Autreat 2010



Tuesday June 29

"One of us": Attraction and apprehension toward the concept of "belonging" - Jim Sinclair 

Map to Involvement: Effective Local Advocacy - Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone and Paula C. Durbin-Westby

The Ethical, Scientific, and Societal Implications of Grading Autistic People - Amanda Baggs, Drew Morton Goldsmith and Morton Ann Gernsbacher

Wednesday June 30

Understanding the Executive Functioning Issues That Can Impact on Daily Living and Social Skills in Autistic Individuals - Susan J. Golubock

Countering Bullying and Cyberbullying: Strategies, Approaches, and Recommendations from the Autistic Community and Allies and Supporters - Scott Michael Robertson

Navigating Security-Avoiding Pitfalls-Strategies for People within the Autism Spectrum - Rhonda L Basha

Thursday July 1

Technologies for Autistic Daily Living -Molly McGrath

Pseudoscientific Medicine: What It Is And How It Harms Autistics - Alexander Cheezem

How They Hate Us: Common Forms of Prejudice Against Autistics - Ari Ne'eman

Friday July 2

"Ask an NT" Panel


Understanding the Executive Functioning Issues That Can Impact on Daily Living and Social Skills in Autistic Individuals

Susan J. Golubock, M.Ed., OTR/L

The tasks that many people find easy are often the most difficult for autistics. Regardless of intellectual abilities, or age, individuals on the autism spectrum often struggle with daily living tasks such as self-care, dressing, organization, household chores and unplanned social interactions due to differences in executive functioning. Learn how to identify what is happening and what you can do to make these tasks easier.

Sue is an occupational therapist who was diagnosed with PDD, then Asperger’s in her 50’s. She currently works as an occupational therapy consultant to parents of children, and to adult clients, on the autism spectrum. Sue, along with Jim Sinclair, founded Making Sense of Autism, LLC, which provides workshops to help educate parents and providers of services in effective ways to work with autistic people. Sue’s area of special interest has always been sensory integration, to which she has added a master’s degree in assistive technology.    

The Ethical, Scientific, and Societal Implications of Grading Autistic People .

Amanda Baggs
Drew Morton Goldsmith
Morton Ann Gernsbacher

This workshop will critically evaluate the common tendency to grade autistic people” as low versus high functioning. One of the presenters (Goldsmith) will present the ethical history of grading people, including the use of terms popular at the turn the 20th century: low-, medium-, and high-grade normals, morons, imbeciles, and idiots. Another presenter (Gernsbacher) will review the contemporary scientific evidence, or lack thereof, for distinctions between so-called "low-functioning autistics" and "high-functioning autistics." And the third presenter will discuss the sociological basis of labeling autistic people as low- or high-functioning. Together, we hope to challenge clinicians', parents', non-autistic people's and autistic people's all-too-common tendency to grade autistic people.

Amanda Baggs is a 29-year-old autistic person who has been referred to by others as both low and high functioning (usually low) but rejects both labels.

Drew Morton Goldsmith is a 13-year-old autistic person who has also been referred to by others as both low and high functioning but rejects both labels.

Morton Ann Gernsbacher is a 54-year-old non-autistic person who rejects referring to other people as low or high functioning.

Technologies for Autistic Daily Living.

Molly McGrath

This talk will discuss new technologies being developed at the MIT Media Lab to help autistic people in their daily lives by providing a means for emotion understanding and recognition practice; distress detection; and assisted communication. The presentation will outline our projects and share the ideas, applications, and goals behind these interesting technologies. Specific technologies which we will most likely present include software for recognizing and classifying facial expressions, wearable hardware for sensing and displaying physiological changes related to nervous system activation (which goes up as a result of strong emotions and distress which could lead to an overload), games to help with auditory sensitivities, and an inexpensive alternative communication device that uses motion sensing. We will be open to discussion of these technologies and possibilities for others as well as collaboration with people from the autistic community.

Molly  McGrath is on the autism spectrum and an intern in the MIT Media Lab\'s Affective Computing Group. Over the years, she has participated in activism and discussion of alternative means of coping with autism beyond traditional therapies, including autism service dogs and various assistive technologies. Her current focus is applying affective computing and human-computer interaction in order to create technologies to help others with autism.

Pseudoscientific Medicine: What It Is And How It Harms Autistics.

Alexander Cheezem

The world of autism is awash with countless scientific and pseudoscientific treatments for a wide variety of both real and imagined ills. Many of these are based on false understandings and questionable rationales. This workshop is intended to discuss how to tell a pseudoscientific from a scientific treatment method, how pseudoscientific treatments harm autistics, and how the continued use of pseudoscientific "treatments" for autism complicate the national discussion on autism.

Alexander Cheezem is an autistic clinician from South Florida. During his clinical work, he has observed the harms caused by pseudoscientific treatments first-hand and has researched them extensively in order to better understand and help his clients.

"One of us": Attraction and apprehension toward the concept of "belonging"

Jim Sinclair

This presentation will explore what it means to "belong to" or "be part of" a group, why this concept is so appealing to some people, and why it's so uncomfortable or even aversive to others. What does it really means to be a "social animal," and how does it apply to autistic people? We will examine some of the benefits and pitfalls of group belonging, for individuals in general and for autistic people in particular. Suggestions will be discussed for effective communication and social self-defense when navigating one's own and other people's perspectives on group membership. We will consider implications for the concept and the experience of "Autistic community."

Jim Sinclair co-founded ANI in 1992 and has been coordinating ANI since that time and Autreat since 1996. Throughout these 18 years Jim has been repeatedly startled and astonished to find autistic people doing things we're supposed to be incapable of doing. This presentation is the result of research inspired by that startlement and astonishment.

How They Hate Us: Common Forms of Prejudice Against Autistics.

Ari Ne'eman, President, The Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Facing prejudice - both direct and indirect - is an experience Autistic people are usually very familiar with. Yet, unlike other marginalized groups in society, Autistic people often struggle to explain the specifics of how specific forms of behavior and experiences reflect prejudice and create societally-created difficulty for Autistic people. This challenge is common to many people with invisible disabilities and reflects the lack of a clearly describable narrative of discrimination and theory of prejudice. This presentation will analyze the concept of prejudice as applied to other communities, describe some of the ways in which Autistic people experience prejudice and open up a broader discussion as to how to deal with prejudice in our own lives and at a broader social change level.

Ari Ne'eman is the Founding President of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, where he initiates and directs efforts to increase the representation of autistic individuals in public policy discussions. An adult on the autism spectrum, he frequently briefs policymakers and speaks publicly on disability and autism policy issues. Mr. Ne'eman also recently completed service as Vice Chair of the New Jersey Adults with Autism Task Force, where he represented Autistic adults in reviewing the state's autism services. He also previously served on the New Jersey's Special Education Review Commission, where he authored a minority report on the topic of aversives, restraint and seclusion. Mr. Ne'eman previously served as the Policy Workgroup Leader for the Youth Advisory Council to the National Council on Disability. He is a board member of TASH and the Autism National Committee. In 2008, he received the HSC Foundation \"Advocates in Disability\" Award. Mr. Ne'eman graduated from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County in May 2010 with a Bachelor's Degree in political science. In December of 2009, he was appointed by US President Barack Obama to serve on the National Council on Disability.

Countering Bullying and Cyberbullying: Strategies, Approaches, and Recommendations from the Autistic Community and Allies and Supporters.

Scott Michael Robertson, Ph.D. Candidate (Penn State)

This proposed presentation will focus on the challenges of bullying and cyberbullying that negatively impact autistic people and our allies and supporters. The session will define and describe bullying and cyberbullying, convey how bullying and cyberbullying impacts the quality of life of autistic people and our allies and supporters, and offer strategies and recommendations for handling instances of bullying and cyberbullying. It will be interactive in nature in that the audience will be invited to offer their questions, thoughts, comments, etc as the subject is very complex, contextual, and personal. The presenter will also share his ongoing thesis research project on bullying and cyberbullying of autistic adolescent students.

The presenter of this session, Scott Michael Robertson, is an autistic adult who has previously experienced bullying throughout his childhood and adolescence (during all of K-12 education) and into his adult life (e.g. at work). Scott is active in serving the autistic and allied communities and the cross-disability community through various roles, such as mentoring, teaching, public service, community research, and public speaking. He serves as the Vice President of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, as a volunteer for the Pennsylvania Developmental Disability Council (PADDC), and as a leader in numerous other disability organizations. He is currently completing his Ph.D. studies at Penn State University (main campus) where he researches disabilities, quality of life, and technology.

Map to Involvement: Effective Local Advocacy

Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone
Paula C. Durbin-Westby
The presentation will be grounded in both the presenters’ experiences as advocates, and will present a road map to those looking to get involved in advocacy. We will talk about ways to get involved in advocacy and address areas of concern to Autistics, such as communication differences and requesting accommodations, types of advocacy that can be done at the local and state level, working with other Autistics on local projects, and others. Savannah will talk about working in organizations such as the board of Pa Families Inc, The Advisory for the PA state Office of Mental health and Substance Abuse Services, Youth Outreach Union, governing board member for National Youth Leadership Network, and Director of advocacy for Autism Women's Network. Paula will talk about opportunities for involvement in state-level autism planning such as is taking place currently in Virginia, where she is on two workgroups to decide state policy on a number of autism-related issues. She will also talk about sustaining longer-term efforts, including an update on IACC activities this year.

Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone has been involved in self-advocacy since the age of 12 in Mental Health issues, but it didn't become a passion until adulthood, after accepting her Autism Spectrum Dx. She is currently the Director of Advocacy at Autism Women's Network, as well as being involved in county and state advisories, National Youth Leadership network, and as a rogue advocate with ASAN. She loves Anthropology, Social Histories, Advocacy, and her Cats.

Paula C. Durbin-Westby is on the Board of Directors of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. Her work with ASAN focuses on public policy, most notably the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee as well as initiatives to prevent restraints, aversives and seclusion.

Navigating Security-Avoiding Pitfalls-Strategies for People within the Autism Spectrum.

Rhonda L Basha, JD

The presentation will focus on what people with autism can expect when they undergo TSA's security screening procedures, new and emerging programs and technologies, and strategies and tools they can use to pro-actively make the process easier. A listening session Q +A session will also provide a forum where participants can raised questions and provide input on new security procedure policy development and training.

Rhonda Basha is the Director of the new Office of Disability Policy and Outreach at the Transportation Security Administration. From 2001 until September 2009, she served as the Supervisory Policy Analyst for the Youth Policy Team of the Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy where she was instrumental in developing national level disability policy affecting transition-aged youth and young adults. Prior to this, Ms. Basha served on the staff of the Presidential Task Force on the Employment of Adults with Disabilities under the Clinton administration, as an agency liaison for the Office of the Executive Secretariat, and as a supervisory attorney/advisor for the Benefits Review Board of the United States Department of Labor.


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