The World Federation for Mental Health
Who We Are
WFMH is an international membership organization founded in 1948 to advance, among all peoples and nations, the prevention of mental and emotional disorders, the proper treatment and care of those with such disorders, and the promotion of mental health.
read more at wfmh.org
In the United States, people of color suffer worse health outcomes than their white counterparts for virtually every health indicator.
In New York City, this issue is particularly glaring. NYC’s poorest neighborhoods, which also have the highest proportion of black and Hispanic residents, have death rates which are 30% higher than those in wealthier neighborhoods. In the South Bronx, the poorest urban congressional district in the country, the population suffers high rates of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, asthma, HIV/AIDS, and infant mortality.
Though health outcomes improve in wealthier areas, blacks still die at a higher rate than whites, regardless of where they live.
read more at bronxhealthreach.org
The Institute for Family Health: Eliminating Health Disparities -
Led by the Institute, the Bronx Health REACH Coalition is one of 40 communities funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s REACH US program to address health disparities in key health areas.
The coalition includes over 70 community-based organizations, health care providers, faith-based institutions, housing and social service agencies, and a public interest law firm. Since 2000, the coalition has served as a model of community empowerment that demonstrates how to build healthier communities by:
- promoting healthy life-style behaviors
- increasing awareness of racial and ethnic disparities in health care delivery
- advocating for policy, environmental, and systems changes
For more information visit www.BronxHealthReach.org.
Autism Articulated: The Komo Centre -
The Komo Centre for Understanding Autism
is a program in Entebbe, Uganda committed to supporting children with autism. The founder, Elizabeth Najjemba Kaleeba, began the program as she realized that her own son—along with a number of other disabled children in Uganda— has no facility to shelter and support him. With little societal awareness to build upon, Kaleeba courageously began the Komo Centre which today offers an educational program for children with autism. Unfortunately, autism awareness in Uganda is meager; doctors often regard autism as a sickness, schools exclude autistic children, mainstream teachers are often unaware of any intellectual potential, and sadly, special education teachers are easily asked “Why are you working with those children? Are you going to go mad, like them?” Amidst this pervasive mentality, children with autism have been devalued and their families painfully discouraged. The Komo Centre not only offers unparalleled outreach to those with autism, but also fervently promotes autism awareness.
For more information, please visit:
The Zeitgeist Movement: Aspies for Freedom Aims: -
- To prevent eugenic elimination of autistic people by opposing pre-natal testing for autism.
With the right support services in place, all autistic people are capable of living meaningful and fulfilling lives. However, negative media coverage and deliberate pity campaigning have created the public opinion that autism is a “tragedy”, and that people with autism have no hope of achieving anything. As such, the availability of a pre-natal test would cause the majority of autistic people to be aborted.
A recent study has shown that 91-93% of fetuses that test positive for Down Syndrome are aborted. As autism is genetic, if these figures were similar for a pre-natal test for autism, the autistic population would be decimated, and autistic culture would be destroyed.
Also, the majority of autism fundraising currently supports genetic research. If this money were to be channelled into support services, autistic people would have a much greater chance of living productive lives.
As such, Aspies For Freedom advocates against funding for genetic research that would lead to a pre-natal test.
- To oppose physically or mentally harmful “treatments” targeting autistic people.
Due to the public perception of autism, a large number of unethical treatments have become quite common. These include physically harmful treatments (such as aversive behavioural therapies or restraints), mentally harmful treatments (such as 20-40 hr/week ABA, restriction of non-harmful stimming and other autistic coping mechanisms), dangerous non-medically approved therapies based on discredited theories or religious beliefs (such as chelation or exorcism), and therapies that would be called “torture” if they were used on non-autistic children (such as the electroshock “behavioural” devices).
Aspies For Freedom advocates the removal of all physically or mentally harmful therapies.
- To emphasise the “spectrum” view of autism, and de-emphasise the differences between the various autistic spectrum labels.
There are several different labels used for people throughout the autistic spectrum. These include “High Functioning” autism, “Low Functioning” autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and PDD-NOS. The differences between these labels are often quite blurry, and are often based around childhood development, which has little bearing on the nature of an autistic adult.
One of the largest barriers to accessing support service is the use of sub-groupings to assign support, rather than assessing the needs of the individual. This means that, for example, someone with “high functioning” autism may be denied needed housing support due to the label, whereas someone with “low functioning” autism may be deemed unfit for activities of which they are entirely capable.
The autistic spectrum covers a very wide range of people, and these people don’t always fit neatly into the available groupings. Often these groupings are barriers to understanding, rather than tools for understanding. Essentially, the people in all the above groups are all a part of the autistic spectrum, and generalisation of the specific groups within the spectrum is counterproductive. The personality and needs assessment of a person on the spectrum should be looked at on an individual basis, rather than on the basis of a label.
As such, Aspies For Freedom supports the spectrum view of autism, and advocates the de-emphasis of differences between the autistic spectrum labels.
- To oppose the idea of an autism “cure”.
Part of the problem with the “autism as tragedy” point of view is that it carries with it the idea that a person is somehow separable from autism, and that there is a “normal” person trapped “behind” the autism.
Being autistic is something that influences every single element of who a person is - from the interests we have, the ethical systems we use, the way we view the world, and the way we live our lives. As such, autism is a part of who we are.
To “cure” someone of autism would be to take away the person they are, and replace them with someone else.
Also, funding for “cure” research is unlikely to ever produce a result. In the meantime, support services for autistic people are underfunded. This money would be far better used to help existing autistic people.
The cure mentality also influences cultural treatment of autistic people. Many parents focus on the idea of finding a cure for their child, and may neglect actual help and support in the process. Also, teaching children that they are “broken” and need to be “fixed” has long-term consequences for their mental health.
Aspies For Freedom opposes the idea of an autism “cure”, as a real cure would be unethical, and the current myth of the cure is harmful.
- To evaluate alleged treatments for ethical approaches.
One of the problems with the current state of autism treatments is that there is little in the way of quality control, and often a suggested treatment is commenced without thought for the ethics involved. Some example of unethical practices include the use of aversives (e.g. “behavioral” physical harm, denial of food, deliberate triggering of sensory overloads), unreasonably long hours (e.g. many people advocate 40hrs/week of ABA), potentially dangerous treatments (e.g. chelation), and focusing on “normalisation” rather than help (e.g. restricting non-damaging autistic behaviors, such as stims).
Aspies For Freedom seeks to assess the ethical dimensions of new and existing autism treatments.
- To increase funding for, and access to, autistic support services and ethical forms of treatment.
Many forms of treatment are highly beneficial to many autistic people - For example, speech therapy, sensory integration therapy, and general counselling. Also, ongoing support services can help people live more productive lives - for example, emergency housing, specialised medical services, and employment support services.
Aspies For Freedom advocates increased funding for support services, and supports the fundraising efforts of support-based autism charities.
- To oppose negative publicity campaigns against autistic people as a group.
The majority of autism fundraising is currently generated using “pity” campaigning, suggesting that autism is tragedy, disease, or epidemic that needs to be stopped. Unfortunately, this point of view has propogated itself through to talk shows, news stories, and other forms of media coverage.
The usual technique is to show nothing but footage of (presumably) autistic children having tantrums, and then footage of parents complaining about their lives. It is very rare to see footage of an autistic child engaged in ordinary activities, and even rarer to see footage of an autistic adult.
This “tragedy” view of autism is extremely damaging to autistic people, far beyond the scope that any funds generated could justify. It causes employment discrimination, it worsens social isolation, and it leads some parents to give up on helping their children, in favour of holding onto a false hope of a cure.
Some organisations take this even further, using phrases such as “soulless”, “worse than cancer”, or “incapable of love”. One of the biggest anti-autistic organisations, Autism Speaks, even went so far as to create a propoganda film in which a woman talks about wanting to drive herself and her autistic child off a bridge. This statement was made while her autistic child was in the same room.
These campaigns are based on stereotypes, prejudice, and deliberate misrepresentation, and they need to be stopped.
Aspies For Freedom advocates an end to pity campaigning, and an end to misrepresented or false media stories.
- To help promote an accurate yet positive image of autism.
One of the aims of the site is to help create a more positive view of autistic people, by showing the things we actually do, and emphasising positive stories about autistic groups and people. Autistics are a very diverse group, and our differences are a very valuable part of human diversity.
The reason for including the word “accurate” is that, although autistic people have achieved great things in art, science, mathematics, writing, and other creative endeavors, it is often the case that this is exaggerated to say that all autistics are geniuses - which has the unfortunate side effect of suggesting that an autistic person needs to be a genius to be considered a worthwhile human being.
Another extreme is the desire of some groups to ascribe mystical qualities to autistic people, which has the side effect of dehumanising autistic people.
Autistic people are everywhere. There’s a good chance that you work with or know an autistic person without realising it. Autism isn’t a tragedy, or a side-effect of genius - it’s a difference to be valued.
As such, Aspies For Freedom attempts to destroy stereotypes to create a positive and realistic idea of what it means to be autistic.
- To oppose all forms of prejudice and bigotry.
Many problems associated with autism are caused, or worsened, by prejudice. The root of this is prejudice itself - if we deal with only the forms of prejudice that currently relate to autism, another form of prejudice will rise up to replace them.
Because of this, Aspies For Freedom chooses to oppose all forms of prejudice and bigotry.
It includes forms of bigotry related to autistic culture, such as:
- The idea that being neurotypical (i.e. not autistic, or another psychological neurotype) is “better” than being autistic. (Note: this doesn’t relate to talking about specific abilities, just to the idea of general “betterness”)
- The idea that being autistic is “better” than being neurotypical. (Note: again, this doesn’t relate to talking about specific abilities, just to the idea of general “betterness”)
- The idea that some labels on the autistic spectrum are acceptable, but others are tragedies.
- The idea that Asperger’s Syndrome or PDD-NOS shouldn’t be part of the autistic spectrum.
- The idea that people have no right to self-identify as autistic
(Source: aspiesforfreedom.com, via socialuprooting)
AUTISM SPEAKS, BUT WHO IS SPEAKING?
Such a deceptive name. After all, a fair number of autistics are unable to speak; the name Autism Speaks suggests an organization that is willing to speak on their part for greater acceptance and improved services that might enable them to more actively participate in the world while still being able to benefit from what strengths autism might provide.
And autism does have its associated strengths: a dogged persistence; an ability to look at matters objectively and logically; an ability to focus on details that others might miss entirely. If we get rid of the “bad” aspects of autism, we’re also likely to get rid of these traits that, to be honest, can be extremely advantageous in certain lines of work.
In truth, however, Autism Speaks is not very amiable to autistics.
First off, despite the group’s ostensible aim of speaking for autism, there is not one single autistic on its board of directors, or otherwise represented within the ranks of the organization. There are plenty of autistics who are fully able to advocate for themselves, who are fully able to express what sort of support they would benefit from, and would have benefited from as children; however, Autism Speaks wants very little to do with them.
Secondly, and more importantly, read more»
Disparities Among African Americans With Autism... -
There are clear racial disparities in healthcare and special education, parents and caregivers must help arrest to ensure a brighter future for our loved ones with autism. Studies have consistently reported negative biases toward [people of color*] in the areas of diagnosis and treatment. Black autistic children were diagnosed later, received more misdiagnoses than Whites, and were more likely to be misdiagnosed as having organic psychoses, mental retardation, or selective mutism.
When President Obama nominated Ari Ne’eman to the National Council on Disability, many families touched by autism took it as a positive sign. Mr. Ne’eman would be the first person with the disorder to serve on the council.
But he has since become the focus of criticism from other advocates who disagree with his view that society ought to concentrate on accepting autistic people, not curing them.
A hold has been place… read more»
MINNEAPOLIS — Ayub Abdi is a cute 5-year-old with a smile that might be called shy if not for the empty look in his eyes. He does not speak. When he was 2, he could say “Dad,” “Mom,” “give me” and “need water,” but he has lost all that.
He does scream and spit, and he moans a loud “Unnnnh! Unnnnh!” when he is unhappy. At night he pounds the walls for hours, which led to his family’s eviction from their last apartment.
As he is strapped into his seat in the bus that takes him to special education class, it is hard not to notice that there is only one other child inside, and he too is a son of Somali immigrants.
“I know 10 guys whose kids have autism,” said Ayub’s father, Abdirisak Jama, a 39-year-old security guard. “They are all looking for help.”
Autism is terrifying the community of Somali immigrants in Minneapolis, and some pediatricians and educators have joined parents in raising the alarm. But public health experts say it is hard to tell whether the apparent surge of cases is an actual outbreak, with a cause that can be addressed, or just a statistical fluke.
In an effort to find out, the Minnesota Department of Health is… read more»
Autism Articulated: The "R-Word" -
A few days ago, I spent an afternoon with my 13 year old cousin. She is a charming young girl that understands so much about autism, especially since she has grown up with my brother. But during our conversation about a TV show, she says “Ugh, that show is so retarded!” The word retarded has always made me uncomfortable but honestly, I’ve never personally confronted anyone I know for saying it. They have never said it offensively, but at the same time, I’ve chosen to never make it a part of my own vocabulary. Meanwhile, I am aware of the “End the R-Word Campaign” and noticed the backfire of Jennifer Aniston joking about being a retard while she appeared on Live with Regis and Kelly. In response, the Special Olympics released a statement—“Special Olympics is always disappointed when the R-word is used, especially by someone who is influential to society.” The word retard clearly sparks an incredible amount of controversy, especially in the media—but do you think the controversy is justifiable? Do you find the word retard offensive? I would love to see your feedback and hear about how, if in any way, the “r-word” has affected you.
the r-word is definitely something that affects everytime i’m with my friends and they ignorantly blurt it out for every little thing. as soon as they say it i feel a surging pulse through my body, like someone has just thrown a bucket of vomit on me. it’s seriously disrespectful, but i find it difficult to address the issue because i’m afraid that people are too ignorant to understand why i find it offensive. they would have to live a life with someone like that to truly understand.
the one comeback that always punctures me is: “but my family relative has autism and i use it with him/her all the time and he/she doesn’t care.” there’s another layer of issues with that that the person may not understand. the person diagnosed with* autism already lives a life in which society is against them. they are at a social disadvantage. for them to address someone for saying retarded can further distance them from society for seeming too edgy, too much too handle, too angry because of their condition. so in fear of further stigma, they may repress the disrespect they feel from someone saying retarded and laugh along with them.
or it could be that the person diagnosed with autism knows what the word implies and simply doesn’t care what people think and will use the word anyway. that’s possible too. but personally, i don’t use it because it has such a negative connotation that isn’t even worth using it. there’s plenty of other ways to describe something different, bad, mediocre, lame, stupid. i hope that people are creative enough to drop the word indefinitely.
the ignorance is oozing quickly like lava down a hill.
*it’s more accurate to say someone is diagnosed with autism versus saying someone is autistic.
Peace and love.