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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Writer/Curator/Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project. Contributing Author to Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood, and Concepts of Normality by Wendy Lawson, and soon to be published Gravity Pulls You In. Writing my own book. Lecturer on autism and the media and parenting. Current graduate student Critical Disability Studies and most importantly, mother of Adam -- a new and emerging writer.

“There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.” -- Baruch Spinoza  

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Why Can't the State of Massachusetts Shut Matthew Israel Down?

See this article in Mother Jones:
"The harsh reality is we're doing this to innocent children in Canton, Massachusetts," [says Senator Brian A. Joyce]. "If this treatment were used on terrorist prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, there would be worldwide outrage."

Mr. Israel continues to defend his use of aversives and electric shock in my blog today under "The Legacy of B.F. Skinner and Behaviour Modification." You can comment there or here.

Eye Contact

An interesting look into "eye contact" by Christschool:

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


The Legacy of B.F. Skinner and "Behaviour Modification"

There's something rotten afoot. It's at the Judge Rotenberg Center and it's electric shock and other aversive "therapies" for the "treatment" of autistic and other developmentally disabled individuals. B.F. Skinner still floats in our hallowed halls -- be it schools or of "child-rearing" -- in our systems of rewards and punishments for autistic and other children. Consider the legacy of behaviourism:

Please read this article released in Mother Jones.

If people feel strongly about ending this torture, please contact the American Psychological Association at the address below.

Lynn F. Bufka PhD
Assistant Executive Director
Practice Research & Policy
American Psychological Association
750 First St. NE
Washington D.C. 20002

Sunday, October 28, 2007


The More Important Legal Battle

In the New York Times yesterday: Disabled Pupils, Private Schools, Public Money, David and Kim LaPierre enrolled their son Jack into private school for children without disabilities in addition to their in home therapy. They feared that Jack would backslide in a public classroom with disabled children and are suing the schools to recover their expenses.

"It makes no sense to us as parents that we would have to put our son in a place that we knew wasn't right for him, just so we could qualify for the school's services or funding to help us....

Cases like these have increasingly become a flash point in special education, pitting parents against school systems that say they cannot afford to pay to privately educate disabled children whose parents unilaterally reject their proposed placements."

While the courts seem to take a stance that people will abuse the receipt of reimbursements, "others say that if public schools did a better job educating students, private school placements would be unnecessary."

In the article, the LaPierre's did not digress into therapy treatments or talk about their son as "doomed without..." What they have done is positioned their argument, in my opinion to something that we all, as parents of disabled children, can relate to: our children are worthy of access and support. They deserve a good education in a setting where they can learn -- not with a classroom packed with thirty children or in a setting that teaches them only self-help skills. More often is the case that our children have strengths in one or more areas, and need support in other aspects of their development. What I would like to see extend the argument is that other children will benefit by getting to know and learn with our disabled children.

I would support a lobby in Canada for public educators as well as private, to take a long hard look at how we educate disabled children whilst VALUING them -- preparing them to contribute to society because we know they they will, and supporting them into adulthood so that those who cannot be completely independent, can. The levels of support will certainly vary, and we have to work for everyone's benefit. While we are doing it, we have a great deal to learn from the disabled students who have already traversed, nay survived "the system."

I was actually surprised to read something in the paper that effects all parents, that we can all universally relate to. I hope it puts pressure on public educators to change "the system," and society in general to shift perceptions about the nature and value of disabled people.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Stay Awhile

Stay awhile and listen. Lord knows we aren't doing much of it.

Henry T. Greenly, from "Knowing Sin: Making Sure Good Science Doesn't Go Bad," From Cerebrum, 2007:

" 'Despite the vision and the farseeing wisdom of our wartime heads of state, the physicists felt a peculiarly intimate responsibility for suggesting, for supporting, and in the end, in large measure, for achieving, the realization of atomic weapons. Nor can we forget that these weapons, as they were in fact used, dramatized so mercilessly the inhumanity and evil of modern war. In some sort of crude sense which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose.' -- J. Robert Oppenheimer (1947)

Like All Tools, scientific advances may be used for good or for ill. As our knowledge about the human brain increases, we will certainly use that knowledge to relieve human suffering in profound and wonderful ways. But the vast promise of the science should not blind us to the possibilities of its misuse. I believe those involved in human neuroscience need to pay attention to the risks that come with the science and to accept the duty to minimize the harm it could what extent should people be 'cured' of what they consider to be their personality traits? Should parents be able to use neuroscience to 'adjust' their children, something critics think is already happening with prescription drugs but that new techniques might make more powerful? As a parent of two teenagers, I can imagine the attraction of pills to 'help them' clean their rooms or do their homework before the last minute. On the other hand, should the state be allowed to interfere in how parents choose to raise their children? What of the government, near or far, that might use neuroscience to make dissent disappear -- not through the bread, sex, and some of Brave New World, or the propaganda and torture of 1984, but with a little blue pill? These are not new issues or new fears, nor do they have clear answers, but the rush of progress in neuroscience gives new importance to finding workable and ethical answers to them...The potential benefits from neuroscience are breathtaking, but so are some of the potential harms..."

It reminds me of the old saying: "God is in the details, but so is the devil."

There is a lot to talk about, and as I continue to repeat, this needs to happen with autistic individuals at the forefront. What right do we have to determine the value or state of one's life without asking the very individuals in question, first? Is the sin already committed, with the worst of it soon to come?

This video, by Christschool, for those not closely involved with the autism community, juxtaposes award winner Vernon Smith, an autistic man, next to the cure slide, and Hillary Clinton who states that we have to "prevent and cure anything along the autism spectrum." All of the slides within deal with many issues surrounding disability which includes autism:

Listen to Naomi Wolfe (thanks to Amanda Baggs who made me aware of this through her blog). She addresses abuses of power and the propulgation of fear which is something I address in my keynote in the way we promote autism and in this paper The Mismeasure of Autism: The Basis for Current Autism 'Advocacy.' Stay awhile can consider her words and how it applies to autistic individuals and their suppression today -- for simply seeking their civil rights and speaking out against more powerful organizations. I hope it doesn't deter individuals from seeking their civil rights despite the dark scenario she illustrates. In fact, she reinforces Hillel's statement -- if not NOW, WHEN?

Thursday, October 25, 2007


If Not Now....When?

"If I am not for myself, who will be?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
And if not now, when?" --- Hillel the Elder

I am struck this week. I am puzzled by the questioning of a basic ideal. I am asking myself why some do not understand the inherent and deserved rights of others, without feeling they are sacrificing the support they need. I am struck by complacency -- perhaps it is because we have a society over-wrought with "problems," -- be it global warming to so much poverty in the world -- that people don't have the same "space" to give to disability issues. I am struck by how we create and manufacture our own problems and the problems of others.

There is simply no need for a polemic. People are deserving of their basic human right to be presumed competent -- and it is our obligation to find every possible way to enable self-expression of the individual. When it takes the form of a groan, a behaviour, we have an obligation to accept that as valid communication. Families who are having difficulty in supporting disabled offspring deserve the gold-standard of support, so that their lives and the lives of their children will be well-lived. And we do not fit into the "normal" paradigm. Forget that paradigm. It will just make the process painful.

Do you know how hard it is to get AAC training here in Canada?? Virtually no one will give it to you. Wait lists are two years and longer and autism may not even be considered a "developmental disability" in some cases in order to qualify. Even those involved in ABA will eventually agree, that IT and communication boards are vitally important. In many cases, a child will not be able to physically communicate with speech. Some days it will come, other days it will be impossible to come by. It is the nature of the disability. Why can't we agree that it is utterly important that we are trained to support our kids when they're young, with AAC (sign language, or other IT or augmentative systems)? Kids should be learning literacy skills, live daily in a text-rich environment. While language isn't all about speaking, it is about understanding, reciprocity, and learning how to express not just wants (that is easy for many autistic people who cannot speak fluently), but an expression of SELF.

Can we agree to a variety and/also of approaches to get our kids what they need????

But as long as we paint autism out as something we can get rid of, the scenario may never change -- as long as there's the POSSIBILITY that one child can be "cured" or "recovered," then too bad for the others -- they're the "victims." I think that's a lousy way to brand ABA or any autism "service" or charity -- some of which I outlined in my paper "The Mismeasure of Autism: The Basis for Current Autism "Advocacy." We know autism is a life-long disability and we need to support our kids now. Too often, many kids wait fifteen or more years until parents realize that this enablement with communication tools, is so vitally important, if not an entitlement of all disabled individuals.

Looking through Different Roads to Learning catalogue today, I see lots of neat things to help autistic kids learn. Lots of new devices, but still old books on old ABA methods, Lovaas, and not enough books from autistic people who can help the parent and clinician understand and teach the autistic child. The ABA community is looking into methods outside of its original framework, which is a tacit acceptance that there are many tools that can help the autistic child and adult -- and that is a good start.

I hope this community will, however, discontinue its solely negative referencing of autism as something horrible. It is challenging for all of us, no matter what the resources available, and indeed, if there are fewer resources, all the more challenging. At the same time, I know that Adam gives me so much joy and I feel he deserves so much more than what Canada offers to autistics today. He deserves to be viewed as a valuable person. He deserves access to programs and schools. He deserves to have a shadow who understands and empathizes with his way of learning and seeing the world. He needs early access to literacy programs and AAC and IT. He deserves early programs (we call them intervention, but I'm not keen on that word for various reasons and implications), that engage young infants in play, not table-teaching and aggressive "look-at-me" programs, that clearly do not understand autism as a disability. Even autistic infants deserve that play, even if it's more deliberate. At the same time, autistic kids should be allowed their down-time, not bombarded with interventions that deliver the message (you're no good the way you are, you're doing that wrong so let's engage you 24/7).

Balance, dear friends. Family should fee a little more freed to spend time to just "be together," than constantly engaged to "fight" autism. If I have to retrace our steps when Adam really began to learn(it was not like he wasn't learning before but it's just that the autism diagnosis made us THINK he wasn't really learning or that what he was learning on his own like the alphabet, colours, numbers and words, was not really learning per se, but 'rote learning,' or what Dr. Laurent Mottron has coined this perception as 'dead-end intelligence'), it was when we let go a bit.

It took us time to feel confident enough to let go of stricter ABA therapists and supervisors and VB programs. I liked some ABA therapists more than others -- particularly those who were reaching for something greater, who, while they were still ABA therapists, saw that there was still more to understand out there. I could also feel who really valued Adam for Adam, while others smiled a lot and "really wanted to work with autistic kids." As nice as that sounded, alarm-bells went off. Like, why just the autistic child? Why not ANY child? Was Adam their...pity project??

While my innards were telling me that Adam was happier, learning and had much more social interaction with us when we played with him and swung him in the blanket, we were still teaching him by following the ABLLS. I acknowledge that everyone has to come to terms with their child and be confident with their own choices and themselves over time. There is no other way I can suggest it. When I get calls from parents who have newly diagnosed children, I tell them how I think Adam is terrific, but they will have to find their own way through all the information and tugs out there. I remember when someone said to me when Adam was diagnosed that I would have to accept him, I didn't understand. I thought that was a cop-out and I had to do more work with him. Four years later, I clearly understand what people were saying to me.

We have so much choice. We have play, we have more AND/ALSO options that Canadians must advocate for. As I push for Adam's entitlements, I keep thinking of all the other families I know on waiting lists, struggling in over-crowded public schools. We must keep asking and we must do it NOW.May we do it by keeping the dignity and value of our children, and the autistic people who came before them, in mind.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Judge Rotenberg Center

No matter how disabled our autistic children, I would like to think that most parents would not want them to be maltreated. I hope all of our children can change the world, and we can all cooperate to make a better and safer place for our children to become adults and to lead good lives.

To contact Derrick Jeffries and Nancy Weiss click and read letter here and lend your support.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Think Differently About Autism

I thought everyone should know that The National Autistic Society has launched a "Think Differently About Autism Campaign," with Emma Noble as its spokesperson. It is refreshing to see a National society run such a campaign.

In Canada, we've had "Redefining Autism" as front page news in The National Post, but nothing to compare to the UK campaign as of yet.

Our next steps? Well, take a look at the Canadian Down Syndrome Society and how they "vibrantly" promote the possibilities and futures of people with Down Syndrome for some ideas. These parent packages that are positive in nature (while not ignoring the challenges) and can be an example of the types of packages, information and programs that our Canadian autism community can endeavour to produce.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


The Mismeasure of Autism: The Basis of Current Autism "Advocacy"

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Autistic Civil Rights

A reminder for us all:

Monday, October 15, 2007


Stand Tall

I have been away in Edmonton. I was a keynote speaker at AutCom. I will be making that paper available here later this week.

I have just learned that Kevin Leitch of the enormously important blog Left Brain/Right Brain has decided to shut it down due to John Best Jr.'s "Hating Autism" blog. John Best has written scathing, rude, inaccurate things about everyone he lists, including myself. I agree with Kristina Chew -- I just don't see how Mr. Best has done anything to advance the help autistic people need. In fact, he has done so much damage to their basic human rights.

That said, I used the title of journalist Patricia E. Bauer from her keynote speech on Down Syndrome. She wrote,

"a couple of years ago, a newspaper running a piece I'd written asked for a family photo, including Margaret. I gulped, feeling exposed, and called my husband to ask his thoughts. He said, 'Stand tall; run the picture.' We did.

That is my message. Stand tall; get out the message. People will listen. We can do it."

So many times, I've questioned using Adam's picture for fear he would be threatened or his photo would be abused -- much like what has been experienced by Kev. Not one of us can be intimidated by the likes of a man who hates autistic people as much as John Best has publically purported he does -- and as suggested by the title of his very blog. John Best, using pictures of children or writing dehumanizing articles about human beings who must struggle with the bias and discrimination in society MUST NOT BE EXCUSED BY ANY OF US. It is simply unethical to use anyone's picture, especially that of a child, and use it to target the parent with whom that person disagrees. It is the lowest anyone can go. (In the meantime, I heard that "Mr." Best has taken those photos down from his blog).

I fully understand Kev's decision. He has not "slithered away," as Mr. Best stated. He wishes to protect the dignity of his child. When a child's rights and dignity are violated, it's just plain crossing the line. It's not to say that name-calling autistic adults isn't, it's just that children simply don't have the resources to defend themselves. John Best violates the human dignity of every autistic person.

If Mr. Best was truly interested in a debate, then he would engage in one without resorting to name-calling and public dehumanizing. But let's lay down the rules: do not violate children. Do not threaten them. Are you even capable or accuracy and neutral language, Mr. Best? Or are your arguments so impotent that you have to resort to name-calling, and libel?

Friends, we have an obligation to protect our most vulnerable citizens, here.

So in the words of Particia E. Bauer, stand tall. We are proud of who we are, with our disabled/autistic or whatever "kind" of child we have. This mom, anyway, is interested in advancing a dignified discussion in the ways we can help autistic people throughout the course of their lives.

That said, here is the edited version I did of my video "Autism in the Media" which I understand people want a copy of. I do not charge for it. Just contact me for copy at

Friday, October 05, 2007


Oh Dear

Adam has become a competent You Tube user...on his own I might add....without vitamins, detox and chelation therapy, even. Imagine that.

I will have all kinds of reasons to worry that he's watching you tube videos at the age of five. I dread him watching many of the autism ones telling him that he is ill, for instance.

As I re-enter his room after leaving for a bit, I notice he's back on. He's not watching Sesame Street. He's watching "How to Impress a A Woman."

I wonder what this will do to his social skills.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


A Rejection of the "Soul-less" Theory of Autistic People

Please watch this video from Kev of Left Brain/Right Brain. Then, if you haven't already yet done so, watch the next video "Praise only for the cured" in the post that follows.

Thanks for listening.