September 2021




More and more autistic students are entering higher education, but they often face barriers to success, with a lower graduation rate than non-disabled students. Some colleges have created programs for autistic students in order to address these barriers — but these programs vary widely, and are often created without the input of autistic people ourselves. How do autistic students define success for ourselves? How can colleges and universities address the barriers that autistic students face? We address these questions and more in our new white paper “Benchmarks to Inclusion: Creating Core Principles to Facilitate Autistic Student Success in Higher Education.”

For this white paper, ASAN brought together autistic college students to discuss what success looks like for autistic students and how colleges can help them get there. “Benchmarks to Inclusion” unpacks barriers to success, looks at how those barriers can be addressed, and lays out ten core principles to make higher education more accessible to autistic students. A summary of “Benchmarks to Inclusion” is also available in three formats: an academic summary aimed at researchers and professionals, an Easy Read factsheet that uses pictures and large text, and a Plain Language version without accompanying graphics.

Everyone deserves an equal chance to experience higher education. Right now, autistic students face barriers to their success — and they know better than anyone else what steps colleges and universities can take to dismantle those barriers and create truly inclusive communities. We hope you’ll check out these resources and share them with people in your life who might find them useful.


COVID-19 changed the way we live. We do things differently to stay safe from COVID-19. We stay in our homes a lot. We have to wear masks when we go out. It can be harder to get the services we need. How will things get back to normal?

The COVID-19 vaccine will help!

The COVID-19 vaccine is a shot that keeps people from getting sick with COVID-19.

COVID-19 is especially dangerous to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities — but too often, the facts about COVID-19 are not shared in ways that are accessible to us. That’s why ASAN has released this video about the COVID-19 vaccine. This video is available in both English and Spanish and answers questions like:

  • Why should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
  • What will getting the vaccine be like?
  • Is the vaccine safe?
  • When can I get the vaccine?
  • Do I still need to wear a mask after I get the vaccine?

In English:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHgCKyNtzDY

In Spanish:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cff3iKinxnw

Videos not showing up for you? View them here.

We also have a plain language factsheet about the COVID-19 vaccine. It is available in English and Spanish. You can find it here!

We hope that by learning more about the COVID-19 vaccine and sharing this video, everyone can do their part to beat the virus and keep our community safe.

ASAN is pleased to commemorate the 10th annual Autism Acceptance Month this year. Over the past ten years, autistic advocates have transformed our society’s conversation around autism — but much remains to be done before we can truly fulfill the promise of autism acceptance.

Autism Acceptance Month was created by and for the autistic community to change the conversation around autism, shifting it away from stigmatizing “autism awareness” language that presents autism as a threat to be countered with vigilance. Ten years ago, when Autism Acceptance Month started, advocacy organizations run by non-autistic people spoke openly about working towards a future in which “autism is a word for the history books.” In contrast, autism acceptance emphasizes that autistic people belong — that we deserve welcoming communities, inclusive schools and workplaces, and equal opportunities. In the last ten years, we have seen real progress. Many autism organizations run by non-autistic people initially resisted “acceptance” language; over time, some of them have come to adopt it. We welcome this change.

However, acceptance is an action, and it goes beyond changing the language we use. In order to truly practice autism acceptance, autism organizations must also change how they think about autism, and how they work to represent autistic people. Working toward acceptance means recognizing autistic people ourselves, not just our family members, as a core constituency. It means including autistic people in meaningful leadership positions throughout an organization — on staff, in senior leadership, and on the board. It means aligning advocacy  and research priorities with the priorities of the autistic community. Advocating for things that autistic people routinely describe as harmful, such as Applied Behavioral Analysis, institutionalization, or research on “curing” or preventing autism, is not autism acceptance. Autism acceptance means standing up against those who promote debunked anti-vaccine rhetoric, attack self-advocates, or work to expand segregated settings like sheltered workshops and institutions. 

Autism acceptance means respecting the rights and humanity of all autistic people. It means centering the perspectives and needs of autistic people with intellectual disabilities, nonspeaking autistic people, and autistic people with the highest support needs — not by speaking over them, but by listening and looking to them as leaders. It means fighting to ensure that the universal human rights of all autistic people are respected, including and especially the rights of those autistic people with the most significant disabilities. And autism acceptance means recognizing the ways ableism and racism interact in our society, following the leadership of autistic people of color, and making anti-racism a core part of our work. In particular, while police violence continues to threaten the lives of Black autistic people, some autism organizations focus on police training as a solution; this is ineffective and ignores the role racism plays in police violence, rather than reducing the power of police to do harm.

We welcome the necessary and long-overdue language changes increasingly being made by other autism organizations. But without understanding acceptance as an action, autism organizations led by non-autistic people will continue to lag behind the rest of the developmental disability community when it comes to reaching the goals of community living and inclusion. It is past time for parent- and provider-led autism organizations to make real, structural changes, and join self-advocate-led organizations in working to make acceptance more than just a buzzword.

It isn’t just autism organizations that need to put acceptance into practice. ASAN was glad to see recent improvements to the Autism CARES Act, including increasing the number of self-advocates who are members of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC). However, we need true parity on the IACC, and a rebalancing of research funding to align with the needs of autistic people ourselves. We applaud the White House urging the public to “learn more about the experiences of autistic people from autistic people,” in this year’s proclamation for Autism Acceptance Day. Still, there is much more to be done. We will continue to work to ensure that autistic people have equal rights, opportunities, and access — in health care, education, housing, employment, and throughout our communities. 

We have made real progress over the past ten years of recognizing Autism Acceptance Month. The conversation about autism has changed, thanks to the hard work of the autistic community. But there is more to be done, and words must translate into action. As autistic self-advocates have said from the beginning, we must move beyond acceptance — to representation, celebration, and liberation. Acceptance is not the end goal. It is the baseline, a call to do better, the starting line of the marathon. We can and must go beyond that starting point and run the race, even if we cannot even imagine the finish line. Only by continuing to move forward can we create the world our community deserves.Support our work

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network seeks to advance the principles of the disability rights movement with regard to autism. ASAN believes that the goal of autism advocacy should be a world in which autistic people enjoy equal access, rights, and opportunities. We work to empower autistic people across the world to take control of our own lives and the future of our common community, and seek to organize the autistic community to ensure our voices are heard in the national conversation about us. Nothing About Us, Without Us!

new flowers
Dear friends, This has been a difficult month for many of our community members. We began the month with the virtual vigil for Disability Day of Mourning, where we honored members of our community killed by their parents or caretakers. As we do every year, we read the names of the victims and mourned. Likewise, we mourn the victims of the March 16th shootings in Atlanta, Georgia: Soon Chung Park, Suncha Kim, Xiaojie Tan, Yong Ae Yue, Hyun Jung Grant, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Daoyou Feng, and Paul Andre Michels. We continue to stand in solidarity with our Asian American community members. The increase in anti-Asian racism over the past year is a call to action for us all — we must demand justice and dismantle systems of oppression. These acts of violence come after a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected people of color, especially people of color with disabilities. Black Lives Matter protesters continue to call attention to the ongoing crisis of police violence and anti-Black racism.  And while we welcome the release of Matthew Rushin from prison this week, his incarceration is a reminder that we must fundamentally change our justice system. As advocates, we must make sure that our solidarity does not fade away when the news cycle moves on. We must work to end systemic racism, and be proactive about fighting for the safety of everyone in our community, every day.  As always, we’re thankful to have our disability community working for change alongside us. Thanks to your advocacy, this month Congress passed the first COVID relief bill that includes emergency funding for home and community-based services (HCBS), including funding that can be used to move people with disabilities out of dangerous congregate settings. This is a huge victory for people with disabilities — but more work is needed to address systemic factors that have made COVID-19 so dangerous for people with disabilities to begin with, including Medicaid’s institutional bias. This makes the discussion draft of the HCBS Access Act (HAA), introduced this month, especially welcome. The HAA would build on the promises of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision and provide the Federal Medicaid resources necessary for states to fulfill those promises. We look forward to the process of moving the HAA from a discussion draft to the law of the land. A one-pager about the The Home and Community-Based Services Access Act can be found as a PDF here. We also applauded the reintroduction of the Charlotte Woodward Organ Transplant Discrimination Prevention Act this month. This bill, which evolved from ASAN’s model legislation to prohibit organ transplant discrimination, would clarify the rights of people with disabilities to be free from discrimination when seeking life-saving organ transplants. Both this bill and the HCBS Access Act are a result of years of advocacy from our policy team, our nonprofit partners, and grassroots advocates in every state. We’ve been keeping busy with new resources and toolkits. This month, we introduced a new white paper outlining ten core principles to make higher education more accessible to autistic students. A summary of the research is also available in three formats including plain language and Easy Read, as part of our ongoing dedication to making research accessible to everyone. We also debuted our new toolkit on managed long-term services and supports (MLTSS). Good MLTSS programs can be the gateway to independent living in our communities. The toolkit, in Easy Read and plain language, can help self-advocates understand what these programs are, how they’re made, and how we can make our voices heard! And we released new cognitively accessible resources on the COVID-19 vaccine: an animated video and an Easy Read factsheet, both available in English and Spanish. Finally, April is Autism Acceptance Month! We have so many good things in store for you and our community to celebrate acceptance, accessibility, and neurodiversity. We’ll have new resources, an event reflecting on ten years of neurodiversity advocacy, and new merchandise. It’s full steam ahead as we enter April!  Your continued support makes our work this month — and every month — possible. Thank you for everything you do to make sure that when it comes to the policies that affect our lives, there will be nothing about us, without us! Sincerely, Zoe Gross
Director of Advocacy
Autistic Self Advocacy Network
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Employment law changes in 2021
ASAN applauds Congress for the introduction of the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act (TCIEA). If passed, the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act would end subminimum wage for people with disabilities, and create new opportunities to help us get and keep real jobs with real pay. ASAN is proud to support this critical piece of legislation. For almost a century, it has been legal to pay people with disabilities less than non-disabled people for doing the same job. People with disabilities, particularly people with intellectual disabilities, have been paid literally pennies on the dollar for our labor. We have been forced to work in sheltered workshops, which isolate and segregate us from our communities. These practices compound the already lower employment rates and significantly higher poverty rates of our community. Disabled people deserve better than this. We all have the right to access good jobs in the community, with the supports we need to succeed. The Transformation To Competitive Integrated Employment act is a key first step to helping us regain our economic power, take control over our livelihoods, and further integrate into our communities. This bill will recognize our rights, and build the infrastructure we need to exercise them. It has been over 80 years since the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed and people with disabilities were excluded from minimum wage protections. It is past time to right this wrong. The Transformation to Competitive Employment Act will bring the change that our community desperately needs. We urge Congress to pass this long-overdue bill as soon as possible, and look forward to working with them to make that happen.
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A multi-racial family holding hands walks on top of a globe. One of the two children points to some birds flying above them. Blue and black text reads "Start Here: A guide for parents of autistic kids"
Too often, when parents find out their kid is autistic, they receive negative messages from all sides. Many resources available to parents stigmatize autism and talk about it as something to be “overcome,” not as a part of who an autistic child is. At ASAN, we’ve heard from many parents of autistic children who wish they’d had a better resource to learn about autism — one that cuts through myths and misconceptions and explains autism from an autistic perspective. And we’ve heard from many of our autistic community members who wish their families had access to that kind of information when they were growing up. That’s what our new booklet, “Start Here: A Guide for Parents of Autistic Kids” is for!   This booklet was created in partnership with the Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network, the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, and Little Lobbyists. You can purchase a print or ebook copy, or get it for free on our website here. This booklet will explain: What is autism? What parents should do next Where parents can learn more What good services look like Topics such as self-advocacy, communication, and presuming competence And more! We hope that you’ll read our parent booklet and learn more about what matters to your child, their community, and how to support them. If you know of any parents of autistic people who could benefit from checking out this guide, please pass it on and share widely.  When you learn your kid is autistic, you’re also learning that they’re part of a larger community of autistic people. Your kid has a lot of people on their team, so we wanted to give you a chance to learn from their community. This booklet was made thanks to the generous support of Anthem.

ASAN February Newsletter
Dear friends, While winter weather may be sticking around, we’re still springing forward into this new year of advocacy. Here is a summary of what we’ve been up to in the last month, and of what we have coming up. We are thrilled that the work of our community over the last few years has already begun to show results. We welcome the withdrawal of Medicaid work requirements by the new administration, which will make it easier for disabled people to access health care and other vital services. This is one of the many issues we have championed over the years, so it is especially exciting to see such progress. We continue to work to make sure that information about COVID-19 — and the benefits of COVID relief legislation — are accessible to all people with disabilities. COVID-19 is especially dangerous to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but too often, the facts about COVID-19 are not shared in ways that are accessible to us. That’s why we released a new accessible fact sheet all about the COVID-19 vaccine, available in Plain Language and Easy Read. Because of the pandemic’s disproportionate effect on our community, It’s also important for disabled people to be included in vital COVID-19 relief. We dedicated a week of action to calling on Congress to fund Medicaid home- and community-based services (HCBS) in the current bill. To all those who made a call, sent a letter, or helped spread the word: thank you! The COVID relief bill hasn’t been finalized, so there is still time to make our voices heard: use our script to call your Senators! We joined with other disability organizations to condemn the movie “MUSIC,” which encourages the use of deadly prone restraints, after the film’s team refused to consider the input of nonspeaking and autistic people. Instead, we encourage you to take a moment of your day to listen  – by watching CommunicationFIRST’s new short film, “LISTEN,” produced by and with nonspeaking autistic people, and launched on February 12, 2021, the MUSIC US release date. On Monday, March 1st, the disability community will gather virtually across the world to remember disabled victims of filicide – disabled people murdered by their family members or caregivers. Since 2012, ASAN and other disability rights organizations have come together to send a clear message that disability is not a justification for violence. Everyone is welcome at our Virtual Vigil, or click here to see a list of all vigils. Feel free to choose one local to you, or plan to join one whose time or platform works best for you. Applications are due March 7th for this summer’s Autism Campus Inclusion Leadership Academy. The ACI summer leadership training prepares autistic students to engage in disability advocacy on their college campuses.  ACI participants learn about making student groups, understanding disability policy, and talking to people in power. After the Academy, students get help from ASAN to meet their advocacy goals at their college. This year’s program will be held virtually from July 8th through the 16th, 2021. In addition, ASAN is hiring for a Programs and Communications Associate position. Consider becoming a part of the team and helping us to put together programs like ACI.  ASAN is proud to help future leaders in our community develop their advocacy skills, and to provide resources that people with disabilities can use to understand and weigh in on critical policy issues. We also value the opportunity to spend time remembering some of the people we have lost this year. Through all the different types of work that we do, and all the spaces we are trying to build, we are so proud to be in this fight for our community with all of you.   Sincerely, Zoe Gross
Director of Advocacy
Autistic Self Advocacy Network
P.S. We are sending all our best wishes to those impacted by the recent severe storms happening all over the US right now. If you have a disability and need help understanding how to connect to disaster resources in your area, please contact Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies as well as your local government.
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Genevieve BeaucheminMontreal Bureau Chief, CTV National News

@ctvbeauchemin ContactPublished Sunday, January 31, 2021 12:35PM EST

MONTREAL — An innovative, life-changing job training program is making change for Canadians with autism who are facing some of the highest levels of unemployment in the country.

Giant Steps Montreal, an organization devoted to educating autistic youth, has teamed up with grocery chains Loblaw and Provigo to provide training and internships as part of a new nine-month program.

“They have an opportunity for full-time employment, full pay [and] benefits, which is what we are hoping for them,” Wagar Adult Education Centre principal Nick Katalifos told CTV News. His school is providing students as part of the program.

The national unemployment rate in Canada is just over eight per cent, but that figure is more than ten times higher for Canadians with autism. And the new bilingual Polaris Enterprise initiative is hoping to tackle that by preparing students to be ready for front-line work.

“It’s not about social responsibility or charity. It’s really about the bottom line. And there’s a whole business case around employing autistic adults and people with disabilities,” Andre Pereira, project manager at Giant Steps for Employment Initiatives, told CTV News.

Through the program, students will be getting hands-on training for warehouse work. And in a mockup mini-mart in a corner of a cafeteria in a Montreal school, students will also learn how to take online orders and cashier training.

And this type of training can be a crucial step for Canadians to land a job.

“I have never worked before. I am not used to working in real jobs because I never had [one] before,” Ismael, a 28-year-old trainee at a grocery warehouse, told CTV News.

Eric Bourbeau, who has trained dozens of would-be workers in his 17 years on the job at Provigo, applauds Ismael’s progress so far.

“You have to take a little more time to train them, but after that, you will have a very good employee,” Bourbeau told CTV News, who said he felt these employees were big assets for companies.

In a press release, Pereira agreed and explained that beyond employers having a more cohesive and diversified team, the benefits also included higher retention rates for a business with high turnover; lower rates of absenteeism; and equal, if not higher, productivity.

The Polaris Enterprise program was inspired by a U.S. company that built a state-of-the-art distribution centre, with 40 per cent of its workforce made up of people with all kinds of different disabilities, according to the

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People with disabilities do best when we live in our communities and make our own choices. All people with disabilities should have the support we need to live in the community — but many people with disabilities are still stuck in institutions. 

For decades, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have been fighting to get out of institutions and back into our communities. But a lot of resources explaining the history and policy of institutions are not accessible to the people who need them most. That’s why we’ve released two toolkits about institutions. 

The first one, Institutions: the Old, The New, and What We Should Do, focuses on the history of institutions from the 19th century to the present, and what we can do to make community living possible for everyone. This toolkit answers important questions like:

  • What is an institution? What is living in the community?
  • When did institutions get made, and what were they like?
  • What rules and laws help us live in the community?
  • Why is living in the community better than living in institutions?
  • What are new institutions like? How are they different from the old institutions? How are they the same?

When new institutions open, people often say that they will be great places for people with disabilities. But they end up hurting people with disabilities. Our second toolkit, The Cycle of Institutions, explains how institutions get opened, closed, remade, and opened again… and again. This toolkit answers important questions like:

  • What is the cycle of institutions?
  • What are state schools, ICFs, group homes, and intentional communities?
  • How are these places different from institutions in the past? How are they the same?
  • How can you tell that a facility is an institution?

Institutions: The Old, The New, and What We Should Do

Institutions: The Old, The New, and What We Should Do is available in two versions:

  • Our Easy Read Edition. The Easy Read version has 7 parts, plus a separate section with additional links and a section with Words to Know. The Easy Read version uses pictures along with large text, and has more white space.
  • A Plain Language Version without accompanying graphics. It includes a full glossary of all the words used in the toolkit.

Easy Read Edition

The Easy Read Edition is split into parts. Click on the title of any of the parts below to download it:

You can also download the entire Easy Read edition by clicking here. Plain Language Version

Click here to download the Plain Language version of Institutions: The Old, The New, and What We Should Do.

The Cycle of Institutions

The Cycle of Institutions is available in two versions:

  • Our Easy Read Edition. The Easy Read version has 5 parts, plus a separate section with additional links and a section with Words to Know. The Easy Read version uses pictures along with large text, and has more white space.
  • A Plain Language Version without accompanying graphics. It includes a full glossary of all the words used in the toolkit.

Easy Read Edition

The Easy Read Edition is split into parts. Click on the title of any of the parts below to download it:

You can also download the entire Easy Read edition by clicking here. Plain Language Version

Click here to download the Plain Language version of The Cycle of Institutions.

Support for this toolkit was provided by The Community Living Policy Center at Brandeis University. Funding for this center is provided by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (grant number 90RTCP0004). However, the contents of this brief do not necessarily represent the policy of the federal government.

a view of tall autumn trees from below

Dear friends,

October is coming to an end, and we wish we could say that Halloween was the scariest thing happening this week. But with COVID cases surging and threats to the Affordable Care Act on the horizon, the disability community is facing dangers that are all too real. Plenty of us are feeling fatigue set in after an incredibly difficult year — but we’re not giving up. People with disabilities across the United States are speaking up by voting in this year’s election, and when our voices are heard, we have more power to make change. ASAN has spent this month educating our community about voting and civic engagement, and we know that whatever the next battles may be, people with disabilities will advocate for our rights as fiercely as ever. No matter what comes next, we’re in this fight together.

One of the first things we did this month was release a statement against the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. As of this week, Barrett has been sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice. This puts our community’s rights in danger, especially with a Supreme Court case coming up about the Affordable Care Act. Regardless of the outcome of that case, ASAN will keep fighting to protect access to healthcare for all people with disabilities. 

With the election coming closer, we spent a lot of time this month putting out accessible information on voting. Voting can change who makes policies at the local, state, or federal levels  — and that affects our daily lives as people with disabilities. We’ve been sharing information and resources about voting under guardianship, making a plan to vote, and how and why to vote. As we approach election day, we encourage you to review your options to vote. It’s also important to remember that with more people voting by mail this year, it may take more time to count all the ballots. We may not know the final election results on Tuesday night, but ensuring that we count every vote is more important than quick election results. When the disability community votes, and when we make sure that every vote is counted, we’re saying that every voice matters.

With COVID-19 killing tens of thousands of people with disabilities in institutions, it’s clearer than ever that we need to end institutionalization and make sure all disabled people can live in the community. Our two new Easy Read and plain language toolkits explain why our society has kept deadly institutions around this long, and how we can get rid of them. The first toolkit talks about the history of institutions, what research tells us about living in the community vs. an institution, and what new institutions look like. The second one explains the cyclical nature of institutions, how institutions “rebrand” themselves, and how to break the cycle. 

We’ve also been preparing for another change this fall: ASAN’s annual gala is going virtual! We’re hosting a variety of events, from Twitter chats, to panels, to film screenings. All video or streaming content will have captions. Tickets are sliding scale. We would love to see you there!

During these next few months, lots of change will continue to happen. We encourage you to take care of yourself and your communities in this difficult time. The disability community has been using mutual aid and powerful advocacy to get through this pandemic. We will use those same strategies and skills to keep up the fight for our rights and our liberation — for as long as it takes, until all of us are free. Remember to vote if you haven’t already, and know that no matter what comes next, we’ll face it together.

In solidarity,

Julia Bascom
Executive Director
Autistic Self Advocacy Network

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ASAN Opposes Supreme Court Nominee Amy Coney Barrett

2020 Virtual Gala invitation

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