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Fearlessly Different

I just finished the book Fearlessly Different by Seattle native Mickey Rowe. I’ve been trying to read more by Autistic authors, fiction and nonfiction. The Autistic community says “nothing about us without us.” Too much has been written about Autistic people without their voice and often without their consent. I recommend it, and I hope that you will take his advice in the introduction to heart: “Before we begin, if you are nonautistic, I’m going to take a moment to relax your grip on everything you thought you knew about autism.” Autistic people, perhaps more than any other group, are forced to comply with neurotypical societal norms. It’s exhausting, traumatizing and completely unnecessary. The unemployment rate for Autistic college graduates is 85%. Not because they aren’t capable, but because they are perceived as different. And tragically, it’s often those differences that would make them an amazing hire. Think about the fact that we judge candidates on their suit, their handshake, and eye contact. None of these attributes makes you an outstanding data scientist, programmer, landscape designer, writer, editor, web developer, actuary, accountant or analyst.

The last chapter lists disabled people killed by their families, from infants to elders, between 2014 and 2019. It’s not an exhaustive list; these are killings that made the news. It’s sobering to think that the people who are supposed to love and protect us would kill us because of a disability. But it happens all the time, and often it’s not viewed as a crime. We must confront our collective ableism and limited view about what makes a life worth living. I hope you will sit with the discomfort of this list and our society’s willingness to look the other way.

(You may want to read Imani Barbarin’s (AKA Crutches&Spice) work on #MyDisabledLifeIsWorthy and the alarming responses she’s received:

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash