My guest this episode is Alicia Broderick, author of the new book The Autism Industrial Complex: How Branding, Marketing, and Capital Investment Turned Autism Into Big Business. Her book traces the cultural, political, and economic history of autism. We talk about the history of autism services, how industry greed often gets in the way of useful approaches that can help families and some advice for families of newly diagnosed kids on how to find the best approaches and sift through all the hype.
Listen to the podcast by pressing Play on the audio file below. Also available on Spotify, Stitcher or iTunes. Read the transcript at the link below the audio file
Cal Montgomery is a trans, queer, autistic, physically disabled activist and writer in the United States and a survivor of long-term institutionalization. He is a Director of the Board at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, engages in direct actions and civil disobedience around disability rights issues and is a former member of ADAPT, the US direct-action organization.
Cal is at the forefront of action against the electric shock aversives used at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Massachusetts, which we talk about in the podcast. Cal is probably best known in the neurodiversity community for his essay “Critic of the Dawn”. In it, he writes: “Disability is injustice, not tragedy; unequal treatment, not inherent inequality.” I highly recommend you check out that essay as well as following Cal’s blog, Watch Well: A Blog about Disability.
Cal’s activism and analysis is informed in part by his own experiences as a survivor of residential institutions and, after institutionalization, working for some time in group homes. Cal describes how the institutional model is replicated in group home settings, even when they have a veneer of independent living. As he observes: “It’s really not that hard to take a program that looks like it supports self-determination and make it all about control. And we see it done every day.” The goal of disability rights is to dismantle the relics of the residential institution approach and to support self-determination–independent supported living–instead. “We need to make it so that people are running their own lives and staff are not running their lives.”
We talked about the Judge Rotenberg Centre (JRC), a residential institution that has been using shock torture on autistic and IDD residents, with a device that has now been banned by the FDA. The JRC has continued to use it against the FDA ban and the international professional association of ABA providers has endorsed its use. Both ADAPT and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network have a campaign to get the FDA to enforce the ban and #StopTheShock.
We also talked about the present day situation of institutions, the fight for fair housing and more. Despite some of the difficult subject matter of this podcast, I walked away with a feeling of hope, the kind of hope that is given by shedding a light on truth–one of the many, many gifts that Cal brings to the movement. Thank you, Cal.