Tuesday, June 25, 2013
AUTISTIC EMPOWERMENT- NORTEAST PA REGIONAL AUTISM ACCEPTANCE PROJECT- SCRANTON, PA
In my therapeutic work with over 100 autistic and developmentally different persons in the Scranton/Wilkes Barre area of Northeast Pennsylvania, there are some core principles I have developed. I have been a dedicated advocate for autistic rights and have developed the International Autistic Empowerment Center to help persons and their families through relational/existential approaches to be able to develop skills to navigate through the mainstream. In addition, I have supported assisted with educational advocacy. 1. Presume intellect: Because a person is non-verbal or struggles in communication does not mean they are not intelligent nor have nothing to say. We must explore and utilize the strengths and passions of the person. 2. Behavior is communication: We may be making a grave mistake when we simply seek to shut down or suppress with powerful psychiatric drugs what we judge to be ‘unwanted’ behaviors. Behaviors, even those one may deem ‘unwanted’ may be for some the only means to convey their needs or distress. Related Articles 3. Self-Advocacy: If we wish to understand autism, we must be willing to enter their world, not force them to enter our own. We must be willing to validate self-advocates and seek knowledge about the autistic mode of being from those who actually live it each day. 4. Relationship: To help autistic persons forge emotional connections, navigate through the mainstream, and learn new skills, the key is relationship. We must be willing to forge a bond with the person, to truly seek to understand their experience, their world, how they find meaning, to know them as a fellow human being. Once we forge relationship, we can create a common healing ground 5. Respect: It is necessary for respect to exist and this means as well that we do nothing to force, coerce, or manipulate the person. We regard them as a person worthy of dignity. Our role is to advocate and support, not seek to alter the person into something they are not nor need be I share this piece below as a reflection of how we should interact with autistic and developmentally different persons, how we should understand and support. Do not see my disability as the problem. Recognize that my disability is an attribute. Do not see my disability as a deficit. It is you who see me as deviant and helpless. Do not try to fix me because I am not broken. Support me. I can make my contribution to the community in my own way. Do not see me as your client. I am your fellow citizen. See me as your neighbor. Remember, none of us can be self-sufficient. Do not try to modify my behavior. Be still and listen. What you define as inappropriate may be my attempt to communicate with you in the only way I can. Do not try to change me. You have no right. Help me to learn what I want to know. Do not hide your uncertainty behind 'professional' distance. Be a person who listens and does not take my struggle away from me by trying to make it all better. Do not use theories and strategies on me. Be with me. And when we struggle with each other, Let that give rise to self-reflection. Do not try to control me. I have a right to my power as a person. What you call noncompliance or manipulation may actually be the only way I can exert some control over my life. Do not teach me to be obedient, submissive, and polite. I need to feel entitled to say 'no' if I am to protect myself. Do not be charitable towards me. Be my ally as I fight against those who exploit me for their own gratification. Do not try to be my friend. I deserve more than that. Get to know me. We may become friends. Do not help me, even if it does make you feel good. Ask me if I need your help. Let me show you how you can best assist me. Do not admire me. A desire to live a full life does not warrant adoration. Respect me, for respect presumes equity. Do not tell, teach, and lead. Listen, support, and follow. Do not work on me. Work with me.