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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, September 10, 2008


Prosthetic Politics and "Palin's Promise"

Not all "special needs families" are alike. All one has to do is to look deeply into autism politics to understand that "advocacy" doesn't mean the same thing to all people. There are the parents, who advocate for their rights and proclaim the difficulties of raising special needs children, often at odds against the disability rights movement -- people with disabilities -- advocating for their right to be heard, respected, and to be at the helm of directing the movement toward the change of attitude and the accommodations they need. While one parent may bemoan the existence of a special needs child in their family, using their love to fight for their child's cure, there is another family that wants their children to be loved and accepted for who they are, and thus allowed to contribute and be included in all facets of society. Advocacy, my friends, is two-faced.

So, what of "Palin's promise?" Is she a mom who understands the complexities of a disabilities discourse that needs to move everyone forward? What kind of special needs parent is she? Where does she really stand on disability rights? Does simply having a special needs child give a parent the right to advocate on behalf of people with special needs? It's something I, as a parent, reflect on everyday.

And then there is Joe Biden who proclaims that any parent with a special needs child should be in support of stem cell research. Why? Because, I presume, we as parents must all want our children cured, or these disabilities prevented. Disability is being used as a sort of prosthetic for political gain. Prosthetic narrative is often used, for example, in Hollywood movies regarding disability. The disabled person carries the narrative but is not central to it. Disabled people are usually represented as mysterious, savants or idiots and are in the background. Like the use of the disabled to carry a narrative, rather than discuss disability and PEOPLE head-on, American politicians seem to have to mention it, to be in "support" of it somehow, without full information. Is the mere mention of disability meaningful to these people, or is it used for some political gain to carry a candidate to the Whitehouse? Who's really listening to disabled individuals here?

All I know is that both parties really don't seem get it at all. While we embrace diversity on many other levels, the disabled are cast aside while the non disabled make vast assumptions and declare them in front of millions of voters.

All I can say is that either way, I am nervous.


Blogger Ed said...

Biden's view is unsettling. I don't think as many share his view as he thinks. I hope not.

My sister and and I (who are both diagnosed on the autism spectrum) have been denied supports from public agencies that demanded we participate in these genetic studies because we refused.

I'm hoping that if these agencies are given more of the attention that they need rather than being cut and starting with a worse agenda, that the issue of stem cell research will become more discouraged by them.

10:39 AM  
Anonymous CS said...

Obama's plan was written by disabled people. He has honored the idea of "nothing about us without us".

11:23 AM  
Blogger Estee Klar-Wolfond said...

And yet, Biden has opened his mouth without thinking of the many sides to the debate.

1:47 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

At this point we have two sets of candidates to choose from.

Hoping for a broader minded politician in the white house seems seem less hopeful these days but ambiguity over candidates at this point can only diminish the one vote we each have.

Better is all we can hope for. The best won't make it with the system we have for evaluating them.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous CS said...

"And yet, Biden has opened his mouth without thinking of the many sides to the debate."

I've done that more than once in my life.

It is important for stem cell research. Some children classified under section 501 for special needs truly do need a cure which stem cells might perhaps lead to a cure. Having juvenile diabetes is one. Unless you like walking around with an insulin pump on your body all day. Children with deadly allergies (such as with peanuts) are also classified special needs under 504. Stem cell treatment might help them as well. Nothing to celebrate about having a deadly allergy. Children with degenerative diseases that lead to death are often in the special needs population as well.

Like you said, we need to look at all sides of an issue.

4:53 PM  
Blogger Club 166 said...

Instead of being nervous, I am hopeful (yet realistic).

As a minority that has never had much political clout, the disabled cannot realistically expect to get much from any administration. But the fact that disability is even being mentioned in the campaigns is significant, and though gains may be meager, I think there are gains to be had. And who knows, little gains with proper leveraging and support from grass roots movements might just become big things!

I am also hopeful in that I think if either candidate wins there is chance for gains. Obviously, Obama has reached out to the disability community to help write his platform, which is a good thing. Will he just have some bills put up, but not actively work for them, or will he commit real support and political capital? Time will tell. As for Palin, we don't know much yet, but she appears to be of the acceptance type, which is also a good thing (imagine if we had a David Kirby or Jenny McCarthy type in her place).


8:12 PM  
Blogger r.b. said...

Great minds think alike...ha! I was just thinking you and Adam's story should go Hollywood.

That would be a pretty big sacrifice, though. Perhaps someone connected could write a screenplay, "based on a true story".

7:16 AM  

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