Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Instead

You want to be helpful. Really. Useful. You were surprised, recently to find yourself finally seeing it, the harm that is done by groups like Autism Speaks. That video, that disembodied voice, Big Scary Voice and its claims of destruction, you saw this time how these omnipresent repetitions build a world where autistic people and people with other disabilities are shunned, marginalized, treated in so many ways as less than human. Less than real. You get it now. But what about that walk coming up? What about that inbox filling with walks and runs and bake sales and pledge drives and other pleas for contributions? These have been ways to express your concern for...I don't know...something about autism? Someone you know?
It's harder now, maybe, to know what to do, now that you've seen how one large and powerful group monopolizes the public attention, drains it, until the stream of misinformation is absorbed unquestioned, unnoticed even. It's harder now, and that's a good thing.
Here are some options to consider while you are not "walking for autism."
  • Make a contribution to an organization for autistics by autistics, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network.
  • Contribute to another disability rights organization.
  • Donate money or time to a homeless shelter or food bank in your area. The unemployment rate for autistic people is extremely high, more so even than the rate for people with disabilities in general. There are many autistic people living on the streets and in shelters.
  • Sponsor a registration at Autreat for someone who would not otherwise be able to go.
  • Read more blogs by autistic people. There are some folks out there who are struggling. A word of encouragement might make a difference to someone who is desperate.
  • Lobby for an end to seclusion rooms and restraints in schools.
  • Challenge inaccessible spaces, wherever you find them.
  • Invest in companies that include people with disabilities in key roles.
  • When you see someone being bullied or harassed, intervene. It is not enough to just not actively participate.
  • Invite an autistic person to lunch.
  • If the person agrees, then have lunch. Talk. Listen.
  • Listen.
  • This might take a long time. Listen more.
  • Consider expanding your definitions of words like "listening," "speaking," and "communication."
  • Repeat as needed.
Thank you for your contribution.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Daily Squawk: Redefining Canines

Canine Advocates Urge Removal of Pomeranian, Shih Tzu, Others from the Dog Spectrum


Should all dogs be considered equally doglike? Well known canine advocate Darrell Hogarty doesn’t think so. “People who live with some of these smaller breeds have become too vocal,” he explains. Hogarty believes that the enthusiasm of small dog aficionados obscures the problems of real dog owners. “They claim they can live in apartments and condos. The general public is starting to think that dogs like my Rotweiller don’t need large fences to keep them from bolting.” What’s worse, Hogarty says, is that the claims of small dog owners that food costs and training needs are manageable may keep the owners of real dogs from receiving the services they need.

People are starting to think that dog ownership is some sort of ‘cutesie club.’ It’s anything but that,” adds the canine advocate who prefers to be known only as WTF. “It’s not that I have anything against them. I have a toy poodle myself, but I can tell you he’s no dog! My Saint Bernard goes through a large bag of Purina Dog Chow each week. Who can afford that?”

Poop is a major problem for the owners of real dogs, too. Canine advocates point to the statistics or rumors indicating that nearly 80% of canine affected marriages fail due to arguments over whose turn it is to scoop the yard. “I’d like to invite any of these diversity loving types to come over and give my dog a bath,” declared WTF. “But you don’t see the Dawgz R Lovely crowd lining up to give it a try, do you?”

Those who prefer keeping small dogs as part of the spectrum are quick to point out that the Chihuahua’s bark can be as disturbing as that of a Weimaraner. Small dogs sometimes bite, too, explain diversity advocates, some of whom reject the words “pet” and “owner” in favor of more radical terms like “companion.”

Claims that size shows no correlation with ease of training do not impress Hogarty, for whom defining a dog is a simple matter. “It’s just common sense. Is it bigger than a dirt bike? Can it be used to scare people? That’s a dog.”

Hogarty adds that removing these smaller, cuter breeds from the current definition of “dog” could go a long way toward solving the canine overpopulation problem. “Of course their numbers should still be counted when new pounds and shelters need to be built,” he added. “We ought to get some use out of them, eh?”

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All kidding aside, there are many dogs and other animals in need of homes. If you are thinking of sharing your life with an animal, please consider adopting, not purchasing from a store or breeder. Spay or neuter your pets, and if you are able, please consider a tax deductible donation to American Animal Rescue Society. AARS depends on its volunteers and foster homes; 100% of donations go to animals in their care.