In the education world, we often hear and use words like “inclusive” and “accessible” without much effort being made to take steps to create classrooms and communities that focus on the justice of people with disabilities. A prominent example is the lack of representation of the disabled among the revolutionaries and change makers we teach our children about in school. You can help disabled students feel validated, seen and heard by amplifying the voices of autistic activists in your classroom.
This April, during Autism Acceptance Month, you can use the disability rights tagline “Nothing About Us Without Us” to reflect on how disabled voices and perspectives can be incorporated into the curriculum. If you are ready to move from erasing autistic people’s voices to centering them, here are some people you need to get to know.
Courtesy Ashia Ray
Ashia Ray (founder of Raising Luminaries, a child-friendly social justice movement that “brings families together to smash Kyriarchat” through children’s picture books) is an autistic, multiracial (Chinese / Irish) second generation person who, along with her Partner with two children in the home countries of Wampanoag and Massachusett.
Luminaries’ extensive and radical book collections and analyzes help adults conduct difficult conversations with children in a developmentally appropriate manner. From picture books helping kids talk about shootings to helping caregivers raise anti-ableist children, every book collection is jam-packed with resources that educate us on the importance of intersectionality (because we know systems of oppression are mutually exclusive nourish). As part of the Raising Luminaries community, adults learn how to move from awareness to action, participate in collective action, and trigger change in large and small ways.
Ways to connect and learn:
- Support Ray by sponsoring their work through Patreon.
- Join the Student Ignition Society, a community of radically inclusive early childhood educators, where you can find free resources like Family Action Toolkits to teach children about social issues and the power they have to change the world.
Additional resources for educators and carers
Lei Wiley-Mydske is a multicultural autistic activist, wife and mother in school. She is the director and founder of the Ed Wiley Autism Acceptance Lending Library. The Lending Library serves the Stanwood and Camano Island, Washington communities by loaning books and materials that promote the acceptance of autism, social justice, disability rights, and neurodiversity. Wiley-Mydske is also the Community Outreach Coordinator for the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network (AWN).
The Lending Library is also home to the Neurodivergent Narwhals, which are several colorful cartoon narwhals that cover everything from COVID-19 to people’s different ways of communicating in a range of educational infographics and stories that parents and Educators can teach children (and themselves) about disabled access and what it means to help shape a more inclusive world. For example, the Identity First Language infographic teaches us that many autistic people prefer the first language of identity because autism is a declaration of pride. The “Why is everything so strange? Covid 19 Social Story” helps children understand the virus and change our daily lives, such as: B. social distancing and more hand washing. The inclusive classroom graphic helps us learn what it means to be truly inclusive by reading it and thinking about the difference between separate classrooms, mainstreaming and inclusive schools.
Here is an excerpt from the “Inclusive Classroom Graphic” that explains what an inclusive school looks like:
I am in an inclusive school! My class is set up to be sensory friendly and approachable. I can be in the same class as everyone else and I never have to go to get “services”. My teacher values all styles of learning and works with a special needs teacher, language and occupational therapist to support me. Classes are taught in such a way that everyone can participate in a way that makes sense to them and the environment is adapted to our needs!
Ways to connect and learn:
Morénike Giwa Onaiwu
Morénike Giwa Onaiwu (she / she) is a disabled educator, writer, speaker, parent and lawyer in a multicultural, neurodiverse, “serodifferent” family (ie one partner has HIV and the other does not).
Giwa Onaiwu, who is passionate about human rights and education, said she was “here to open the mind, and open the heart, to fill the mind, and to fill the heart, to change the mind, and to do that To change heart. That’s why I do what I do. “
Giwa Onaiwu has been featured in books such as Autistic Community and the Neurodiversity Movement: Stories from the Frontline, which provide a historical overview of the autism rights branch of the neurodiversity movement. Most recently, she was co-editor and contributor to the above anthology, Sincerely, Your Autistic Child: What People on the Autism Spectrum Want Their Parents to Know About Growing Up, Acceptance, and Identity.
Ways to connect and learn:
This list of autistic disability rights activists is by no means exhaustive, and it is important to recognize that there are many different voices and perspectives within the autistic community. In the future, think about it: How can you start destigmatizing disabilities in your home, classroom, community, and beyond? Check out the following resources to expand your learning.