Dear Suzanne Wright,
There is a chance that this letter will be ignored or be responded with an automated message, but if you do read this letter I will introduce myself to you.
I write short stories, and paint with watercolors, I have paintings in art shows and I work at two different school centers. I travel around my home state and I am part of different activism groups. I am also twenty-two and asperger autistic.
I has come to my attention on your newest campaign and video, “I am Autism”, that the material in this show is very degrading and hurtful to autistic people. Many individuals from all over the spectrum has felt that this video continues the old mythos of the “stolen child” and that autistic people are hollow empty shells. This kind of message is dehumanizing the autistic community and parents who do not feel that their precious and unique child is a “burden” and that some anthropomorphic disorder has taken them and hell-bent to ruin their lives.
Being autistic has not been easy. I do not ignore the struggles I have had being asperger, society has been a vicious animal to me, and it hard to speak a language that I am not fluent in. It took me two years to find another job and I have yet to hold steady employment. I panic easily and suffer from meltdowns as any autist would. However, I try walk forward and live my life as I want to live it.
The message portrayed in your video seems to make the “normative” feel good and the “autist” dependant on them, as if they have no say on what treatments they need want or if they want treatment. I was given many kinds of pills and treatments, I was given no say on whether I want them or not. I took me years to foster the kind of independence I need to make the choices that benefit me.
Autistics have place in this world, we are the odd child in the classroom that makes a masterpiece in art class, we're the kid that solves math problems with ease, the child that adapts well online or the child that feels the endless freedom of music. We have hopes, dreams, loves and desires. Many of our voices are silenced by the countless voices of parents who care more for the lime-light of being the victim than their own child's feelings and thoughts.
In the end, every child on the spectrum, whether be a classic autist or an asperger one, is still a human being, but even your video seems to deny us that. You say we autists lack empathy and we need to understand how hard parents have it. I wish parents gain some empathy for us and see how hard it is for us to have some form of respect and dignity from our neuro
-typ...no, neuroaccepted peers.
Noranne “The Bard” Cochran.Here is what Dee said.
The short film I Am Autism was created by two fathers of children with autism – Billy Mann, a Grammy-nominated songwriter, music producer and Autism Speaks board member, and Alfonso Cuarón, an Academy award-nominated film director. Set to a personal poem by Mr. Mann, the short film features home video footage voluntarily contributed by families around the world affected by autism. It is an intensely personal expression by these two fathers and their hope is that the piece inspires other voices and artists in the autism community.
: Autism Speaks believes that all individuals with autism and their families, regardless of their perspective or the nature of their disorder, should have the power to be heard. No one perspective can ever be the definitive voice of autism. We encourage everyone in the autism community to acknowledge the myriad voices and have tolerance for the spectrum of opinions.
Anne, I would love to read your short stories, and see your watercolor painting. Perhaps we would be able to have you take part of our “in their words” that we have up on our website. We extend an invitation out to all that want to be heard on our platform.
I am tempted to show my paints of my autistic boy Tikaani and maybe my writings. Do you know how should I respond to this?
Dear Suzanne and Dee,
Thank you for responding to my letter with such speed. I appreciate the time you took to write back to me.
I have read your response and I am still processing it. Forgive me if my less than stellar communications cause a problem. I see that while you may have read my letter you haven't quite understood the point I was trying to make.
My point is that you video had very negative and hurtful portrayal of autistic people (ironically with video of autists being happy) and even though you state there are many voices of the autistic community, it seems that only the parents voices are actually heard and you make no effort to have our voices heard too.
Allow me to quote from Depeche Mode “Now I'm not looking for absolution. Forgiveness for the things I do, but before you come to any conclusions. Try walking in my shoes. Try walking in my shoes.”
How many of your chair-board have actually seen the world though our eyes and actually try to empathize with us? You empathize with the parents, the fact you picked to academy winning fathers is proof, but will you show a film of an adult autist, happy with who he is, and given the acknowledgment and affirmation that being autistic is ok and who he is? Or what about a film of a parent raising her child and teaching her how to self-advocate and loves her child despite her autism? Or will that turn away the grants you need?
I looked at “In Their Words” and it's written in the voice of the parent not the autist, I would like to participate but I am afraid your editors and PR folks wouldn't like the stories of self-determination and will power of an autistic adult, who will not be cured or changed by outside pressures.
I will of course show selections of works I have written about my autistic character of mine and paintings I have done. Perhaps it will be proof that we do think abstractly and show imagination.
Noranne “The Bard” Cochran.
I also sent them one my written pieces of Tikaani (which I will show here) and a link to my art blog.