Disability Pride Parade: A Recap
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.”
We were more than excited to join hundreds of other New Yorkers at this year’s Disability Pride parade advocating for inclusion, acceptance of human diversity, and promoting visibility of people with disabilities. Our staff members and people we serve were front and center, rallying hand in hand showing that together we can accomplish so much more than we could ever imagine.
Events like this is where allyship and advocacy begins, and we are always thrilled to be present in the community, bringing attention to the issues that need solutions and making connections with people who want to be a part of the work we do on behalf of those we serve.
Missed the event but want to learn how you and/or your employer can become an ally to people with disabilities? Visit our Disability Ally Initiative page to learn more.
Advocacy Done Wrong
Autism Isn’t As Silent As You May Think
Always Unique, Totally Intelligent, Sometimes Mysterious is a common acronym of the Autism Speaks awareness campaign, but it’s superficial at best.
You might be asking yourself “Why? Isn’t it true?” It’s superficial because it was invented by parents, not Autistic people.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as ‘of a group developmental disorders (such as autism and Asperger’s syndrome) marked by impairments in the ability to communicate and interact socially and by the presence of repetitive behaviors or restricted interests’.
Today’s society seems to bear two definitions of the communicative disorder—the immature Internet meaning that relates it to “stupidity” and the sympathetic definition of “Oh, your child has Autism; let’s put him/her in special education.”
I’m here to debunk both. The first definition is just plain un-informed. Nearly everywhere on social media someone has a picture of themselves they don’t like. The caption to that photo—”I look Austistic”. Don’t assume Autistic people are unintelligent because many cannot speak—In fact, some have even graduated high school. Take a look at Nicholas D’Amora, 20, of Staten Island. He does not communicate with words, but according to his mother Barbara Pandolfi he will be a high school graduate by the end of June 2018.
“He knows he’s different, but that doesn’t stop him from challenging what society throws at him”, said Pandolfi.
I could go on endlessly about cases very similar to D’Amora’s, but just because he will be a high school graduate, doesn’t change the fact that he was in special education for most of his life.
Society seems to see Autistic people the same way it sees a fine China cabinet—Fragile, dependent on somebody else, and helpless if they fall.
Autism awareness campaigns are run by parents of Autistic people and their doctors, it seems, and they think they know exactly how their child is feeling, but they don’t.
Imagine there was a protest for LGBTQ+ rights, but a straight person was in charge of it. People of that community wouldn’t approve of someone advocating for them that doesn’t experience what they do, would they? Probably not. So why should Autism campaigns be run by non-Autistic people?
Bottom line—If Autistic kids are going to live somewhat-normal lives, why not let them interact with normal children in general education?
I kept ranting about Autistic people running their own awareness campaigns, and you might be wondering two things at this point—What Autistic person is capable of running an awareness campaign, and who am I to have even written this article; R.J. Calamito, you aren’t Autistic.
The answer to both questions is the same—Like I said before, don’t assume what you don’t know.
My name is Raymond Joseph Calamito, and I am diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
In other words—Yes, R.J. Calamito is Autistic after all.
R.J. Calamito is a contributing writer at Person Centered Care Services and a Junior Editor at The John Jay Sentinel.