14 November 2013

Autism Speaks and Representation

Protest of Autism Speaks at the Policy Summit at George Washington University. From left to right: Farrah H. (student at George Washington University), Patricia Chandler, Emily Titon (co-chapter leader, ASAN Rhode Island), Lydia Brown, Matt Young (chapter leader, ASAN Washington State), Natalia Rivera, and Laura B. Image description below post.

While we are discussing Autism Speaks and their latest kerfuffles over the revelation of their collaboration with the Judge Rotenberg Center (that's literal and not a joke!), the protest of their policy summit in DC yesterday, Suzanne Wright's horrific statement in advance of the summit, and John Elder Robison's resignation from their science and treatment advisory boards during the protest, I'd like to take a few minutes to discuss briefly the issue of representation within this organization.

I and other autistic activists who oppose Autism Speaks' philosophy and practices frequently emphasize the fact that this organization has never had and does not now have even one openly autistic person serving on the Board of Directors or working in a leadership role (as an executive or administrator).

1. Openly autistic leadership is critical in an organization that purports to represent autistic people. There is no shortage of openly autistic people in the world, nor in the more specific fields of autism research, disability service provision, policymaking, law, or nonprofit management. This should not be a particularly high bar to reach, and yet Autism Speaks has consistently failed to meet it.

2. A call for openly autistic leadership does not constitute a call for tokenism. If Autism Speaks were to find and appoint one or two autistic people to either perfunctory executive positions (titles without power or responsibility) or board positions, that does not mitigate their serious and long-standing lack of openly autistic leadership, nor does it suddenly mean that they have chosen to meaningfully represent autistic people.

3. Similarly, such a demand cannot be conflated with an absurd demand for a closeted autistic to out themself. There may well be closeted autistic people serving on Autism Speaks' board or working in leadership roles within the organization. (For that matter, there may be people who are undiagnosed or who do not otherwise identify as autistic, even if they might be externally judged by their associates to be autistic, in such positions.) There are many legitimate reasons, however unfortunate by circumstance, that autistic people cannot be safe in public disclosure of their disability status. Yet again, this does not mean that Autism Speaks should not be held responsible for their utter failure to meaningfully include or empower any openly autistic people. (And to this note, the possibility that there might be autistic people working at Autism Speaks who are afraid to disclose the fact that they are autistic at Autism Speaks raises yet further questions and continues to challenge the legitimacy of this organization.)

Any organization that is consistently and continually challenged in its philosophies, fiscal allocations, fundraising tactics, practices, and public statements by the very people it purports to serve and benefit is an organization that has little, if any, credibility.

The facts that Autism Speaks does not now and has never meaningfully included any openly autistic people in its leadership or decision-making process, and operates with callous disregard for the priorities and concerns of actually autistic people, are damning. Support organizations that support the priorities of autistic people, meaningfully include autistic people in leadership, and are supported by the autistic community.

For some alternatives, consider supporting the Dan Marino Foundation, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (full disclosure: I work there), the Autism National Committee, TASH, the Autism Women's Network, the Autism Network International, or even the Autism Society. But I urge any socially conscious donor to avoid lending any credence to Autism Speaks; their credibility, I'm afraid, rather resembles the aftermath of an FBI firing range training session on their paper targets ​— utterly shot to pieces.

Further reading on Autism Speaks from this site:

Image description: This is photograph of seven people standing outdoors on a red-paved sidewalk, in front of a blue sign that says George Washington University Media and Public Affairs. The people appear to be a variety of genders, with one South Asian, one East Asian, one Latina, one Black woman, and three white people, carrying signs that bear colorful messages such as "Autism Speaks has no autistic leadership," Autism Speaks does not value autistic input," a pie chart of Autism Speaks' budget, "I want/be heard/I want/Autism Speaks/quiet" with PECS images, "Autistic People deserve better," and "Keep $$$ for autism local do not fund Autism Speaks."

13 November 2013

An Unholy Alliance: Autism Speaks and the Judge Rotenberg Center

Trigger warning/content: Ableism, violence, murder, torture, abuse of disabled people, electric shock, aversives. 

An Unholy Alliance:
Autism Speaks and the Judge Rotenberg Center

Lydia Brown

Autistic and disabled activists, as well as our allies, have for years criticized Autism Speaks' long history of dehumanizing rhetoric about autistic people, irresponsible financial practices, and unconscionable claim to represent autistic people without including any autistic people in their leadershi— in direct contradiction to the principles of the disability rights movement. I have written numerous times on the myriad of reasons why autistic people, writ large, not only decline to support Autism Speaks but also actively condemn their goals and practices. 

Given Autism Speaks' history of damaging PSAs that exploit autistic people and our families, as well as their continual refusal to meaningfully include autistic people throughout their leadership and decision-making process, I am rarely shocked when new information arises about their projects and programs. I was not shocked at their latest PSA, an over twenty-minute-long mini documentary ostensibly about non-speaking autistic people who type to communicate, but which in reality faced sharp criticism from high-profile non-speaking autistic Amy Sequenzia, who types herself. I was not shocked at their announcement of a policy summit in Washington DC this week that will in all likelihood ignore the concerns of real autistic people about education, employment, housing, healthcare, or community living. I was not shocked (though I was deeply saddened) to read founder Suzanne Wright's message yesterday in advance of that policy summit, which once again resorted to fear-mongering language like epidemic and national health crisis, to objectify autistic people as burdens on their families or tragedies for society.

But I was shocked and profoundly disturbed by the revelation that at Autism Speaks' Walk Now for Autism in Washington DC, the city where I live, they chose to host and feature the Judge Rotenberg Center as one of their exhibitors at a resource fair.

Let me reiterate that one more time in case the prior sentence was not sufficient to jar your conscience:

Autism Speaks featured the Judge Rotenberg Center as a resource for autistic people and their families. 

Here is a scanned image of their card (you can click for a larger image) from the DC Walk's resource fair, including the Judge Rotenberg Center (#15) on the list of service providers. (Image description below the post.)

For those who may not be regular readers of Autistic Hoya, let me elaborate on the history of the Judge Rotenberg Center. The JRC, formerly known as the Behavior Research Institute, was originally founded in 1971 by Harvard-educated psychologist Matthew Israel, who studied behaviorism under B. F. Skinner. Israel opened shop in California, taking in students with significant developmental, neurological, and behavioral disabilities with a no-expulsion, no-rejection policy. His methodology of treatment was predicated on techniques called aversive interventions  slaps, forced inhalation of ammonia, food deprivation, sleep deprivation, prolonged restraint, deep-muscle pinches intended to inflict maximum pain, and long-term seclusion. One of the more disturbing practices that Israel favors is called "behavior rehearsal lessons," in which students are coerced into producing unwanted behaviors solely for the purpose of subsequently punishing them. Essentially, aversive interventions operate on the same philosophy that some people apply to animals  if you pair an unwanted behavior with a painful stimulus, the unwanted behavior will go away. 

Except in California, one of Israel's students died as a result of his "treatment" methods. The BRI was forced to relocate, and Israel settled in Rhode Island, where his abusive practices continued. In the early 1990's, Israel had a brilliant epiphany  what if he were to use electric shock as an aversive? Rhode Island's regulatory agency refused to permit the BRI to subject its residents to electric shock punishments, and so Israel moved the facility once again to Massachusetts, where it has remained ever since. The BRI invented their own device, known as the graduated electronic decelator, which is intentionally designed to be more powerful and more painful than a police taser. Students are forced to wear electrodes attached to various parts of their bodies, and whenever they engage in any unwanted behavior (anything from head-banging to flapping their hands to getting out of their seat without permission), staff press a button that causes an electric shock. When the state of Massachusetts attempted to end this barbaric practice, Israel sued the regulating agency. When he prevailed, forcing the then-Commissioner of Mental Retardation to resign, he renamed the facility after the judge who oversaw the agreement  Ernest Rotenberg. 

At least six students with disabilities have died at the JRC either directly or indirectly because of the torture inflicted upon them in the name of treatment. The former and current U.N. Special Rapporteurs on Torture, Manfred Nowak and Juan E. Méndez, have condemned the JRC's practices as torture. The U.S. Department of Justice's civil rights division has been investigating the JRC since around the time that footage of the JRC's shock treatment (link has a photosensitive epilepsy warning in addition to the trigger warning for torture) was played in open court during a civil lawsuit against the facility. The JRC is the only facility in the entire United States that uses electric shock as punishment on disabled people  a form of abuse that would readily lead to public outrage if used on convicted prisoners or animals, but that remains largely unquestioned when called "treatment" and used on disabled people instead. 

People with disabilities, family members, and community advocates have been calling for an end to the JRC's abuses for decades. I have compiled a long list of links to articles, formal reports, court documents, and videos documenting the JRC's brutal practices. Of the myriad of abuses that occur in institutional settings, the JRC's are certainly among the worst.

And yet Autism Speaks had the gall to include the JRC as a "service provider" in their resource fair at the DC Walk Now for Autism.

This is the organization that is hosting a national policy and action summit to develop a national plan on autism in Washington DC this week. An organization that explicitly and unabashedly partnered itself with the Judge Rotenberg Center. Autism Speaks' history of excluding autistic people from leadership (up through the utter absence of any autistic people whatsoever on their board in the history of the organization's existence) ought to be troubling already  and their repeated insistence on justifications for violence against autistic people murdered by family members or caregivers shocking to the conscience. This alliance between Autism Speaks and the Judge Rotenberg Center is outrageous beyond belief.

I urge policymakers and community members interested in supporting autistic people and our families to support disability rights organizations led by disabled people. It is not possible in good conscience to lend one's support to an organization that not merely siphons money away from local communities and into research that does not benefit autistic people, but actively aligns itself with a facility with a widely publicized, well-documented history of brutal abuse and torture of people with disabilities.

Those of us who are autistic deserve a national plan on autism developed with us included at the table at every step of the way. We deserve a national plan on autism that seeks to benefit us rather than harm us. We deserve a national plan on autism that condemns abuses such as those at the Judge Rotenberg Center rather than encourages complacency with those practices, let alone directly endorses them. We deserve a national plan on autism that moves away from the language of pity, fear, and tragedy, and toward achieving equality, access, and inclusion in our communities.

Autism Speaks  it is well past time for you to listen. 

(For even more irony and another healthy dose of outrage? Autism Speaks actually issued a statement explicitly condemning the Judge Rotenberg Center about a year ago, following Andre McCollins's case against the JRC going to trial. Andre, who is autistic, was shocked thirty-one times in seven hours after refusing to remove his jacket. You can read the Autism Speaks statement here. Let that irony and outrage keep building.)


Image description: Two scanned images of a hand-held printed card are side by side. The background of both is white. The front side bears the Walk Now for Autism Speaks logo, with the motto, Research Awareness, Compassion, beside the event information  DC Walk Now for Autism Speaks Saturday November 2, 2013 The National Mall, 8:30AM Registration, 10:00AM Walk Start. Then there is more text, "Walk Now for Autism Speaks is a fun-filled, family friendly event and is Autism Speaks' single most powerful force to fund vital research that will lead us to the answers we need. This is our 13th annual Walk Now for Autism Speaks event in the Washington, DC community!" Then a picture of a tend with a big Autism Speaks banner. Then "thanks to our generous sponsors" followed by a variety of foundation and corporate logos. The back side of the card bears a header that says "Please join us in the RESOURCE Fair!" and has two columns under that, one with booth number, and one labeled Service Provider. There are 34 booths numbered, belonging to various autism-related organizations, centers, or service providers. Number 15, which is at the top of the second column, is the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center. Beneath the list is a satellite image of the walk area with various stations labeled. 

08 November 2013

Co-Opting the Movement: Autism Speaks, John Elder Robison, and Complicity in Oppression

Trigger warning/content: Ableism, quotes of ableist speech, violence, discussion of murder, eugenics, co-optation, internalized ableism, erasure, mention of heterosexism.

Are you in or near Washington D.C.? Join us on November 13th in protesting Autism Speaks! Details at the Facebook page.

Co-Opting the Movement:
Autism Speaks, John Elder Robison, and Complicity in Oppression

Lydia Brown

Earlier this year, the executive board of a student organization at Georgetown made the decision to support an autism awareness event featuring a speaker from the non-profit Autism Speaks in the name of supporting all organizations that "represent marginalized groups." This was incredibly disappointing but not surprising, given the organization's prominence on the national and international stage in autism advocacy. Perhaps more surprising was the announcement from the College of William and Mary this fall that their Neurodiversity Initiative will be bringing John Elder Robison to campus as a scholar-in-residence for the year. The official press release referred to Mr. Robison as one of the "most well-known and influential neurodiversity advocates," and mentioned that he will be co-teaching a course on neurodiversity at the college. Furthermore, the press release mentioned only in passing Mr. Robison's work with Autism Speaks, which is of immediate and profound concern to me for several reasons.

Firstly, Autism Speaks is not an organization that represents marginalized people in any way whatsoever. Autism Speaks excludes autistic people from its leadership and has no meaningful representation of autistic people among its several advisory boards. To suggest that Autism Speaks actually represents autistic people in any meaningful way would be ludicrous. There is not now and has never been a single openly autistic person on the organization's board or in the administrative leadership. The presence of one autistic person on an external advisory board comprised of twenty-nine other members constitutes tokenism at best and brazen mockery at worst. No reasonable person would dare suggest that an organization comprised entirely of men represents women's interests or that an organization led entirely by white people represents the interests of people of color, yet the same standard evidently does not apply to disability organizations despite the existence of many cross-disability and autism-specific organizations led by actually disabled people.

Taken from Autism Speaks's own website, where the names and biographies of its board of directors and advisory board members have been posted, it is easy to learn the following:
  • Autism Speaks's Board of Directors consists of thirty-four individuals, none of whom are openly autistic.  
  • Of the six senior-most executive staff, not one is openly autistic.  
  • In 2010, Autism Speaks appointed Mr. Robison, an openly autistic adult, to its Scientific and Treatment Advisory Boards.  Both of these boards intend to bring both professional and personal perspectives to reviewing research grant applications; however, on the Scientific Advisory Board, Mr. Robison is one of thirty-seven members, and is the only openly autistic person.  Similarly, on the Treatment Advisory Board, Mr. Robison is one of nineteen members, and is also the only openly autistic person.  
  • The eight members of the Autism Speaks Government Relations Team responsible for developing and implementing advocacy priorities are entirely non-autistic.  

Furthermore, the widespread and vehement opposition of actually Autistic people to both the philosophy and goals of Autism Speaks is incredibly well-documented. One need look no further than the plethora of websites, blogs, and other social media platforms led by autistic voices to observe the overwhelming animosity toward Autism Speaks from within the autistic community. This organization chose to threaten a lawsuit against a fourteen-year-old autistic girl for creating a parody of their website in order to silence her. This organization chose to appropriate a prominent autistic activist's writing without her consent and trivialize her rather justified demand to cease use of her intellectual property. This organization deliberately chose to erase a group of autistic activists from the story of their fight to eliminate ableist hate speech from Google’s automatic search suggestions. This organization certainly deserves no accolades as an organization somehow "representing marginalized groups."

Image description: A photograph of the head and shoulders of a young female-presenting Asian person with chin-length black hair and glasses, wearing a black polo-shirt, standing against a light wooden door with a dark overcoat hanging on a hook behind her as she gives a stoic expression to the camera. She is holding a yellow notepad that has a handwritten note reading, "I will not be complicit in my own oppression."

Secondly, Autism Speaks routinely relies on ableist rhetoric and fundraising tactics that promote fear-mongering and pity about autistic people rather than genuine understanding or acceptance. Comparisons of autism to deadly diseases, natural disasters, and car accidents do little to encourage support of Autistic people and everything to encourage fear and tragedy models of disability in direct contravention to the principles of anti-ableism, disability justice work, as well as the disability civil rights movement. In Autism Speaks’ Strategic Plan for Science 2013-2017, the authors use language that inaccurately refers to autism as a "disease," discusses autism’s "cost" and "burden to society," and speaks of autism as an "urgent public health crisis." This is language intentionally chosen to evoke fear.

Yet their rhetoric is not merely limited to fear-mongering, but also indisputably crosses into the territory of the unconscionable. Former Autism Speaks board member Harry Slatkin, whose wife, Laura, continues to serve on the Board of Directors, stated in an interview with Town and Country while still a board member that sometimes he hoped their autistic son David would drown in the backyard pond rather than "suffer like this all his life." Evidencing a pattern of similarly violent rhetoric, Autism Speaks is also responsible for the 2006 PSA "Autism Every Day" in which their then Vice President states on camera that she considered putting her autistic daughter in the car and driving off a bridge, and that the only reason she refrained from doing so was because her other, non-autistic daughter would have been waiting for her at home—her autistic daughter was in the room as she made these statements. Furthermore, the producer of this PSA explicitly admitted that the film was intentionally staged to portray negative images of autistic people and their families.

Only four days following the release of "Autism Every Day," pathologist Karen McCarron smothered her autistic daughter with a garbage bag. McCarron stated that she murdered Katie because her "autism had not been improving," had thought about killing Katie, that made an earlier brief attempt at suffocation, wanted to cure Katie, thought killing Katie would make her "complete" in heaven, and wanted to live without autism and thus had to kill Katie. Investigators found that McCarron was obsessed with different treatments for Katie. (See People v. FRANK-McCARRON, 934 NE 2d 76 - Ill: Appellate Court, 3rd Dist. 2010.Though it is not presently possible to draw a direct connection between Autism Speaks' PSA and Katie's murder, this crime and dozens like it only underscore how the kind of rhetoric that Autism Speaks favors only serves to recklessly endangers the lives of autistic people.

Yet, "Autism Every Day" was not a fluke incident, as Autism Speaks is also responsible for the 2009 PSA "I Am Autism," in which a voiceover claiming to be autism threatens to destroy marriages, bankrupt families, and prevent children from ever forming meaningful connections. (I have included the full text below this article.) These assertions that autism is a horrific tragedy or a are patently false, as evidenced by the actual lives of autistic people and their families. Furthermore, Autism Speaks released another PSA in 2009, "Neighbors," that strongly implies that autistic children cannot have friends unless they are subjected to compliance-based behavioral interventions to suppress naturally autistic movements—essentially, the message is that autistic people cannot be accepted while visibly autistic. Most recently, they released a PSA in 2013, "I Want to Say," that ostensibly gives space for non-speaking autistic people who use augmentative and alternative communication, but which received scathing criticism by a prominent non-speaking autistic activist for its utter failure to center the voices of autistic people at all.

Thirdly, in direct contradiction to the foundational philosophy of the neurodiversity movement, Autism Speaks is committed to the ultimate elimination of autistic people through preventing or potentially curing autism. Their mission statement explicitly states, "We are dedicated to funding global biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism." Suzanne Wright, one of the co-founders of Autism Speaks, has stated that the organization’s goal is to "eradicate autism for the sake of future generations." It is astounding to me that autistic people are disproportionately targeted for abuse in homes and schools, rape, and other violent crimes, yet Autism Speaks does nothing to combat these appalling crimes but instead chooses to funnel the vast majority of their research dollars and political clout into cure-oriented research in the hopes of eliminating autism. These problems are not caused because of autism but because of ableism. Organizations that promote ex-gay conversion therapy that supposedly turns gays into heterosexuals are roundly criticized and would certainly never be presented as representing marginalized people. The solution to institutionalized violence and oppression against the Queer community is not to enforce heteronormativity and gender essentialism, but rather, to challenge and deconstruct heterosexism, cissexism, and binarism. Likewise, the solution to the problems that afflict autistic people is to deconstruct ableist hegemony while promoting research and policies to improve access to and quality of support services, eliminate legal barriers to equal access and opportunity, and challenge attitudinal barriers to full participation and inclusion in society. These are not goals that Autism Speaks supports or funds.

Finally, I resoundingly reject the notion that either Mr. Robison's appointment through the Neurodiversity Initiative or the complicity of supposedly progressive organizations in supporting Autism Speaks' activities should somehow be exempt from criticism under the premise that all organizations and individuals should be given a platform to express their views and that constructive dialogue from all perspectives ought to be encouraged. It would be unequivocally clear that organizations like white-supremacist, neo-Nazi, or anti-Semitic groups do not deserve a platform or a space in public discourse, especially in spaces that exist ostensibly to benefit and empower marginalized people. An individual autistic person with close ties to organization that promotes an appalling vision of a marginalized group that is certainly not in alignment with even the most basic aspects of the neurodiversity movement has not only lent his voice to that organization but has been named as the public face and leader of a program supposedly committed to the empowerment of autistic people, and all this in the name of neurodiversity. This is incomprehensible.

A few weeks ago, in conversation with a stranger, I was asked if it wouldn't be possible to compromise by collaborating with Autism Speaks on issues where our work might overlap. This is not possible. It will never be possible for me to work with Autism Speaks for as long as their philosophies, mission, and rhetoric remain the same as they are now. Our most basic goals are fundamentally and radically different. For you to ask me to cooperate with my oppressor is deeply insulting. I refuse to submit to complacency with the dominant narrative of autism as advanced by Autism Speaks, and I refuse to make myself complicit in my own oppression. Palestinian queer activist Haneen Maikey, founder of Al Qaws for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society, stated unequivocally that it is impossible for Al Qaws to collaborate with Israeli LGBTQ organizations for as long as they refuse to acknowledge the power differentials that privilege them while maintaining the colonialist occupation of Palestinian spaces and enabling their co-optation of the Palestinian queer movement. So it is also with us. We cannot compromise our struggle, our movement, our fight for justice, by attempting a futile "compromise" with an organization whose ultimate aim is our demise. And even if Autism Speaks has absolutely no direct involvement whatsoever with Mr. Robison's activities at William and Mary, he has already been positioned as a leader in the neurodiversity movement, and this rhetorical positioning already serves to co-opt the movement with Mr. Robison's work, which is decidedly outside the neurodiversity movement and has been repeatedly criticized from within it.

For others, especially non-disabled, neurotypicals, to suggest that all "awareness" is good or that Mr. Robison's appointment is progress due solely to his being autistic, is to undermine all that we have fought for in our struggle. I urge you to resist this latest iteration of the co-opting that inevitably comes with any movement for social justice. Audre Lorde wrote that "the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house." It is not possible to reform the pathology paradigm from within the organizations whose very existence serve to perpetuate and reinforce it. When the framework itself is flawed, there is no room for compromise. Accepting or condoning Mr. Robison's appointment within the context of a Neurodiversity Initiative only further allows this act to legitimate our co-opting by ideas that are decidedly not neurodiversity. We are compelled, then, to speak boldly and strongly in opposition to any attempt to co-opt the neurodiversity movement, or any insidious strategy to garner the appeasement of the very autistic activists who founded our movement and continue to resist the violence of ableist oppression. We must condemn the demand to become complicit in our own oppression.

Other Autistic Hoya articles on Autism Speaks:

Full transcript of Autism Speaks' 2009 PSA "I Am Autism" (separate trigger warning for burden, epidemic, pathology rhetoric): 

I am autism. I'm visible in your children. But if I can help it, I am invisible to you until it's too late. I know where you live. And guess what? I live there too. I hover around all of you. I know no color barrier, no religion, no morality, no currency. I speak your language fluently, and with every voice I take away, I acquire yet another language. I work very quickly. I work faster than pediatric AIDS, cancer, and diabetes combined. And if you are happily married, I will make sure that your marriage fails. Your money will fall into my hands, and I will bankrupt you for my own self-gain. I don't sleep, so I make sure you don't either. I will make it virtually impossible for your family to easily attend a temple, a birthday party, a public park without a struggle, without embarrassment, without pain. You have no cure for me. Your scientists don't have the resources and I relish their desperation. Your neighbors are happier to pretend that I don't exist, of course, until it's their child. I am autism. I have no interest in right or wrong. I derive great pleasure out of your loneliness. I will fight to take away your hope. I will plot to rob you of your children and your dreams. I will make sure that every day you wake up, you will cry, wondering, "Who will take care of my child after I die?" And the truth is, I'm still winning. And you're scared. And you should be. I am autism. You ignored me. That was a mistake. 
And to autism, I say, I am a father, a mother, a grandparent, brother, a sister. We will spend every waking hour trying to weaken you. We don't need sleep because we will not rest until you do. Family can be much stronger than autism ever anticipated, and we will not be intimidated by you, nor will the love and strength of my community. I am a parent riding towards you and you can push me off this horse time and time again but I will get up,  climb back on, and ride on with the message. Autism, you forget who we are. You forget who you are dealing with. You forget the spirit of mothers and daughters and fathers and sons. We are the United Kingdom. The United States. China. Argentina. Russian. European Union. We are the United Nations. We are coming together in all climates. We call on all faiths. We search with technology and voodoo, prayer and herbs, kinetic studies, and a growing awareness you have never anticipated. We have had challenges, but we are the best when overcoming them. We speak the only language that matters—love for our children. Our capacity to love is greater than your capacity to overwhelm. Autism is naive. You are alone. We are a community of warriors. We have a voice. You think because some of our children cannot speak, we cannot hear them? That is autism's weakness. You think that because my child lives behind a wall, I am afraid to knock it down with my bare hands? You have not been properly introduced to this community of parents and grandparents, and siblings and friends, and schoolteachers and therapists, pediatricians and scientists. Autism if you are not scared, you should be. When you came for my child, you forgot. You came for me. Autism, are you listening?