to hurt.

I can stand by that woman when she speaks out against restraints, and our voices will be louder for being together. And there's no contradiction between that and standing against her when she supports cure-directed ABA and the attitudes that go along with it.


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