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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

Friday, July 25, 2008


Beyond Surviving The "Savage" Hurricane Season

It feels like we are in the eye of the storm. While I might say I hit a personal one with cancer earlier this year, at least that part is over and Adam and family are having the best summer on record. But we are really too close for comfort. As you can see from the images above that I took from Florida, tornados and hurricanes are close at hand.

Michael Savages out there or not, there is something about sustaining advocacy, and being able to rise above despicable remarks. It's like any other prejudice out there be it racism, anti-semitism and that continues to oppress others and segregate -- we know ignorant people will exist, that they do exist. We know someone has always wanted to get rid of Jewish people and we know facism still marches to its own drum long after Hitler's "reign" of terror. Yet, we must put the SAVAGES in the spotlight lest we ever forget how easily we can give over our own freedom and power. It is why groups exist to ensure that we never forget.

Today, ASAN and other organizations including The Autism Acceptance Project released Outrage over Michael Savage's Remarks Grow: ASA, UCP and The Arc and many others join the disability community's joint statement:

We, organizations representing people with disabilities, family members, professionals and other concerned citizens, are calling upon you to withdraw support for Talk Radio Networks in response to the outrageous comments by TRN personality Micahel Alan Weiner, also known as Michael Savage.

On July 16th, Weiner announced: "Now you want me to tell you my opinion on autism since I'm not talking about autism? A fraud, a racket...You know what autism is? I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 per cent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is. What do you mean they scream and they're silent? They don't have a father around to tell them 'Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straigten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot."

These comments represent dangerous misinformation. The refusal by Talk Radio Networks to condemn the comments or undertake any steps in response to them, as well as Michael Savage's refusal to apologize, is absolutely unacceptable. The autism spectrum is a very real developmental disability affecting millions of Americans [and Canadians]. It includes a series of impairments in social interaction and communication, executive functioning, sensory processing, and motor skills. Adults and children on the autism spectrum often require substantial supports and services and education across the lifespan.

Comments like those on the Savage Nation do real damage to autistic people by increasing public ignorance and misinformation about autism, thereby putting at risk vital education supports and services. Contrary to the remarks by Mr. Weiner, there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that autism is over-diagnosed -- in face, research suggests that there is substantial under-identification of the autism spectrum, resulting in lack of vitally needed services and education. In addition, these remarks revive outdated and damaging misconceptions about the source of autism, recalling the "refridgerator mother" myth in which parents were blamed for having autistic children.

Talk Radio Network's sponsors must consider whether or not to associate with the hateful and offensive comments spoken by Michael Weiner. Because TRN has taken no action, we urge you to communicate the need for Mr. Weiner's immediate removal by withdrawing sponsorship for TRN's programming. There are over 50 million people with disabilities in the United States representing approximately $200 billion disposable income. We represent a market that cannot be ignored. By disassociating your businesses from the ignorant and hateful remarks made this past week and taking practical steps to help educate the public about the true nature of the autism spectrum with other disabilities, we can move forward towards creating a world that will recognize the rights of all people to respect, dignity,support and inclusion.

Ari Ne'eman
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network

While an advocating Adam and family enjoy a first real quite a summer, he has also enjoyed camp every day. It's not an autism camp -- just a camp he goes to with other about social skills! Adam is the most popular kid of the juniors! Imagine that for a child who can barely speak. Imagine the children who are evolved enough to understand him.

All the kids want to be with him, and as a mom, I am stupefied in sort of a proud and delirious way. Adam arrives home and swaggers with confidence -- the kind I want to bottle up and give to him for the rest of his life. Have I contributed to that in any way? Or has Adam given me the joy and strength I am experiencing? One thing I know for sure is there is one message I want to give him -- life is too short to waste on people who don't care about you. I hope he can have that confidence which is the kind that can make one a strong self-advocate. I also want to bottle the essence of child-like acceptance and give it to every person he encounters throughout his school years. So, I am working towards that -- I am about to announce an major inclusion initiative we are undertaking with another agency here in Toronto.

While keeping you on edge for a little while longer, though, Adam came home this week with his first-ever award. He was given The Best Effort Award.
I tend to think those are the best awards. You can win easily, or win with tons of effort. The person who has put in the tons of effort is the one we ought to celebrate.

Adam also returns home with a printed piece of paper with his certificate that reads, "Adam is always smiling and laughing during the camp day. His attitude is so positive towards campers and staff members. He loves to go to arts and crafts so that he can show off his wonderful creative side, and make wonderful pieces of art!" And aside from this his swim instructor wrote, "Adam's confident and easy-going attitude has made him a pleasure to teach...Adam is a lively, happy swimmer in our swim class..."

Mr. Weiner's remarks, as many of you have said, indeed lived up to the Savage name. Savage is primitive -- lacking in evolved intellect and robust with an ignorance that suggests he has never met the Adam's of the world, our autistic children, who need our love and support. Yet, as you see Adam below learning how to build with his grandfather, autistic people are able people too. The savage storms swirl, and yet, here we are. Adam for one, is the gift who keeps on giving.


Blogger Maddy said...

So glad to hear that you're all having such a super holiday.

1:17 PM  
Anonymous Tera said...

Hi, Estee,

I agree with you about those "Best Effort" awards. I still remember when I was in junior high and my math teacher gave me the highest possible grade for effort. (I have a math disability and redid all my assignments at least once).

Adam is totally cool! I bet his laughter and cheerful, positive attitude help a lot of kids who might be nervous about camp, since it's different.

8:47 PM  
Blogger Joanna said...

I just came across your wonderful blog... just had to say that I am sending warm wishes to you and to Adam! He seems like such a wonderful child, and must be so proud of his award. I have worked with many people on the spectrum, including some adults older than myself who are nonverbal, and being able to encourage them and have the patience to express themselves to the best of their ability can sure take a lot out of caregivers and parents. You seem to be doing a wonderful job, and I am going to go check out The Autism Acceptance Project website right now!
:-) -Joanna

6:11 PM  

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