In the early days of my autism diagnosis, while I was a college student, my autism community consisted of my best friend Leigh and only Leigh. Now, this is not to say that Leigh doesn’t make for some pretty awesome camaraderie, but a pair of two does not community make. I longed to meet people like me. I didn’t know that approximately 1% of people my age had ASD. I didn’t know about all the bloggers and authors and organizations. All I knew was that I was different, and I felt left out.
I started blogging in June 2009 and from there, I found myself in a community of mostly parents of kids with ASD. To this day, some of these moms remain my dearest friends, and I can talk to them about anything, from behaviors to diagnoses to… things of which I’ll spare you, here. Let’s just say, they are there for me, and they provide me with community in a big way. But still, where were the people like me? I still felt like an odd duck– a welcome, wanted duck, but an odd one, nonetheless.
As time has gone on, I have, mostly through Facebook, met up with some amazing autistic advocates. There is a very basic level of trust, or rather, of community, among us. I’m different. You’re different. Let’s be different together, why don’t we? I have made friends with autistic people of all sorts. We don’t agree on everything, to be sure. But we respect one another, and we support one another, and that… that is community. These friends are there when my cat is sick. They’re there when I’m having a hard time. They’re there when I need help. Let’s be different, together.
And this experience of mine has left me with a dream, that when any person is diagnosed with ASD, somehow, magically, they are enrobed with community. They hear not “you’ll never be…” and “you can’t…” but rather will find themselves at the center of a community which works together to ameliorate our weaknesses while building each other up in our strengths. I dream that no child will grow up in isolation, wondering who he is and why he is here. That no child will be afraid to speak his mind– his beautiful, unique, autistic mind.
There is a way to make this dream one step closer to reality.
Taken from the creator of The Loud Hands Project:
The Loud Hands Project is a transmedia publishing and creative effort by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, spearheaded by Julia Bascom. Currently, we are raising money towards the creation of our first and foundational anthology (Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking) and accompanying website.
The Loud Hands Project is thrilled to announce that after just nineteen days of fundraising, we not only met but surpassed out stated goal of $10,000. The anthology is officially a GO! Check out our submissions guidelines.
Our initial goal has been met, but indiegogo is still encouraging us to keep fundraising for the next 60 days. We made over $10,000 in just nineteen days. How much do you think we can accomplish with the two months we have left?
We’ve got some ideas.
Here’s the deal. We’ve set three incremental benchmarks. As we meet each benchmark, we’ll be able to fund additional components of The Loud Hands Project. After all, as you can see from our description above, the anthology has always been just the beginning. The Loud Hands Project is a lot more expansive than a single book, and we have an opportunity to start putting down roots much earlier than we’d hoped. Take a look at what we’re thinking of:
Benchmark 1: $15,000 “About us, without us”
“About us, without us” is a video about the Autistic community and our place in the conversation around eugenics and the prevention of autism. If we make the $15,000 benchmark, we’ll be able to pay for Julia to go on the road and collect interviews and footage, and cover production, editing, and initial distribution costs.
Benchmark 2: $20,000 “Welcome to the Autistic community”
-With these funds, we can rush website development and have the Loud Hands project website complete, fully accessible, and ready to launch on April 2, 2012—Autism Acceptance Day.
-Use the website to commence the development of materials tailored to all ages and abilities explaining autism and welcoming the autistic person to the community.
-Initially, this will take the form of a letter drive, blog carnival, and pamphlet-design competition, with ongoing further refinement and eventual publication of materials.
Benchmark 3: $25,000: Connecting to Community Together
To begin, we will produce a DVD incorporating video and written content from across the history of the Autistic community, establishing our historical context. Then, to explore the state of the movement today, we will use the funds raised to establish a Conference Scholarship fund for Autistic self-advocates to use to attend Autistic and disability rights related conferences and events connecting to the larger theme of disability culture. Scholarship recipients will participate in a second video documenting Autistic community and culture.
With an overarching commitment to undoing the cultural processes and ghettoization that make autistic people strangers to ourselves and spectators in our own stories. Put another way, The Loud Hands Project consists of multiple prongs organized around the theme of what the Autistic community refers to as “having loud hands”–autism acceptance, neurodiversity, Autistic pride, community, and culture, disability rights and resistance, and resilience. We focus on cultivating resilience among autistic young people and empowering the Autistic community writ large in building communities and cultures of ability, resistance, and worth. To quote Laura Hershey: “you weren’t the one who made you ashamed, but you are the one who can make you proud.”
This project is the means by which a child will grow up, never without community.
While the Project has raised its goal of $10,000 extra funds are still welcome and needed so that they can do more good. Good for me, good for you, good for our kids. Please consider donating to the Loud Hands Project in any amount. You can donate here.
Let’s make the dream for community a reality for tomorrow’s kids.