I am 100% in agreement that the stigma and ableism perpetuated by groups and organizations like The Mighty are harmful to the Disability Community, because they are misrepresenting ableism as advocacy. There is much action afoot to have The Mighty consistently align their actions and ethics with their claim that they are supporting advocacy.
But this is the tip of the iceberg.
Within disabilities communities there is an enormous problem related to power with groups and individuals that claim to be working to advocate for or support Autistic people, very often (too often) without including their voices.
And part of the difficulty is that this imbalance of power perpetuates itself and insulates itself with what I can only imagine is a threatened or fear-based reaction.
Parent (and professional) voices tend to have more weight, more reach, more volume, and when they are asked to step aside, or consider the perspectives of #ActuallyAutistic people, or look deeply and see that their actions might actually be harming the people they want to support, their response is too frequently to act as though they are the ones being attacked, and silenced.
I have seen some parents shout down Autistic people and activists and tell them that they are mean and full of hate and too angry.
I have seen some parents, parent support groups, and organizations lash out in ways that ignore the message and eliminate the potential to learn and gain new understanding.
And then they tend to dismiss those activists and their words as too full of hate, radical…
And toss around phrases like, “We’re all entitled to our opinions.”
Or, “Why can’t we all just get along?!?”
Or, “You are creating divisions in the autism community, we need to find the middle ground.”
These words too often seem to be statements that actually translate to… “you need to capitulate to my needs/stance/opinion/comfort because I just said these nice compromising words and I am the one with all the power.”
And the sad thing is, I believe this response is in part because they are afraid. But these parents, who I suppose have found community and the illusion of support in these arenas, are soaking in a mire that perpetuates their fear, and continues to wash them in the story of disability as hardship and tragedy.
Perhaps they are afraid that if they stepped away from this – they would find themselves struggling… alone…
I have to say that has been the EXACT opposite of my experience – I am so fortunate to have stepped away from the predominant message of tragedy that is the mainstream ableist response to disability.
I have learned so much from my amazing connections with Autistic adults and I am a better parent and educator because of it. I have community. It is a community of support and understanding, and it is full of love and acceptance. This is the community that supports me in understanding and accepting my son as perfectly being himself in this very moment, and then we support development from there.
The reality is, that parents and educators and professionals have the opportunity to play an important role in ensuring that the voices and perspectives of Autistic people are heard and respected, particularly when we are willing to recognize our privilege in being heard as the loudest voices and also acknowledge that disabled people with lived experience are the REAL experts.
In this post from 2013 I was considering my own privilege and opportunities to make space for others (Easy Silence Part 2: The Yin and Yang of Privilege and Empowerment).
I shared: “That sense of privilege has a shadow… and the shadow is the assumption that I have the right to speak up – to say my piece – to be heard… and I am coming to realize that this attitude may actually silence or dilute or diminish the message of others.
I am trying to be aware of this so that I do not assume the same privilege when I am interacting with Autistic adults. If I am working to empower the voices of others – I may need to be willing to make my own subordinate. If I am sensitive to this… I may feel silenced… I may need to silence myself.
This feels uncomfortable at times… I am learning to make peace with this discomfort. It may feel like I am being silenced by those I am trying to support… and it may even feel like there is an irony to this.
But this is not about me.”
There is no middle ground here: all people deserve respect.
‘The middle ground’ is a lie designed to silence those who will not work to keep the status quo: there can be no compromise when it comes to respect and human rights.
There is no divide when parents are willing to support the civil and human rights of the disabled adults that our sons and daughters will someday become.
I invite you to lean in…
And now I will wind up with this signal boost in hopes you will consider reading and sharing these fabulous articles that have been written about the problems with The Mighty:
The Mighty: Apologize For The Harm You Do to the Disability Community! Please sign and share this petition by PACLA (Parenting Autistic Children with Love and Acceptance)
Why I’m not in love with The Mighty by 21 + 21 + 21 = ? (May 2015)
Why I Dislike The Mighty & Better Alternatives for Parents by Lei Wiley-Mydske
Meltdown Bingo: Autistic Edition (aka, a meltdown from the inside) by S. M. Neumeier
Neurodiversity Vs “the Mighty” by Michelle Sutton
A Letter to the Editor of The Mighty by Kimberly Faith
About The Mighty – my thoughts as a contributor by Carly Findlay
Two Ethical Futures for The Mighty by David Perry
Thoughts on #CrippingTheMighty by The Crippled Scholar
CAN U NOT: A Twitter Ode From Me To The Mighty by Emma Pretzel
Open letter to The Mighty by Un-Boxed Brain
The Mighty thinks they want a conversation by Radical Neurodivergence Speaking
Why I’ve Had it With “The Mighty” by Meriah Nichols (November 2015)
Run down of #CrippingTheMighty by Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone
An Open Letter to The Mighty by Cara Liebowitz
#CrippingTheMighty by Kit of Paginated Thoughts
Mentors and allies and #autism by soniaboue
A Christmas Truce by Cara of A Fool on the Hill
30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.
© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2015)