Past Presentations - 2016

Here are descriptions of the presentations given at our 2016 conference, AACC 2016, held  September 23-27, 2016 at the Capital Retreat Center in Waynesboro, PA:

Bev Harp, MSW – Finally at the Table and Trying not to Flip it

For several years now, you have been standing outside, holding the sign that says Nothing About Us Without Us while inside parents and professionals defined your needs and determined what services you might be allowed to access. Finally, a few autistics are being invited to participate on local and state advisory boards. Maybe you are one of them. Quite possibly, you are finding the inside colder, more difficult to navigate than the outside ever was.

How do you determine whether or not your participation might benefit you or other autistic people? What if you suspect you are being tokenized? How do you ensure that your communication needs are understood and accommodated? How do you make yourself heard above the voices that cry epidemic and demand ever more funding for therapies you consider harmful? In a roomful of people, some of whom may be hostile to your presence, what steps do you take to avoid meltdown? What is your response to the prevalent use of functioning labels and
being told that you are “not like my child?”

You may even be working for an organization that serves or claims to serve autistic people. In these cases, the stakes can be even higher, as a single flipped table can end an otherwise beneficial employment situation. What happens when a supervisor or colleague requests a
letter of support for a new project that does not appear to be in the best interests of autistic people? How is one to respond when an otherwise good employer insists on supporting an infamous anti-autistic event or seeks to collaborate with agencies whose practices we believe to be harmful? Where does one draw the line when working to elicit change from the “inside?”

This presentation will explore logistical and ethical concerns associated with attending meetings of autism societies, serving on advisory boards, and working professionally in fields related to
autism and/or autistic advocacy. The presenter is an autistic person with a master´s degree in social work who has experience working for a state university on projects to support autistics and others with developmental disabilities.

Savannah Breakstone – Twittering Community: Using Twitter Chats to Build Autistic (and Disability) Community

As time and social media has gone on, the disability community and in particular the autistic community have carved out a place for themselves on each platform. One method of doing this on twitter is through the use of twitterchats.

A Twitter chat is a way of connecting with people about a topic or shared interest at a specific point in time on Twitter. It uses a combination of a set hashtag (Such as #Autchat or #AutismMeans) and typically some guiding questions to create a space for interested people to connect and discuss the topic. The time span can be as defined as a single hour, or can be set for a day- though a more specific time span tends to give more of a sense of being together on one thing, and tends to generate a more concentrated stream of tweets especially in specific communities.

During my presentation, I will be talking about what a Twitter chat is in more detail. I will talk about how they are typically structured, including enough background to allow someone to consider starting their own. I will also talk about tips for more effective use of the twitterchat format for community building versus campaign building. Included will be some things I’ve noticed to make it more accessible to participate in, as well as tips for easier participation in a twitterchat.

Sparrow Rose Jones – Sleep Issues and How to Address Them: Adapting Standard Circadian Therapies and Advice for Autistic Sensory Needs

Autistic people have a genetic pre-disposition to sleep disruptions and disorders. 35% to 40% of people in the general population experience serious sleep disruptions but looking at research leads me to estimate that as many as 75% of Autistics endure chronic sleep issues with a noted predisposition for circadian rhythm disorders. This presentation will discuss, using accessible layman’s terms, enough of the biological mechanisms of sleep to help attendees gain some understanding of how sleep and circadian rhythms work. This knowledge gives individuals the power to adapt sleep advice for their specific needs.

Scott Robertson – Achieving Neurodiversity Friendly Work Experiences and Handling Barriers: Strategies, Supports, and Accommodations

This interactive presentation will discuss strategies, approaches, and resources that autistic people can use to secure, maintain, and succeed at work in jobs in competitive, integrated employment. It will also describe approaches to improve the neurodiversity friendliness of
workplaces, attain needed accommodations, and remove cognitive, sensory, and social barriers. Additionally, it will speak about the issues and concerns surrounding potential disclosure and selective disclosure of autism and other disability identities in the workplace.

Ruti Regan – Coping with ableism without destroying yourself or becoming a jerk

Being autistic or otherwise disabled in an ableist culture is really hard. Most of us face terrifying and demeaning discrimination at least some of the time. Some of us live in fear of life-threatening
discrimination. Most of us have been seriously harmed by people who meant well. Many of us have been through demeaning therapy that taught us that we weren´t good enough. Many of us have been abused. Many of us have been abused by people who exploited our disability or other
people´s ableism to get away with it. And so on.

It´s hard to see yourself as a full person when others don´t treat you like one. There are practical skills that help. I will explain what some of them are. It can also be very confusing to figure out how to fight for your rights and humanity without turning your whole life into a battleground.  It´s important to have things in your life other than fighting. I will explain why this is important in concrete terms, and practical skills that help make it possible.

When you have to fight for your humanity on a regular basis, it can also be easy to misinterpret every conflict as an attack on your humanity. This mistake leads to being mean to people who don´t deserve it, and causes a number of other problems. This part will be about practical skills for assessing what kind of situation you´re actually dealing with, and possible responses to various situations. Another complicating factor is that many of the actions that nondisabled people use to show respect and consideration may be physically or cognitively impossible for us to manage reliably. This is often seen as meaning that disabled people can´t show respect (or that it´s ableist to expect us to be considerate of others). What it actually means is that we sometimes need to find alternative ways to show respect and be considerate. This part will be about practical skills for treating each other well when some of the socially expected ways of doing so aren´t possible for us.

Kit Mead – Autism, Awareness Campaigns, and the Mental Health System

This presentation will focus on the interaction between autism and the mental health care system in the United States, and how society has failed Autistic people by continually spreading damaging “awareness” campaigns and dangerous propaganda, and leading to increased rates of PTSD and trauma from repeated abuse and bullying. It will also discuss how this drives many into a mental health care system that is profoundly broken because it is based on the medical model of disability and mental illness. 

Finn Gardiner – Autism Info Matters: Data Collection, Participatory Action Research and the Autistic Community

Autism Info Matters is a presentation about a participatory action research project that gauged attitudes about the creation of an integrated autism database in Massachusetts in order to deliver final recommendations to the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services. The presenter will be describing the way the project came about, the methods we used, and the final
recommendations we developed that will be delivered to EOHHS.

Sarah R. Pripas – Freelancing for Autistic People: Possibilities and Perils

The number of independent contractors in today’s economy has been growing steadily. For autistic people who may encounter discrimination and lack of accessibility in the standard workforce, the option to freelance is one that may be particularly appealing. Freelancers can work as writers, editors, graphic designers, web designers, programmers, musicians, and in many other areas. However, freelancing comes with many challenges that may be particularly challenging for autistic people. These include doing taxes as a freelancer, budgeting during lean times, and marketing and finding clients. While there are many resources available for aspiring freelancers,
most of these tend to utilize a neurotypical perspective. In this presentation/discussion, I would like to discuss how autistic people can approach these challenges in a way that works for us, given our differences in communication and executive functioning.

Autistic people may be particularly vulnerable to scams and exploitative contracts targeting freelancers. Drawing from my own knowledge and experience as a freelance writer and editor, I will discuss common places to find freelance work such as Upwork and Craigslist, reviewing the
benefits and drawbacks of these platforms.

Alexis Andrie Toliver – Race, Disability, and Police Brutality: When Will Black Disabled Lives Matter?

The intersections of race and disability are hardly discussed. Why? Possibly because disability is highly stigmatized in communities of color. As a result of this, we have held few too little discussions on race and disability; particularly, how this increases the likelihood to be brutalized by police officers.

Our generation has seen a rise in radical activists that have appealing hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName. Such movements have raised awareness on state incited violence against people of color; however, the disability aspect of this narrative rarely been discussed. Being black puts one at a higher risk of being brutalized, shot, and killed by police. However, being disabled further heightens this probability. Ezell Ford, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Quintonio LeGrier, and Tanisha Anderson are just a few of the black, disabled victims of police brutality. A few days ago, it was announced that the cops that murdered Jeremy McDole will face no charges. Jeremy McDole was a black, unarmed, disabled man, that was murdered in his wheelchair 2 seconds after a cop ordered him to put his hands up. Jeremy McDole was murdered as a result of ableism and racism; yet, his narrative is rarely told. There have been few to none hashtags and movements for him. Now is the time to stand up for Jeremy McDole. The truth is, disabled folks are more than half the victims of police shootings. It is time (for those of us that are able) to rise up against this. I am simply tired of living in a system where neither my black nor disabled life matters.

As disabled activists, it is time for us to stand against police brutality. This presentation is not a talk, but a call to action. We are at a point where the goal turns from raising awareness to creating action. We are at a point where actions have to be taken to simply stay alive as disabled people of color. Raising awareness amongst the able bodied is great, but if the masses aren’t standing for and with us, what is the point? We must bring forth actions that force the recognition of our lives and significance. It is time for black disabled lives to matter.