Initially, I wanted this post to simply say “LISTEN TO AUTISTIC VOICES”, but I understand that direction may require additional information for some folks. At the start of my career in behavior analysis, I spent a lot of time reading about the perspective of Autistic people to inform my work. I learned about person-first language, and removed “inappropriate” and “high functioning” from my vocabulary, and focused on helping children get their needs met and not on compliance. I never targeted stereotypical behaviors or stimming and understood the goals were quality of life and not passing for neurotypical. Professionally I was still using person-first language and would occasionally present on Autism at conferences. The Key even held panel discussions for parents about applied behavior analysis (ABA), early intervention, and special education geared toward parents of Autistic children. The main problem was that as a neurotypical person, I was taking up space. I sat at the table discussed autism and no Autistic people were at the table or even in the room.
In October 2020 I moderated a panel with several speakers including Joy Johnson, an Autistic BCBA based in Maryland, in Canada. As I listened to Joy speak I realized, I am contributing to the problem by continuing to take up space that does not belong to me. As a school psychologist and a behavior analyst, I am stepping back. I will not discuss autism in public space unless on a panel with an Autistic speaker. If on a panel, I will discuss culturally responsive practices and racial justice, because my area of knowledge is not autism. I have so much more room to grow and I will continue to educate myself by listening to Autistic Voices and hiring Autistic professionals for consultation.
Autistic voices we should all listen to
Joy Johnson is a Behavior Analyst, Inclusion Specialist, and Autism Advocate who partners with organizations, individuals, and families to improve the lives of Autistic people. You can follow Joy on her website https://joyfjohnson.com/
Lydia X. Z. Brown is a writer, organizer, activist, and speaker. She was the lead editor behind All The Weight Of Our Dreams, the first-ever anthology of writings and artwork by autistic people of color, published in June 2017. You can follow her on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
On Twitter use the hashtag #ActuallyAutistic to learn more.