Sunday, January 21, 2018

letter to congress person/senators regarding IACC and Sam Crane's unprofessional behavior

I've written the following to my congressperson and senators:

I’m an individual with an autism spectrum disorder that wishes to bring to your attention, problems with governmental autism policy, specifically with the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee.  This committee conducts policy recommendations for the federal government.  The CARES act mandates that at least two individuals purporting to be on the autism spectrum are appointed as public members.  So far, seven individuals who are opposed to curing and treating autism have been appointed, who believe in a philosophy called neurodiversity which purports that autism is not a medical condition, but an alternative form of brain wiring.  Zero pro-cure, anti-neurodiversity autistics have been appointed as public committee members, though two have been nominated and turned down.  I think this is totally unfair and it is not within the spirit of the law as the CARES act states that the viewpoints of committee members should be fair and balanced. 

Furthermore, the two current autistic committee members, John Elder Robison, and Samantha Crane are very functional people who appear to have no overt disability.  In fact, John Elder Robison has stated he has no disability.  Samantha Crane is a very successful Harvard trained attorney. 

Apparently, a person who purports to be autistic who wants to serve on this committee only has to self-identify and not provide any proof of a professionally obtained diagnosis.  I asked them about this on social media and John Robison claimed that I was insulting him.  Samantha Crane stated that there was no reason she should have prove her autism and made the false statement that she was not appointed to the committee because of her autism.  Though Ms. Crane said she’d release her medical records to the IACC upon request, but not to the general public.

I write you this letter, urging you to introduce legislation to amend the CARES act to require public members of the IACC with an alleged autism diagnosis produce proof of professional diagnosis to the committee and the general public, and explain to the stakeholders in the autism community how autism has impacted their life and disabled them.   

I wrote to the IACC via their invited public commentary that I felt the autistic public members should provide proof of a professional diagnosis and explain how in spite of their apparent functionality, how autism is impacted their life and how they are the least bit similar to the 99.9% of autistic individuals they serve and state they represent.

Afterwards, Ms. Crane, on social media, made the false statement that I was “told to mind my own business” and that “I was harassing the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee” for writing polite and invited public commentary that she did not happen to agree with. 

I don’t believe that people who are stakeholders in the interest of a public committee should be spoken to this way, on social media, or anywhere else.  I’m hoping you can write the acting Secretary of HHS, and the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health and deal with Ms. Crane’s absolutely unprofessional behavior.  I also feel the house and the senate should investigate the IACC and how the Department of Health and Human Services is vetting public members of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee and also introduce legislation to change the law, requiring autistic committee members to provide proof of a professional diagnosis and explain to stakeholders how their autism handicaps them.  Your help in this matter is appreciated

Jonathan Mitchell 

For those who feel as I do, I urge you to write the congress, the department of HHS and the president, and send comments to the IACC about this and maybe we can do something about this.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Tenth Anniversary of Autism's Gadfly

Today marks the tenth anniversary of my first post on autism’s gadfly, after I moved my blogging from Jonathan’s Journals,  the short-lived predecessor to this blog I used occasionally on my stories website.

I posted my second entry on January 20, 2008, where I discussed whether or not being opposed to neurodiversity meant being opposed to human rights.

Ten years seems an appropriate milestone to celebrate an anniversary, but to discuss the issue more thoroughly, some backstory is needed.

In 2002, I was on the national radio show Studio 360, plugging my first (and failed and unpublished) novel, The School of Hard Knocks about an 8-year-old autistic boy’s experiences in an abusive special education school, as well as a satirical take on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  An individual named Tim Boucher was so impressed with my interview, he built me a website which became Jonathans-stories.com, where I published some of my short stories and non-fiction writings.  It also had a journal section powered by blogger, that I wrote in sparingly.

Some years later, I wrote my initial critique of the movement I loathe so much: Neurodiversity: Just Say No.   Harold Doherty read my article and publicized it on his blog.  This initiated some controversy among ND proponents who were not happy with my essay.  This included the famous autistic autism researcher Michelle Dawson.  She stated that she wanted to comment on my article, but that my Jonathan’s Journal did not have commenting and that Doherty would not allow her to comment on his blog.  Others wanted to comment.  I decided to start a more traditional blog that allowed commenting and I moderated comments.

Michelle Dawson engaged in an online temper tantrum, stating that because I moderated comments, she would not comment on my blog and that I was an opponent to human rights, though she acknowledged she did not know what rights I specifically opposed.  I turned off  moderation and invited her to comment on my blog, but she still declined.

After some of the nastier ND’s began to be extremely abusive to me, I turned comment moderation back on.

It’s been an interesting decade.  I’ve discussed a variety of topics in my blog posts,  but the majority of posts dealt with taking on the neurodiversity movement.  I began to grow a small following and started receiving several comments on various blog posts.

A variety of coups took place.  I found out from Steve Shore that Ari Ne’eman would be in Newsweek.  I wrote about this asking for equal time.  After Barack Obama appointed Ne’eman to the National Council on Disabilities, he denied that he’d ever said autism was not a disability while the senate decided whether or not to confirm him.  I exposed statements where in fact Ne’eman did say that autism and Asperger’s were not disabilities.  After publishing them on Gadfly, Ne’eman attempted to re-write history by editing one of the essays where he said autism was not a disability.  Left Brain/Right Brain’s Matt Carey publicized the edited version, denying Ne’eman ever stated autism was not a disability  Ne’eman, while denying he’d said autism was not a disability, acknowledged he’d made a mistake in the words he used in his essay, admitting that he could have been construed as implying it.  He further stated that if that was the worst mistake he’d ever made in print, he’d consider himself lucky.

When someone was using Wrongplanet.net to threaten to carry out a mass shooting, I publicized this in my blog and reported the individual to the FBI.  They apparently contacted the Swiss authorities where he lived and he was dealt with.

I’ve received a lot of flack from various people due to my blog posts.  I’ve tried to keep a cool head, though sometimes I failed and I regret that.  This happened when I was being mocked and insulted on the Whose Planet is it Anyway blog run by “The Autistic Bitch from Hell”.  I didn’t turn the other cheek and wrote angry and inflammatory things back.  I won’t offer apologies for my behavior, but I will offer regrets.

The media also took an interest in my blogs and writings.  Andrew Solomon in his New York Magazine article on Neurodiversity gave me token mention to provide faux balance.  He also mentioned me in his book, Far From The Tree.  Benjamin Wallace also mentioned me and what I’d written about Simon Baron-Cohen in another New York Magazine article.  A journalist in Australia also mentioned me on the website of a public television station article.  A British journalist was going to interview me for the Sunday London Times, but that fell through.  I published an article in Los Angeles Magazine.  I was also on the NPR show, morning edition talking about donating my brain to science (regrettably Autism Speaks).  Robia Rasheed used this to inspire the first scene of the first episode of her Netflix show Atypical.  My desire for equal time in Newsweek was also granted some years later and the magazine did a profile about me, though they insulted me in the print edition with the title a hater’s guide to self-hating.

Though I can point to a few accomplishments, there are also the failures.  For the past ten years, I’ve blogged against the neurodiversity movement, trying to show how flawed it is.  Despite this fact, my pleadings seem to have fallen on deaf ears (though I may have figuratively preached to the choir who embraced some of my messages).

I never dreamed that the federal government would embrace neurodiversity and appoint several ND proponents to government posts relating to autism and appoint zero pro-treatment, pro-cure advocates.  I never dreamed they would rename the Combating Autism Act to the CARES act because the term ‘combating’ offended neurodiversity proponents.

I never dreamed that the Autism Society of America would have people like Alex Plank and Steve Silberman as keynote speakers at their conferences.

I never dreamed that Autism Speaks would give up the search for a cure and prevention and change their mission statement, and appoint Nds to their board of directors  However, given their half million dollar grant to Laurent Mottron, their putting John Robison on a science advistory board, and their funding of Alex Plank’s inane Autism Talk TV, I guess it should not have come as a shock.

Last but not least, I never dreamed the media would fete Steve Silberman and his book Neurotribes, enabling it to become a New York Times best seller.

I suppose nobody ever said that life was supposed to be fair.

Another interesting event happened yesterday which appropriately gives good culmination to my tenth anniversary.  At yesterday’s meeting of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, John Robison mentioned comments I’d written to the agency, where I said the U.S. government should concentrate on doing science research that will lead to treatments and cures for autistic individuals and not concentrate on neurodiversity and accommodations.  He also noted the comments I made that he and fellow IACC member Samantha Crane should provide proof of a professional diagnosis of autism or forfeit their seats on the committee.  Ms. Crane also mentioned the fact I’d written to Dr. Joshua Gordon about her and JER’s attitude, and that she should release her medical records to Dr. Gordon, showing a professional dx as a condition of her serving on the IACC.  She stated she would not release her medical records.  In some subsequent interactions on twitter she stated that she was not appointed due to her autism, so her diagnosis had no relevance.

This is outright dishonesty on Ms. Crane’s part, as the law specifically states that autistic persons are to be appointed to the IACC, ergo a large part of the reason she and Mr. Robison are there is because of their alleged diagnoses of autism.

I don’t understand how two such functional individuals, one a graduate of Harvard Law school, merit a diagnosis of autism, and I feel they should explain it to the public they serve as well as provide the IACC with documentation from a clinician they’ve been diagnosed.  I don’t believe this is asking for too much.  However, Robison and Crane think so, though Crane stated she'd release her medical records to the IACC if asked, but not the general public.  In addition, my emails to Joshua Gordon, the acting secretary of HHS, and president Trump asking them to do something about this remain unanswered.  This is the way it goes.

Ms. Crane and JER are not the only individuals whose autism I’ve expressed skepticism over.  My detractors have occasionally turned this on me, saying that people could express skepticism toward my alleged disability and say Jonathan Mitchell can’t be autistic for xx reasons.  I should provide some sort of proof of my diagnosis.

Though, unlike Crane, Robison, and others, I’ve never used a dime of taxpayer money to promote my agenda, my critics are absolutely right.  It was a mistake for me to question others’ dx without providing some evidence of my own.  Therefore I’ve rectified the situation and uploaded some paperwork from the Courchesne research group of my diagnosis that I used in my Disability case several years ago.  I welcome anyone whose autism I’ve expressed skepticism of to do the same.

John Robison has repeatedly criticized me for only writing negative things about the neurodiversity movement on my blog and not trying to do something positive for the autism community.  I’d much rather be a brain researcher, geneticist, or a wealthy philanthropist and do research to find answers for developmentally disabled people, or fund the research or fund jobs programs and housing for autistic people than engage in angry tirades against the neurodiversity movement. However, I don’t have the millions of dollars of autism speaks.  Unlike James Simons, I’m not a multibillionaire, and I sure don’t have the resources of the federal government.

My ambitions to go to graduate school and become a brain researcher, experimental psychologist, or what not, didn’t pan out, so I can’t do research that might help ASD people at some point in time.

However, I do feel my work in exposing the nastiness and dishonesty of the ND movement is important and I feel it does good to point out all the harm they’ve caused and how their influence in both the private and public sector are impeding research into autism that could lead to scientific advances that can help those of us affected and their families.

Contrary to what some of the nastier Nds have asked me and/or written about me, I’m not a parent disguised as an autistic person writing these things.  I don’t forge positive comments on my blog.   I’m not paid to write these posts by Autism Speaks, Generation Rescue, Age of Autism, or Jill Escher or anyone else ND’s have accused me of accepting money from.  

So, though I’m not blogging as much anymore, I will continue to speak out against ND from time to time, and maybe, on occasion, write blog posts on other topics also.  Anyway, happy tenth anniversary to Autism’s Gadfly and We don’t need no stinking neurodiversity. 

Addendum: Now Ms. Samantha Crane is stating that I'm harassing the IACC by writing invited public commentary which is polite albeit critical of some of its members and the organization's procedures:

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Neurodiversity proponent Nick Walker wants to make me a criminal for my speech.

Nick Walker is a neurodiversity proponent whose profile and exposure has recently been growing.    Mr. Walker, who claims to be on the autism spectrum, has a rather interesting background for an autistic person He's a sixth degree black belt in aikido and owns and operates his own dojo.  He also owns a publishing company and is a college instructor at two colleges.  He has a wife and a daughter.  Though he's written prolifically about neurodiversity, as far as I know, he's never described on what basis he's been diagnosed as autistic (assuming he's not self-diagnosed) or how autism manifests itself in his life.

Mr. Walker has also complained about Temple Grandin and John Elder Robison, referring to them as "tame autistics".  Apparently, they are not strident enough in promoting the neurodiversity movement or adopting a bellicose enough attitude to suit Saint Nick.  Based on some of my behavior on the internet over the years, I don't think he could say that about me.  Though our ideologies are diametrically opposed, I think Walker or anyone else would have a hard time calling me a tame autistic.  If anything, I've been a pretty controversial and wild autistic. 

I recently renewed my interest in Walker as some months ago (though I was not aware of this until recently) he was claiming Autism in a Different Key authors John Donvan and Caren Zucker were in the process of making an anti-neurodiversity documentary.  This was something I'd be interested in seeing.  He warned neurodiversity proponents about this, urging they not consent to be interviewed by the authors as they would present any pro ND in the most unflattering manner possible.  He correctly states that Donvan and Zucker presented Ari Ne'eman in an unfavorable manner in their book.  It could be argued it was well-deserved, and if anything they were being charitable to Ne'eman in not presenting to their readers how truly bad he's been over the years. 

If they're making this documentary, I'm curious why they didn't contact me.  After all, I've had a pretty high profile as an autistic anti ND activist.  I've been profiled in Newsweek, I've been on public radio shows and the Autism Live podcast, presenting this.  Or perhaps Donvan and Walker don't want to get my side of the story, assuming this statement is not a fabrication on Walker's point.  I won't provide the link to it, but the interested reader can certainly find it on YouTube and other places.  I'll be interested to see if this documentary Walker claims is in the works will ever be made.  I guess I'll see it if it is and it's available to me. 

My interest was particularly piqued by some of his writings in a piece titled "five steps toward autism acceptance."  He states: 

Individuals and organizations that speak of autism as a “disease” or “tragedy,” and that talk of “curing” it, should be prosecuted for hate speech and incitement to violence, just as if they were advocating a “Final Solution to the Jewish Problem"

I have repeatedly said that I believe autism is a disease, a tragedy, and I've brooked no quarters in stating that I want to cure it. According to Nick, I should be a criminal and I should be prosecuted and apparently imprisoned.  Apparently, Walker has never heard of something the people who founded this nation more than two hundred years ago wrote called the constitution.  The very first amendment to the constitution gives us the right to free speech.  Apparently Walker would like us to live in stalinist Russia.  As a Jew, I'm also offended that Walker would bring my ethnicity and the holocaust into this. I strongly suspect that Walker is not Jewish unlike myself. 

Walker is certainly not on the fringe of the neurodiversity movement.  His neurocosmopolitan website is frequently quoted by individuals as giving valid information as to what the neurodiversity movement itself is about.  It appears high in the google search on neurodiversity.  

I feel the same way about describing autism as an alternative way of being rather than a disorder or the statement that people who want to cure autism are advocating prenatal abortion and genocide.  But I would never advocate denying an ND proponent their free speech, no matter how vehemently I disagree with them. 

I wonder how long it will be before Walker is appointed as an autistic member of the IACC.  How long will it be before Autism Speaks has some involvement with him or maybe appoints him to their Board of Directors?  Will the Autism Society of America have him as a keynote speaker at one of their national conferences?  I wonder when I'll be imprisoned for stating my beliefs about autism because it's hate speech and I'm inciting violence.  The way things are going in the autism world, it might not be a long way off.