Monday, June 29, 2009

Protest Against Institutions

ASAN members will participate in a disability rights protest occurring tomorrow, Tuesday, June 30, in Columbus, Ohio. The group will meet at Barnes & Noble (1598 N. High St.) at 9am, make a few signs and then take the bus down to the state house.

The event has been organized by Sue Hetrick and other disability advocates to protest Ohio's funding of institutions/nursing homes while cutting funding for community-based living services. More details below.







When: Tuesday, June 30
Where: Ohio Statehouse, Third Street Side, Columbus
When: 8:30AM to 5 with “primetime” from 11AM to 2PM

Who: People with Any Disability, the Elderly, families, friends, advocates, and concerned Ohio taxpayers
Bring a chair, blanket, water, lunch, sunscreen or raingear!
Be prepared for a peaceful demonstration, but one that is
persistent and vocal!
This is not a RALLY it is a PROTEST!
Note: As this is a grassroots demonstration no one group or individual can or will be responsible for attendant care though attendees are usually willing to support their brothers and sisters in this fight!
Signs are permitted and encouraged however they cannot be attached to sticks or poles!
Contact: Sue Hetrick 866-575-8055

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ohio Autistic Pride Day Celebration

Eight ASAN members, led by ASAN Central Ohio Chapter Director Melanie Yergeau, celebrated Autistic Pride Day 2009 by visiting the Ohio statehouse yesterday and meeting with two state representatives, Rep. Kevin Bacon and Rep. Ted Celeste. The group handed out flyers and briefly explained the goals and work of ASAN.

Several people shared stories about employment, education, and community living supports during the meeting with Rep. Bacon. Melanie Yergeau explained to him that ASAN is very ideologically different from Autism Speaks. Autistic culture also was discussed and compared to other disability communities, such as Deaf culture.

The meeting with Rep. Celeste began with a discussion of the social model of disability and ASAN's participation in cross-disability communities. Rep. Celeste talked about autism insurance and was knowledgeable about ABA and the issue of excluding aversives from coverage. He thanked the group for bringing this issue to his attention. ASAN plans to follow up by sending him relevant literature and studies on aversives.

ASAN's meeting with Rep. Kevin Bacon

ASAN's meeting with Rep. Ted Celeste

Monday, June 15, 2009

ASAN's Response to Dr. Tony Attwood

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network recently created a petition and a statement to the community regarding the need for Dr. Tony Attwood and Dr. Isabelle Hénault to disassociate themselves from hate groups that use stereotypes and pseudoscience to incite discrimination against Autistic people in family law and relationships. We received a reply from Dr. Attwood consisting only of a form letter, sent to numerous recipients, which wholly failed to address the central issue of his and Dr. Hénault's associations with Maxine Aston and FAAAS and the ongoing harm to Autistics and others with disabilities resulting from these associations. We consider Dr. Attwood's reply grossly inadequate and have set forth a point-by-point response below, with Dr. Attwood's statements in italic formatting.

Dr. Attwood: I would like to state quite clearly that having a diagnosis of autism or Asperger’s syndrome does not render a person automatically incapable of being a good partner and parent. Indeed, many of the people I know with autism and Asperger’s syndrome as clients and friends are exceptionally good parents and partners. Should a separation occur between partners and a Court examine the issue of custody of children and access then in my opinion, any decisions should be made on the basis of the abilities of each parent and not simply assume that a parent with autism or Asperger’s syndrome is incapable of being a good parent.

ASAN: In addition to the possibility that an Autistic person might be assumed to be automatically incapable of being a good partner and parent, which is the most extreme danger posed by false stereotypes of family violence, these stereotypes have given rise to more subtle forms of discrimination in family law. FAAAS has explicitly urged family law courts and social workers to view Autistic partners and parents as more likely than others to be abusive. An article by Sheila Jennings Linehan on the FAAAS website, entitled Representing Cassandra in Matrimonial Law, characterizes the non-Autistic spouse as "a normal individual subjected to prolonged moral distress" who is not believed when she "accurately predicts future harm to her children." Along with Maxine Aston, the article specifically cites you, Dr. Attwood, as authority for such statements. FAAAS member Harriet Simons presents seminars for social workers in which she makes similar claims. Your continued association with FAAAS suggests that you endorse these false claims and, as such, increases the risk that Autistics and others with neurological disabilities will face discrimination within the family law system.

Dr. Attwood: The term “Cassandra Affective Deprivation Disorder” has been coined by Maxine Aston. It is not an official diagnostic category. I do know that stress within a relationship between an adult with Asperger’s syndrome and their partner can lead to the neurotypical partner having signs of a clinical depression. Effective relationship counselling by a counsellor knowledgeable in the area of autism and Asperger’s syndrome can significantly improve the relationship and help alleviate the signs of depression.

ASAN: By failing to acknowledge that stress within a relationship can contribute to depression for either partner, Dr. Attwood—and by your repeated endorsements of Maxine Aston in books and interviews—you are perpetuating the false claim that being in a relationship with an Autistic partner is psychologically harmful to a non-Autistic partner. There is no scientific basis whatsoever for suggesting that depression affects only the non-Autistic partner or that it is caused by affective deprivation related to the Autistic partner's responses. Several recent research studies specifically examining the affective dimensions of empathy and alexithymia found no impairment in the affective responses of Autistic individuals. (Rogers, Dziobek, Hassenstab, Wolf, & Convit, 2007; Berthoz & Hill, 2005; Silani, Bird, Brindley, Singer, Frith, & Frith, 2008.) Rather, cognitive and linguistic differences lead to misunderstandings. Thus, a presumption that the non-Autistic partner suffers from affective deprivation is unwarranted. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network recommends that those who counsel couples with one Autistic partner should adopt a nonjudgmental approach to identifying and constructively addressing misunderstandings that have occurred.

Dr. Attwood: According to my knowledge, there is no research to suggest that people with autism and Asperger’s syndrome are likely to be violent in a relationship to any greater degree than a typical person in the general population. I do know that a significant proportion of the clients that I see in my clinical practice express to me their concern in their ability to manage their temper but we now have programs such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to help those with autism and Asperger’s syndrome manage feelings such as anger. Problems with anger management also occur in the ordinary population but the nature of the treatment of difficulties with anger management must include an appreciation of the different experiences and cognitive profile of someone with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

ASAN: Research studies have established that Autistics are no more likely to commit violent acts or violent crimes than the general population (Murrie, Warren, Kristiansson, & Dietz, 2002; Barry-Walsh & Mullen, 2004). Notwithstanding the scientific evidence, however, FAAAS has repeatedly and falsely stereotyped Autistics as likely to be violent and abusive toward family members and others. When interviewed in July 2008 for a Canwest News Service article, Karen Rodman, founder of FAAAS, asserted that Autistics often lose their temper for no reason. In a local news interview with the Cape Cod Times in February 2007, Rodman argued that Autistic students should be put into segregated schools because their presence purportedly could endanger other students. Dr. Attwood, by continuing to associate with FAAAS and by serving on its Professional Advisory Panel, you are in effect endorsing and lending your credibility to these harmful and prejudiced assertions. In this context, your discussion of clients seeking help for anger problems, who clearly are not a representative sample of the Autistic population as a whole, serves only to muddy the waters further.

Dr. Attwood: I have presented workshops for FAAAS for couples where one of the partners has a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome and in all my presentations, I have approached the issues in a very positive way examining strategies to make a successful relationship.

ASAN: In light of the clearly documented history of false stereotypes of violence and psychological harm promoted by FAAAS and other groups associated with the pseudoscientific affective deprivation concept, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network suggests that presenting couples workshops in different venues would be far more likely to result in positive and successful relationships. Dr. Attwood, we therefore reiterate our demands that you promptly disassociate yourself from Maxine Aston, FAAAS, and all similar groups and apologize to our community for the harm done by your past associations with them.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Disability Rights Advocates Meet with White House Officials

ASAN President Ari Ne'eman and other leaders of the disability rights advocacy group Justice for All Action Network (JFAAN) recently met with senior administration officials at the White House to discuss priority issues in disability policy, including health care, community supports and services, housing, education and school abuse prevention, transportation, and employment.

Government leaders must work with disability rights groups and self-advocates in making policy decisions, said the JFAAN leaders. At present, JFAAN is organizing policy working groups in the areas of employment policy, health care reform, and grassroots organizing; it also holds weekly policy calls. If you are interested in participating on the weekly calls or one of the working groups, write to and let organizer Sarah Peterson know.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Autistic Pride Day in Columbus

The Central Ohio/Ohio State University chapter of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network is planning the following event for Autistic Pride Day 2009. Please RSVP to the email address below if you are interested!

Autistic Pride Day, Wednesday, June 17, 9:15 am-12:00pm

In recognition of Autistic Pride Day (which typically falls on June 18 of each year) members of the Central Ohio/Ohio State Autistic Self-Advocacy Network will meet with two state representatives to discuss the policy issues that are important to autistic people. We will then hold a picnic/brownbag lunch on the state house lawn. Members of the community are welcome to join us for this event.

RSVP and Contact Information.
Those interested in attending should RSVP by the afternoon of Friday, June 12. Please send an email to

8:45am For those uncomfortable with getting to the state house on their own: meet Hillary and Melanie at the campus Barnes & Noble. We’ll take the #2 bus down to the state house. (Bring appropriate fare—$1.50 each way.)
9:15am Everyone meet in the lobby of Riffe Tower, 77 S. High St., Columbus, OH.
(For those parking, rates are $2/hour.)
9:30am Meeting with Representative Kevin Bacon
10:00am Meeting with Representative Ted Celeste
10:30am Brief tour of the State House
11:00am Lunch on the state house lawn! Please bring your own lunch, in a lunch bag or backpack. (If it rains, we’ll eat inside the lobby of Riffe Tower.)
12:00pm Head home, or bus back to Barnes & Noble with Hillary and Melanie.

The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN)
works to advance the autistic culture movement and to improve the representation of the autistic community in public policy deliberations about autism and disability affairs. The Central Ohio chapter of ASAN seeks to provide opportunities for social and community involvement in and around the Columbus area.

Autistic Pride Day (cited from Wikipedia) is a celebration of the neurological diversity of people on the autism spectrum and is about shifting views of autism from “disease” to “difference.” Autistic pride asserts that autistic people have a unique set of characteristics that provide them many rewards and challenges, not unlike their non-autistic peers.

Monday, June 1, 2009

ASAN Submits Brief to US Supreme Court

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network, along with several other advocacy groups, has submitted an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court in the case of Winkelman v. Parma City School District. The lawsuit was brought by the parents of an Autistic child who was not given the opportunity to continue receiving occupational therapy services in an Ohio school after the district had agreed that those services were necessary. The school district prepared an IEP stating only that a further assessment of the need for the services would be completed.

The Supreme Court is seeking to resolve a conflict among the Circuit Courts of Appeals, which have taken conflicting approaches to the question of whether a court's analysis of the content of an IEP should consider only the written IEP or whether the court has discretion to consider other evidence as well.

Parents play a major role in developing an IEP, which is analogous to a contract with the school district specifying the educational services to be provided to the child. Related services such as occupational therapy also must be specified in the IEP pursuant to federal law as set forth in 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(1)(A)(4). School districts are prohibited from making unilateral decisions about a child's IEP.

Consistent with the general rule that in contract law, evidence outside the written terms of the contract ordinarily is not admissible in court, three Courts of Appeals have ruled that only the written IEP should be considered in determining whether it is adequate. However, three other Courts of Appeals, including the court from which the Winkelman case was appealed, reached the opposite conclusion in deciding that an IEP lacking the required specific content could nevertheless be found valid based on consideration of other evidence.

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is asking the Supreme Court to rule that when courts analyze the content of an IEP to determine its adequacy, only the written IEP should be considered. A school district should not be allowed to omit required content from a child's IEP and then to assert later that it intended to supplement the IEP. Allowing districts to postpone decisions on the content of an IEP can lead to considerable delay in providing occupational therapy and other necessary services. The educational well-being of Autistic children and other students with disabilities is best served when they receive therapy without interruption or delay.