Autistic History: ANI, The Autistic Liberation Front, and the Autism Rights Movement

Autistic History: ANI, The Autistic Liberation Front, and the Autism Rights Movement

{Image Description: ANI purple and blue logo}
Source: ANI's Website

Autism Network International was formed in the US in the 1990s. This was the first autistic-led organization in the United States. ANI was created and led by Jim Sinclair (as well as Kathy Grant and Donna Williams) in 1992. Jim Sinclair is alive still in 2020, but not currently an activist. Jim Sinclair wrote a series of essays, but xyr most popular essay, titled: 'Don't Mourn For Us' is the most familiar to allies. Autistic people do not want to be cured, so ANI was created out of the need to promote acceptance, and the movement was created to prevent the autistic community from being cured. We are currently heading into a third generation of autistic activists in 2020. The need for eugenics was developed further by the development of Autism Speaks in 2005. ANI is not currently active any longer, but organizations like the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) in D.C., The Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network (AWN) in Nevada, and Autistic Inclusive Meets USA (AIM USA) in Florida, (as well as other ASAN chapter affiliated orgs) have helped this movement further. AIM USA (formerly FAA) is the first autistic-led organization in the US to largely combat anti-vaccine misinformation (as well as harmful treatments) and was formed in December of 2019. AWN was formed in 2011 by Sharon DaVanport, and is the first autistic-led org to exist in the US for BIPOC and white women, trans, and non-binary folks only. ASAN was formed in 2006, a year after Autism $peaks was formed and was created by Ari Ne'eman. Aspies for Freedom, like ANI, is inactive, but was formed in 2004. ANI ended in 2013, and ANI has been continued in spirit by these other autistic-led organizations. 

Before and after ANI was formed, many parents and professionals were discussing the need for autism to be cured in other circles. This included Bob and Suzanne Wright, the two founders of Autism Speaks. Bob and Suzanne even talked about their grandson, as if he is a burden and The need to "cure" autism is still being pursued today, and yet the microbiology field still has yet to listen to lived experiences from the autistic community. 

{Image Description: poster created by the 
Autistic Liberation Front on the computer game Second Life.}
Image Source here, The Autistic Liberation Front and the Autism Rights Movement:, which is an inactive site and was shutdown, was created by Laura Tisoncik in 1998. To be very clear, was not run by ANI. ANI was a separate business. Laura is an elder now in the autistic community, and was close with Mel Baggs, who was a non-speaking autistic activist. Mel Baggs died this year, 2020. I was able to access through the Wayback Machine. This site also has information about the Liberation Front, which was an important Front during the movement and helped start the movement. 

{Image Descriptions: three images from the site. First includes the logo, second includes a cartoon with text that provides a link to hatemail, and the third one is three buttons that were created. A more detailed description of the three are below.}

To be clear, the first generation of autistics in the US included the pioneer autistic rights activists (not only Jim Sinclair). They were also Mel Baggs, Kathy Grant, Laura Tisoncik, and Donna Williams, as well as others listed here that signed a pledge in 2004, titled the 'One Community Pledge'. Though these folks were dealing with internalized ableism, they fought for rights and equality and it was the start of the movement. The Liberation Front, to be clear, is not a separate organization, nor an organization at all. It was all a part of ANI, but a movement concept, rather. Similarly, today, ANTIFA is perceived by some white people to be an organization, but it is not. Rather, #BLM is a movement, like ANTIFA, and there are several organizations run by BIPOC out there. The neurodiversity movement is a movement, not an organization. Neurodiversity is also an academic term and concept, and not just a movement. There are several organizations that promote the movement, but that doesn't mean that the movement itself is the same thing as an individual organization.

Autistic Liberation was needed because of the promotion towards a cure mindset. ANI was created because parents wanted to cure autism, and Jim Sinclair viewed autism as a natural variation in the brain. This sparked the need for the autistics to adapt to Neurodiversity. Our community has a history of dealing with cure rhetoric. The anti-vaxxers were not the only ones who thought we should be "cured" (eugenics), but to get into the subject of curing, what does that look like? Autistic people have dealt with many forms of harsh treatments since the 1930s, and even possibly before this. Hitler encouraged his Nazis to wipe out our existence in Germany during the 30s through Hans Asperger. Yet, Hans was a eugenicist and we have folks from the 1990s labeling an entire community after the perpetrator. Hans Asperger, while Steve Silberman complimented him in his book NeuroTribes, later on in 2018 admitted his error in doing that in an interview via The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism (TPGA) with Maxfield Sparrow. Curing for Hitler was widely known as Eugenics: "the selection of desired heritable characteristics in order to improve future generations," (Britannica, 2020). The source of that definition can be found here. Autistics today are still combatting cure rhetoric. Autism Speaks, The Autism Community In Action (TACA), The National Council on "Severe Autism" (NCSA), the Autism Research Institute (ARI), and other harmful organizations are continuing the promotion of cure rhetoric. This notion to "cure" autism stems from folks like Ivar Lovaas, Bernard Rimland, Leo Kanner, and Hans Asperger. 

ANI was formed because of those things previously mentioned, and though the organization did not properly address racism at the time, or perfectly work, they still were able to use their voices to make change happen. That is what needs to still happen. Looking at how we, today, are forming acceptance has changed. We're routinely combatting, through now a third generation (and even a 4th) of autistics who are willing to take on activism to make the US more understanding and the world more open to different people. The Autism Rights Movement still exists today. Though we have some rights thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and others, we still as a community face barriers. There are organizations willing to address these barriers and these voices are important. It's time for everyone in the community to be heard.

To delve back into Autism Speaks' long terrible cure rhetoric and history, we do have proof that Autism Speaks was built to cure autism. That has always been the mission. The MSSNG project is continuing to harm us, and more on the history of Autism Speaks can be found here. To expose Autism Speaks is necessary. More can be found in that link; however, here is a screenshot of their original mission statement, as well as quotes from the original Autism Speaks board:

Mission Statement: source

Image sources and text found on: source

Quotes from their site and board in 2006:

More info can be found here: Source.

Other flaws about Autism Speaks are that both Bob and Suzanne Wright are anti-vaxxers. 

"This announcement represents an unprecedented intersection of business, science and philanthropy that will drastically accelerate the pace of autism research," Bob Wright co- founder of the hate group, "The insight and expertise the Google team brings to the table is unmatched. Utilizing Google Cloud Platform further advances Autism Speaks' commitment to advancing cutting-edge science."

Direct quote from Fierce Autie:
It is precedented. In the T4 program, they wanted a "master race" and sterilized people according to the chances of having a disabled child. It was forced. This history happened all over again without the killing. Think about it T4 AUT10k. Sound similar?

"Modern biology has become a data-limited science. Modern computing can remove those limits," David Glazer, engineering director for Google Genomics, "We are excited ... about the opportunity for Google Cloud Platform to help unlock causes and treatments of autism."

"The Autism Speaks AUT10K Program is a remarkable achievement," Dr. Steve Scherer,  director of the Center and who will be the director of AUT10K,  "The collaboration between a pioneering tech company and the foremost autism science organization has the potential to transform the autism research landscape in exceptional ways. No other organization outside of major health institutions and academia has accomplished this much this quickly."

Sources: Fierce Autie, CBS News, ABC News

Source: here

Autism Speaks (A$) decided to list their sources of alternative treatments, in which they make it obvious that they were encouraging abuse. 

The Doman/Delacato Method, which was invented in 1955 for "brain-injured children", uses forced eye contact and is not only pseudoscientific, but also harmful
"The Doman Delacato method is a treatment therapy that was developed between 1955 and 1960 for “brain-injured” children, to use the term preferred by the developers. This category includes any and all children who have brain-related problems, including children with Down's Syndrome." 
Source: here.
These other types of "treatments" have not really been proven "effective." Holding therapy does not involve consent, and is abusive physically. I went through it as a child, and hugging someone for long periods of time isn't consenting. Touching when someone doesn't want to be touched is violating that person. Auditory Integration Therapy- it is used for desensitization for sensitivity to sound. It is the same idea of desensitization methods in dog training. This therapy was banned by the FDA, approximately in 2006. Yet, Autism Speaks was promoting it in 2006.

Autism Speaks also promoted these "treatments" in 2006:

Source: here

Applied Behavioral Analysis was contested starting in 1992. The more A$ promoted ABA, the more autistics would speak out against it. There are early intervention programs and behavioral techniques in the field of behaviorism as a whole, not just ABA.... which means that even ABA causes trauma and leads to abuse. Advocates have the right to speak out against abusive treatments. Activism became more prominent in the early 2000s when the Autistic Self Advocacy Network was formed. ASAN formed around the same time that AWN did; however, ANI shutdown their work in 2013. The need for autistics to be accepted is dire, seeing as thought the suicide rate in the autistic community has increased since the 1990s: now at 72%. ANI hoped to increase acceptance towards autism; however, the language has adapted since the 1990s from aspergers to autistic, switching from person first language to identity first language. Many of the original founders of the Autism Rights Movement are non-speaking, which is one explanation for why the functioning labels are outdated. 

Orgs like Autism Speaks need to be a lot more accepting and respectful of autistic researchers, autistic rights, autistic voices, and neurodiversity as a whole. And Autism Speaks needs to address their own -isms instead of calling board members of organizations cunts.


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