by Debra Muzikar
Last year while attending a College Success class at Santa Barbara City College, Kevin was taught success equals vision plus action. He was asked to write his goals which included where he wanted to live, what he wanted to do, and how he visioned his future.
Last week, I picked up his workbook. Kevin wrote: “I will live in San Diego, I will work in a restaurant. I will create art. I will have an apartment of my own.”
A couple weeks ago, when I discovered the possibility of Kevin’s move to San Diego, I enlisted the support of several good friends to hold Kevin’s vision. At the same time, we held a vision for Kelly Green and her son Wyatt. Kelly lost her lease and was given notice to move. She was in tears at the thought of being homeless.
The day we started the visioning group, Kelly found her new home. She received the keys yesterday.
This week, we learned Kevin has been accepted to a placement in San Diego. My move to San Diego County this year paved the way for Kevin’s vision to manifest.
Lana David of Autism Unites says follow your child’s lead. It seems Kevin has lead us to a new life in a new community with new friends.
Collaborative visioning has tremendous power.
Keri Bowers and I joined together to create The Art of Autism many years ago. Our vision statement read “The Art of Autism is a collaboration of like-minded organizations and individuals. We promote the gifts of those on the spectrum … People on the spectrum often internalize the negative messages broadcast on the media. We provide an alternative to those messages; focusing on the positive aspects of autism.”
Since then, Keri and I have parted ways. Though the trademark The Art of Autism is still in both of our names. This presents a conundrum. Keri is presenting an Art of Autism exhibit in Los Angeles next May. I’ve decided to bow out of that event for ethical reasons. Autism Speaks as a sponsor doesn’t represent my values or The Art of Autism’s vision statement.
Although the Art of Autism has been at Autism Speaks events in the past, John Elder Robison’s departure from Autism Speaks advisory boards a year ago gave me clarity. Donations to Autism Speaks primarily go to genetic research to cure autism. The idea of curing autism is antithetical to The Art of Autism’s vision statement.
John Elder Robinson wrote “I have tried to help Autism Speaks staffers understand how destructive its messages have been to the psyches of autistic people. We do not like hearing that we are defective or diseased. We do not like hearing that we are part of an epidemic. We are not problems for our parents or society, or genes to be eliminated. We are people.”
John’s letter to Autism Speaks speaks directly to the Art of Autism’s vision statement.
In the last year, I haven’t seen a change in Autism Speak’s funding model or rhetoric. The vision for The Art of Autism has always been collaboration with like-minded organizations. At this time, Autism Speaks falls short of being a like-minded organization.
As Wayne Dyer says, “You’ll never find light by analyzing the darkness.” I would rather talk about what we support rather than what we don’t support.
Keri and I support one another in creating positive futures for those on the spectrum. I’ve asked Keri to present her views about what I’ve presented above.
My vision for the autism community in the next year is:
“2015 will be a breakthrough year for autism and diversity. Autistic people who put effort into creating positive outcomes will be rewarded. The gifts of autism will be appreciated. Programs which help those on the spectrum create healthy, empowering lives will be funded. Those who seek help will receive it.”
So on Giving Tuesday and beyond I encourage others to support organizations which help create empowering lives for people on the spectrum. Organizations such as The Autistic Self Advocacy Network, The Celebrate Autism Foundation, The Miracle Project, Autism Movement Therapy, and Harambee Arts are worthy organizations.
On a local level, programs as Hidden Wings, Autistry Studios, Madison House, Autism Unites, and Seeds for Autism empower people on the spectrum. I’ve blogged about many of these nonprofits. There are many, many programs which help autistic people create better futures.
Please give your donations with intention.
So what is my vision for The Art of Autism for the remainder of this year and 2015? “The Art of Autism will continue to showcase the gifts of autism. We will collaborate with like-minded organizations. We will continue to post blogs that educate and create acceptance and awareness. Our blogs will be read by millions.”
This last year 100,000 unique individuals have visited this website. We’ve heard many different voices who have contributed blogs. I look for submissions from autistic people themselves as well as others who share interesting insights. As always, we post beautiful art and poetry created by those on the spectrum.
If you would like to be part of a community visioning circle submit your goals and vision to theartofautism (at) gmail.com for a future blog.
As Kevin’s class showed, success = vision + action. There is a reason “labor” is involved in col-labor-ation. Working together we can envision a better future for ourselves and our children.