May 2012



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Archive for May, 2012

Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts

Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts


“Former welfare care home caretaker jailed for 6 years for causing death of autistic youth … Two years ago a former welfare home caretaker slapped, punched and hurled an autistic youth to the floor for refusing to eat his breakfast. As a result of S. Tirupathi’s action, the youth met his death.”:


“Missing autistic boy killed on US 60”:


“Memorial service set for girl who drowned in lake … Relatives say Hannah was autistic and had left home upset. Fort Gordon public affairs spokesman Buz Yarnell says that whenever Hannah was distressed, she had to touch water, which is believed to have led to her death. ”:


“Mom sues school over shocking of autistic son – Judge Rotenberg shocked boy 31 times that day … After the shocks, the teen was “essentially in what we would call a catatonic condition,” an expert witness testified. “That means a condition that occurs with people who are acutely psychotically disturbed, and they let him stay in the facility basically sitting still, not eating, refusing fluids for the most part for days. They’re lucky he didn’t die.”:


“Wesleyan students mourn for disabled with vigil(includes video)”:


“Jonesville Police Chief placed on leave … The boy’s mother says the chief told her he dragged the boy into police car. She says she was told her son kept kicking the back seat of the patrol car, so Chief Corbett struck the child on the legs with a baton. The mother says her son was then taken back to the school in handcuffs. The police chief told News 10 over the phone that had he known the boy was autistic, he would have responded differently.”:


“Portland police identify boy found alone on train”:



“Portland authorities want family of autistic boy to explain why he was alone on TriMet train”:


“Carlisle state police find missing autistic boy, 4, near pond … The boy was reported missing about 10:45 a.m. after he opened a locked door inside his Upper Frankford Township home, troopers said. … About 12:30 p.m., a trooper found the boy near the pond. He was uninjured and returned to his family.”:


“Trial opens for Wash. Couple in caged kids case”:


“Maghull family traumatised after doubled hate crime attack”:


“Mum of disabled son claims angry Liberal MP told her ‘Don’t bug me”:


Student Loan Debt “One woman’s asperger syndrome got her out of $340K debt … Todd’s condition qualifies her for a federal exemption for discharging student loan debt, federal bankruptcy judge Robert Gordon ruled.”:


“Landmark pilot project to ‘better protect’ autistic Glaswegians … A first-of-its-kind initiative launches in Glasgow today, to help address the unique challenges faced by people with autism who are victims of crime and accidents. ”:


“Gary McKinnon and Richard O’Dwyer: Extradition and an appalling affront to British justice”:


ASAN “Talking Points for DSM-5 – Autism Criteria Public Comments”:



NAS “82% of autistic adults experience isolation”:


NAS “Isolation and bullying colours the lives of too many young autistic people”:



NAS “Girls and women with Asperger syndrome face battle for diagnosis and support”:


“Girls, boys differ when it comes to autism”:


“Biomarker an important step toward objective diagnostic test for autism”:


“Kinect cameras watch for autism”:


“Clues to autism’s gender bias”:


“Gene glitch could explain gender bias in autism”:


“Study of half siblings provides genetic clues to autism”:


“Zebrafish study helps ID genes linked to autism, schizophrenia”:


“French autistic kids mostly get psychotherapy”:


“Study says Utah tops U.S. in rate of autism cases”:


“Acid in the brain linked to panic disorders, depression”:


“10 simple solutions to improve your mental health”:


“Life satisfaction linked to resiliency”:


“Total Recall: The man who can remember every detail of his life in detail”:


“Virtual Hospital”:



“Autism and the Ethics of Inclusion: A Matter of Civil Rights … Obama’s appointee to the National Council on DisAbility, Ari Ne’eman spoke to the Bloomfield community about what it means to be “different” in an America built on equality and “justice for all.” ”:



“Autism advocate questions ‘extreme’ inclusion model”:



“Failings in the education system letting down children in NI”:


New NAS Anderson School “School for autistic pupils to open in Pilning … The Anderson School, run by the National Austistic Society (NAS), will welcome 20 boys and girls aged between ten and 16 years old from June.”:


“Families welcome autism school plan”:


“Touched by technology”:


“Cross-party councillors unite over threat to special needs school”:



Home Education “Agnieszka Runa-Ann Kolaczynska, 9, of Llidiartywaun becomes spelling champion”:


“National Trust Super Rangers to teach children 50 things to do outdoors”:


“Echos Education – Noticeboard”:



“Opportunities grow for autistic adults … Since its opening in December, the response from both employees and customers has been encouraging, Dastou says.

Karen Carlisle, vice president of corporate communications and development at Nobis Works, says it is common to hear such positive feedback from employers.

“They say, ‘These are the best employees I have because they want to work.’ They come in on time. They don’t call in sick, and they have such a positive attitude that it’s contagious to other employees,” she says.”:


NAS “Autistic adults left out in the cold by supported employment programmes”:


NAS “Over a third of autistic adults experience bullying or discrimination at work”:


“Five careers that DON’T require a degree”:


Asperger Informatik AG “Professionelles Webdesign und Software Testing in Zurich”:


“Creative Support Ltd”:


“Autelligent Laboratories

We believe all people have a contribution to make and deserve an opportunity to be productive.

With your caring and excellent help, we are creating jobs for the 40 million people worldwide who are diagnosed with Autism and Asperger Syndrome. Today less than one in five of us are currently employed. We are motivated and competent and we deserve equal employment. Help make this a reality.

Autelligent Laboratories is dedicated to creating a space where autistic software engineers can more than contribute, we can excel.”:


Luxury Quality Scented Candles “Humbolt Candles – Autism & Disability Employment Company”:


Individuality, Diversity, Equality, Achievement

Auties..org is an Aspie & Autie friendly site for all people on the Autistic Spectrum who are ready to dare reach out to occupation and employment, open the doors to the community and market their abilities directly to the public and for those interested in supporting these pioneers.




Linking job seekers with vacancies in work related to autism, Aspergers and ASDs


“Employment within the NAS”:


“For further employment information, please view”:



“Technology accessibility is improving, but big challenges lie ahead”:


Technology Benefits & Challenges Revealed in Survey “Autism and Mobile Communication … For people with autism who have not yet developed speech, Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems can be very helpful in developing communication, language and other skills.”:


“Co-op helps autistic kids get iPads”:


Communication “How Speech Language Therapy can help your autistic child(Includes Dos and Don’ts)”:


“appsbar.com recognizes “Social Stories” as the appsbar App of the Day”:



“An Independent Me” opens doors and opportunities for Austin autistic adults in Summer 2012”:


“Illinois firefighters to get autism awareness training”:


Autism for a Lifetime: Finding Joy in the Journey “New blog inspires adults living with autism spectrum disorders”:


“Ariane Zurcher: Sensory Overload, Awareness and Autism”:


“10 Things Not to Say to Parents of Autistic Children”:


“Katie Price worried for her son”:



(More photos to follow at later date)

State Flag

Massachusetts State Flag

Autism Society Massachusetts Chapter

47 Walnut St
Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts 02481-2108
(781) 237-0272


Boston, Capital and Largest City of Massachusetts


Community Resources for People on the Autism Spectrum

Community Resources for People with Autism provides support, information and practical help for individuals with autism spectrum disorders and their families living in western Massachusetts.


Long Island Head Lighthouse

Long Island Head Lighthouse, Boston Harbor


Family Ties

Family TIES of Massachusetts is a statewide information and parent-to-parent support project for families of children with special needs and chronic illness. It is administered by parent coordinators housed in each of the regional offices of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.



Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall (1882)

New England Index – Information on Disabilities Exchange

Contained within this site is a wealth of information for people with disabilities, their friends, families and the people who serve them. Information within this site focuses on Massachusetts.


Mayflower II

Mayflower II – Sailing into Plymouth Harbor 52 years ago, the Mayflower II ship is a replica of the original passenger ship that bore the Pilgrims (Separatists) in 1620 to Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Department of Education


Massachusetts State House

Massachusetts State House

Institute for Community Inclusion

ICI offers training, clinical and employment services; conducts research; and provides assistance to organizations to promote inclusion of people with disabilities in school, work and community activities.


Harvard University

Harvard University, regarded as in the top handful of universities worldwide for academic research in a myriad of disciplines.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services


North Adams

North Adams

Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Councillors

The mission of the MDDC is to provide opportunities for people with developmental disabilities and their families to enhance independence, productivity and inclusion.


Ruby throated hummingbird

Ruby Throated Hummingbird, Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts


Advocates for Autism

Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts strives to ensure the human and civil rights of individuals of all ages across the entire autism spectrum and promote the availability of essential supports so that they may live fully and enjoy the same opportunities as other citizens of the Commonwealth. We educate individuals with ASD, their families and other AFAM members/supporters to be effective, vigorous agents of change.


Rockport, Massachusetts


Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Network

The Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Network is a collaborative of four organizations that promote self-determination, independence, productivity, integration and inclusion in all facets of community life for people with developmental disabilities and their families. The Network partners accomplish this mission through advocacy, education, research and dissemination of information.


Sunrise in Nahant

Sunrise in Nahant

Disabilities Law Center, Inc.


MIT's Stata Center

Architecture: MIT’s Stata Center – The Ray and Maria Stata Center, or Building 32, was designed by Frank Gehry for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Opened 2004. Lensbaby Composer with Glass Optic.

Massachusetts Advocates for Children

Massachusetts Advocates for Children is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to being an independent and effective voice for children who face significant barriers to equal educational and life opportunities. MAC works to overcome these barriers by changing conditions for many children, while also helping one child at a time.

*Please note that in the context of Special Education Law, an “advocate” differs from an attorney in several ways. By definition, an “advocate” is one that supports or promotes the interests of another while an “attorney” is a practitioner in a court of law who is legally qualified to prosecute and defend actions in such court on behalf of his or her clients. Although both may be able to help with your legal situation, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) only attorney’s fees are recoverable to families prevailing in lawsuits. This delineation was the outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision in Arlington Central School District Board of Education v. Murphy, 548 U.S. 291 (2006). There is currently legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would reverse this outcome (the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act, HR 434).


Cape Cod

Cape Cod

Interactive Map of the United States(Includes Educational Resources):


A Free United States Map:


Massachusetts Guide:


Massachusetts Facts:


48 Hours in Boston:


Best Massachusetts Restaurants





“FDA warns of fake version of ADHD drug Adderall”:



“ADHD and Depression, Anxiety, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and Learning Disabilities”:


“Colleges for students with learning disabilities, ADHD, ASD, and LD”:


“Mother of son with ADHD challenges decision to deny her carer’s allowance”:


“Urban Outfitters Android app helps children diagnosed with ADHD achieve academic success without medication”:


“Children’s snoring linked to ADHD and emotional problems”:


“Synaptol: Can its ingredients relieve symptoms of ADHD”:


“Natural remedies for ADHD children and lifestyle changes are an alternative to medications”:


“TotallyADD.com: Award winning ADD site seeking user feedback for improvements”:


“ADHD campaigners will stop at nothing”:


“Finding natural alternatives Adhd children can use”:


“Generation Rx? Review of ‘Dosed: The Medication Generation Grows Up”:


“ADHD and the best of intentions”:


“Focus on hyperfocus, a positive view of ADHD”:


“Questions on ADHD meds answered! Part I”:


“Questions and answers about ADHD meds! Part II”:


Toronto “TotallyADD”:


ADRES “Adverse Drug Reaction Electronic System(Adverse Drug Reactions Website)”- This website provides patients, doctors, and other medical professionals with a comprehensive examination of adverse drug reactions (ADRs), side effects, and other safety information for both prescription and over-the-counter medications.. Our goal is to allow users of our website make informed decisions when taking (patients) or prescribing (doctors) drugs. We are providing unmatched information and analysis tools.


Our objective is to promote awareness to AD/HD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and to provide information and as much free practical help as we can to those affected by the condition, both adults and children, their families in the UK and around the World via this website.


“ADDISS” The National Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service…




“hi2u ADHD Pages”:





China “Boy finds voice in music”:


“James Durbin’s Yosemite honeymoon”:





“The AutisMusic Project”:



“Seth Chwast Paintings, Drawings, 3D Art”:


GLIMPSE – the talents of the autism community

They are painters, sculptors and photographers; poets and storytellers; musicians and creators of amazing video games. They are kids, teens and adults. Last year, a new online publication arose to celebrate the talents of autistic individuals and other developmental disabilities: GLIMPSE, offered by ICDL (The Interdisciplinary Council of Developmental and Learning Disorders). In late 2008, Volume 2 of GLIMPSE was released, and was expanded into a print book and notecards. The works are serious, humourous, deeply personal and illuminating. See it for yourself, share it with others, submit your own/your child’s work for inclusion. Find information and ordering details at http://www.icdl.com/bookstore/glimpse/index.shtml

“Artisancam: an award winning interactive website that gives an insight into the lives of contemporary visual artists(aimed at school-aged children, parents/teachers)”:


“ARTROOM ………where under 17s can make and display art online”:



“Fringe’ star Jasika Nicole on alternate world twist”:


“The most cynical TV show I’ve ever seen: The father of an autistic teenager attacks Ricky Gervais’ new comedy”:


“Gervais hits back at Derek critics”:


“Louis Theroux on autism: A very different sort of school”:


“Actors for Autism”:


Aaron Likens “Finding Kansas”: Man with Asperger’s signs memoir Saturday”:


Coming Soon “Inside “Asperger’s Looking Out”

Kathy Hoopmann


Coming Soon “The Asperkid’s (Secret) Book of Social Rules: The Handbook of Not-So-Obvious Guidelines for Tweens and Teens with Asperger Syndrome”

Jennifer Cook O’Toole

Illustrated by Brian Bojanowski


Video Modeling for Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Coming Soon “Video Modeling for Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Watch and Learn at Home, School and in the Community”

Sarah Murray and Brenna Noland


Flying to See Janet

Coming Soon “Flying to See Janet: A Fun Guide to the Airport Experience”

Laura Vickers

Illustrated by Peggy Wargelin


Teaching Your Child with Love and Skill

New “Teaching Your Child with Love and Skill”

Joyce Show


The Asperger Children's Toolkit

New “The Asperger Children’s Toolkit”

Francis Musgrave


Helping Students Take Control of Everyday Executive Functions

 “Helping Students Take Control of Everyday Executive Functions: The Attention Fix”

Paula Moraine


Helping Children with Autism Spectrum Conditions through Everyday Transitions

 “Helping Children with Autism Spectrum Conditions through Everyday Transitions: Small Changes – Big Challenges”

John Smith, Jane Donlan and Bob Smith


Take Care,



Cape Cod National Seashore

Cape Cod National Seashore


By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on May 23, 2012

For all except the very fortunate few, life is full of ups and downs. In a new study, Spanish researchers found that learning to cope with the down times is integral to life satisfaction.

Individuals respond to adverse situations in a variety of ways. Some never recover from a traumatic event, such as the loss of a spouse or child, while a majority slog through the dark hours of intense negative emotions (anxiety, depression) and eventually move on with their life, gradually adapting to a new status quo.

However, a third group is made up of individuals whose adversities have made them grow personally and whose life takes on new meaning, making them feel stronger than before.

Researchers at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona surveyed 254 students to determine their level of satisfaction with life.

The investigators also looked to find connections between an individual’s resilience and their capacity of emotional recovery – the ability to control one’s emotions – and a component of emotional intelligence.

Investigators discovered that the 20 percent of students who were more resilient were also more satisfied with their lives. This group also believed they have control over their emotions and their state of mind.

As such, researchers posit that an individual’s capability to bounce back from stress and adversity, their resilience, has a positive prediction effect on the level of satisfaction with one’s life.

The good news is that resiliency is not an innate characteristic, rather a skill that can be developed and improved.

Read in Full:


This guest article from YourTango was written by Kim Olver. 

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. We will go to the doctor for a physical checkup, but how many of us engage in a mental health checkup? The goals of my process, InsideOut Empowerment, provide us with ten things we can do to improve our well-being and increase our happiness.

1. Assess the strength of your needs while learning to obtain the proper amounts for happiness. We all have five basic human needs — connection, freedom, significance, survival and enjoyment. While we share that in common, the strength of our needs vary. So for example, one person may be high in connection and enjoyment, while another person might be high in significance and freedom. The key to happiness is to engage in behavior that brings you the precise amount of each need you want. Having too little leaves you feeling deprived and having too much can leave you feeling over-saturated.


2. Understand and take responsibility for your choices. You have choices in every situation. You may not have any “good” choices or choices you like, but there are choices nonetheless. You are doing whatever you’re doing because you chose it, not because someone forced you. You may be doing it to keep your job, please a loved one or to save your life … but you are choosing it. When you let go of the victim mentality and embrace the choice aspect of all you do, you will feel empowered.

3. Make the connection between your behavior and your progress or lack thereof. We often look to outside “causes” for our success — or lack thereof — and forget to look at what we, ourselves, are doing or not doing to move us toward our goals. When you begin to take charge of your own outcomes instead of giving that power to others, you will feel much happier.

4. Understand the power of your perception and how to change it. We often make up stories about people and events in our lives that have nothing to do with the facts of the situation. They are simply our interpretation. Your interpretation can cause you great unnecessary turmoil. If your perception isn’t serving you, change it! Make up a better, happier, more generous story.

5. Find the balance in all things. Everything that happens to you has equal positive and negative qualities; a ying and a yang, pros and cons. The problem is our perception again. We tend to label things as good or bad, positive or negative, painful or pleasurable. The truth is, both sides are always present. It just depends on where you place your focus. Seeing both sides equally will improve your mental health.

6. Distinguish and choose between what feels good right now and what will feel even better later. We often engage in a battle of what we want right now versus what we really want. As a general rule, those who can delay gratification achieve greater satisfaction than those who always indulge themselves in the moment. But there is another option. See #7.

7. Expanding either/or thinking to a both/and approach. In our Western culture, we often tell ourselves that we must choose between two options. But I say, “Why not have both?” Now, I do realize sometimes there really is a dilemma and a person must choose, but those times occur less frequently than you think if you begin to ask yourself, “How can I have/do/be both?”

8. Uncover your self-sabotage, while learning to minimize its hold on you. We all have some negative thoughts about ourselves that were installed in our psyche before we were old enough to distinguish fact from fiction. The fact that these negative thoughts most often came from those you trusted made it even harder to dispute. However, if you want to succeed at your goals, then you must bring your self-sabotage out from the dark of the subconscious to the light of day where you can examine its veracity. If you determine it simply isn’t true (and it usually isn’t), then you can let it go. Don’t attempt to “do battle” with the ideas, as this gives them more importance than they deserve.

Read in Full:



For most of us, it’s tricky enough to remember what we were doing this time last week, let alone on some random day years ago. But for a blind 20-year-old man referred to by researchers as HK, every day of his life since the age of about eleven is recorded in his memory in detail. HK has a rare condition known as hyperthymesia and his is only the second case ever documented in the scientific literature (the first, a woman known as AJ, was reported in 2006; pdf).

Brandon Ally and his team have completed comprehensive tests with HK and they’ve scanned his brain and compared its structure with 30 age-matched controls. They found that HK has normal intelligence, that he performs normally on standard desktop tests of short and long-term recall, and that he has normal verbal learning skills. It’s specifically his autobiographical memory that’s phenomenal.

The researchers assessed HK’s autobiographical memory by choosing four dates from each year of his life since his first memory (that was from 1993 when he was aged three and half), making 80 dates in total. For each of these dates, they gathered at least three facts from HK’s family, medical records and the historical records for his neighbourhood in Nashville. HK was then interviewed about each of these 80 dates – for example, he was asked “Can you tell me what happened during your day on January 2nd, 2001”. His answers, often detailed, were transcribed and fact-checked.

HK’s recollection of days from his life between the ages of 9 and 12 grew dramatically more accurate and detailed, reaching nearly 90 per cent accuracy for memories at age 11, rising to near perfect accuracy thereafter. For some dates, HK was quizzed again at a second session – the consistency of his answers was 100 per cent.

What’s it like to have hyperthymesia? HK told the researchers that his autobiographical memories are rich in sensory and emotional details and feel just as vivid regardless of whether they’re from years ago or from yesterday. Ninety per cent of the time he experiences these memories in the first-person, compared with rates of approximately 66 per cent in the general population. HK said autobiographical memories frequently enter his consciousness, triggered by sights, sounds and emotions. Most days he wakes up thinking about what he’s done on that day in previous years. Bad memories come to mind just as often as positive ones, but he is able to choose to focus more on the positive.

Read More …


Earlier this year, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and the Autism Society of America issued a joint statement discussing the proposed changes. Concerns arose from suggestions that not all those currently diagnosed would retain a diagnosis once the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual was released.

Now that the final public comment period has opened, you can comment on the proposed changes that will combine several diagnoses into one unified autism spectrum category. We view community involvement and representation as a vital part of developing meaningful criteria that reflect our needs. The deadline for submissions is June 15 leaving little time to delay.

To comment, you must register then navigate to the ASD draft criteria page to submit. Here are our suggestions when you consider what to include in your public comment:

  • *APA should revise the requirement in the ASD draft criteria’s social communication domain (A) that an individual meet 3 of 3 listed criteria. This sets an overly restrictive standard and will likely lead to greater challenges in accessing diagnosis for adults, racial and ethnic minorities, women and girls and other under-represented groups. Independent analysis of the draft criteria have confirmed the overly restrictive nature of this requirement. APA should revise this requirement to require only 2 of 3 criteria to be met, either shifting this requirement across the lifespan or introducing the greater flexibility specifically for adults in recognition of the greater difficulties in identification which exist for the Autistic adult community.

  • * APA should clearly communicate that individuals should be assessed for diagnosis without regards to any mitigating measures, such as learned behavior or other adaptive coping mechanisms, they may have developed to help navigate the world. This is consistent with the way in which the Americans with Disabilities Act is interpreted according to the recent ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which worked to ensure that people with less visible disabilities could retain coverage under the ADA. APA should consider revising part (C) of the draft criteria to reflect this. Currently, (C) acknowledges that characteristics of ASD may not be noticeable until later in life due to greater social demands in adolescence, but does not yet take note of the fact that many Autistic adults utilize adaptive coping mechanisms which may make it more difficult for them to access diagnosis, even as we are still substantially impacted by being on the autism spectrum and would benefit from the services, self-understanding and accommodations diagnosis provides.

  • * APA should consider linking the diagnosis of Social Communication Disorder under ASD, helping to address both concerns that individuals on the autism spectrum may be inappropriately placed within the SCD diagnosis and the benefits of greater linkages of diagnoses in research and practice. There are multiple structures which could accomplish this goal, ranging from classifying SCD as a type of ASD-Not Otherwise Specified to describing SCD as a sub-type of ASD utilizing a similar structure to that which has been applied within the ADHD diagnosis.

  • * APA should proceed with the development of a unified, single ASD diagnosis, reflecting the reality that the application of the various ASD diagnosis (Autistic Disorder, PDD-NOS and Asperger’s) is inconsistent and often utilized as a means of denying access to appropriate services. However, in doing so, APA should act with caution to ensure that all individuals covered under the DSM-IV diagnoses will retain coverage in the revised unified diagnosis.

  • * APA should consider incorporating motor and movement issues within domain (B) in recognition of the growing body of research which finds these issues as common across ASD.

  • * APA should clarify and expand upon its use of examples, while making clear that such lists of examples are non-exhaustive and that an individual not possessing the examples APA utilizes should not disqualify them from access to diagnosis. APA should consider providing examples specific to adults and adolescents, to better acknowledge that the characteristics of ASD differ across the lifespan. APA should also consider providing more specific examples on varying presentations for women and girls and racial and ethnic minorities.

Autism advocate Ari Ne’eman, Barack Obama’s appointee to the National Council on DisAbility, spoke to the Bloomfield community April 26, 2012.

Obama’s appointee to the National Council on DisAbility, Ari Ne’eman spoke to the Bloomfield community about what it means to be “different” in an America built on equality and “justice for all.”

When autism advocate Ari Ne’eman, Barack Obama’s appointee to the National Council on DisAbility, recently spoke in Essex County, the discussion was not about autism, per se, but about civil rights.

Specifically, Ne’eman discussed how the role of the disabled person relates to history and human rights, and what it means to be “different” in an America built on the tenents of equality and “justice for all.” 

“Nobody should have to pretend to be something that they’re not, as a means of being included in their own society,” he said in an one-hour speech at Bloomfield High School last month. “We are taught at a very young age that to be ‘different’ is to be ‘wrong.’  [For those who are different] that’s a horrendous way of living.”

Ne’eman, who is himself autistic, addressed a range of issues facing disabled Americans, specifically those with autism. The definition of ‘normalcy,’ he said, largely determines a school district’s attitude toward classroom inclusion, as well as host of other issues from social acceptance to employability.

Ne’eman spoke movingly about his own experiences as an autistic child, where he faced isolation and segregation from his non-afflicted peers and was forced to leave his neighborhood school and attend a faraway “special school.”  There, scrubbing dishes and mopping floors was seen as appropriate life training for the students.

Today Ne’eman, in addition to being Obama’s appointee, is the president and co-founder of the national Autistic Self-Advocacy Network. He maintains that the ultimate goal of autism advocacy efforts is inclusion, not just in schools but in the larger world, and that anything less is a violation of human and civil rights.

Still, the challenge and complexity of inclusion becomes evident when one considers the wide range of autism diagnoses. Children with the mildest form of autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, often attend regular schools and later, can live without discrimination within “mainstream” society. But inclusion may be nearly impossible for those with severe autism, who are sometimes non-verbal and lacking the most basic forms of self-reliance. Even children who engage in disruptive outbursts and repetitive motions can be seen as unlikely candidates for inclusion in the eyes of many educators.

For this reason, treatment of autism has historically focused on helping patients acquire traits that allow them to fit more neatly into the existing social order.  Citing one renowned researcher, Dr. Ivar Lovaas, Ne’eman noted that rendering autistic patients “indistinguishable from their peers” – in other words, able to mimic ‘normalcy’– was widely seen as “success” in the field of autism treatment. 

In describing Lovaas’ methods, his own website states, “half the children with autism who received his intensive treatment become indistinguishable from other children on tests of cognitive and social skills by the time they completed first grade.”

“I don’t know many people whose goal, when they wake up in the morning, is to be indistinguishable from their peers,” noted Ne’eman wryly in his speech. “Lovaas’ studies weren’t measuring independent living skills or academic skills like science or math, they were measuring indistinguishability from peers.  Is that meaningful?”

Designing treatment methods based on conformity to an opposing ideal automatically defines the starting point, “acting autistic,” as “wrong,” Ne’eman said.

Read in Full: