This is an historical post from an earlier blog, Adopted Son of the Autism Family, which I had before this current blog. It is re-posted without modification (other than this introductory sentence).
I am very sorry that my blog has been dead for months. There has been a ton going on for me, both professionally and personally. I have shared some of this with many of you on Twitter, and via other venues. Please rest assured that advocating alongside the AutismFamily remains incredibly important to me, and that I am nowhere near done fighting the fight with all my siblings in arms.
I do want to blog, at least very quickly, about the movement to boycott AutismSpeaks. In the spirit of fairness and openness, I have had a number of informal collaborations with them. They were important allies in the fight leading up to Michigan becoming the 32nd state to adopt an autism therapy benefit, and then subsequently adopt a Medicaid mandate for care as well. They continue to help work with families and their employers who have ERISA self-funded insurance, to encourage self-adoption of autism benefits, and together, we have had success with this here in West Michigan. Finally, earlier this year, I was delighted to be part of a local podcast with their presence here in Michigan, called Michigan is Listening, where I was interviewed by Anthony Ianni, a true Michigan Autism Hero.
If you follow me on Twitter, you absolutely know that I value and celebrate the broad range of opinions from the AutismFamily — from our autistic children and adults who self-advocate, to dedicate warrior parents and siblings, to the vast network of “adopted” kinfolk like me, who advocate alongside and for people with autism.
I hope that I do have to apologize for any of this. I will not stop advocating alongside the AutismFamily. We cannot stop until we live in a world where all people with autism thrive. To do this, I believe strongly that we must be wary of exclusion from the movement to empower people with autism. So let me say what I believe simply. I believe that some people on the autism spectrum do very well with little or no “special” help in the form of therapies, educational programming, or community supports. This is not a problem. This is something to be celebrated, and I celebrate the accomplishments of each of them. They need acceptance and nurturing, and they need to be embraced by their communities and for their contributions to be valued, just like all of us.
I also believe that there are a number of people on the autism spectrum who can benefit substantially from skill building therapies, such as the Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention we provide in our clinic, and to this end, I remain firmly committed to building the network of diagnosticians, treatment providers, and support resources that these children (and adults) need.
That there are people on the autism spectrum who primarily need celebrating and acceptance, and others who need more or less intensive therapies and treatments does not place us at odds with each other. Every person on the autism spectrum is a valued and beloved member of our Family. That I love the two and three year olds in our clinic who are learning their first words does not take away from the love I have for the 20, 30, and 40-somethings I know, who are claiming their identity and place in the world, and themselves working to change the world.
In summary, I respect all the voices in the AutismFamily, including all of the voices that are currently angry. When they talk about empowerment, acceptance, and inclusion, when they lift up the challenges and needs as well as the accomplishments and gifts, of people with autism, I celebrate them. As in many other aspects of our political and social lives, I also reject voices that choose an agenda of exclusion of some people on the autism spectrum, or who value some of these lives but not others. I reject fear-mongering and hatred. I reject demonizing of people with autism no matter from whom it comes.
Thus, I am taking a firm side in this fight. I am on the side that we are Better Together. On the side that we are none of us safe until we are all of us safe. And I am on the side that all people with autism, all of their family members, and anyone who seeks to empower or help people with autism, should be embraced as part of the AutismFamily.