This year has been one of the most eventful and challenging in our lifetimes. Looking back on what we've done while facing the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic, the unifying theme has been what we have accomplished together for our collective well-being—through protest, through friendship, through mutual aid and support.
Thank you for supporting Autistics United Canada. We cannot do our work as a volunteer grassroots organization without your support, whether it be donating, providing technical assistance, sharing our work, volunteering with us, speaking up with us, or sharing space with us. For those new to our community: welcome. Let's take on what 2021 brings together.
What We’ve Been Up to in 2020
#AskingAutistics about National Autism and Disability Policy Survey
Images: text inside two red boxes. Text reads: "#AskingAutistics about National Autism and Disability Policy bit.ly/AskingAutisticsCanada" and "##OnDemandeAuxAutistes sur la politique nationale en matière d’autisme et de handicap"]
The federal government has committed to developing a National Autism Strategy. However, autistic people have not been adequately consulted on what we need in federal policy. This is why we launched an #AskingAutistics about National Autism and Disability Policy Survey.
We are still asking autistics to take this survey! It is available:
Image: text in a red box that reads "Autistics United Canada Community Survey".
We consulted the autistic community on what kind of resources, events, and advocacy they would like to see from Autistics United Canada. We did this through two community roundtables in British Columbia and Nova Scotia, along with our Canada-wide survey. This helps us keep our priorities in line with the needs of autistic communities in Canada. We will be releasing a summary document of what we heard later this year.
The survey is still open—take it by clicking here!
Image: yellow text against teal background. Text reads "Neurodivergent hangouts online board games & chat!" Yellow stars in the top right corner and the Autistics United Canada logo of eight interlocking infinity symbols in a rainbow of colours in the bottom left.
In March and April at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we held weekly online hangouts for neurodivergent people. We knew it was important for neurodivergent people to stay connected however we can. These hangouts are continuing again on the last Sunday of every month!
We chat and play online board games in small groups. CART (live captioning) is provided and ASL interpretation upon request.
Register for next one (Feb 28) here: tinyurl.com/NDhangout28
We will be posting information about upcoming hangouts up regularly on our Facebook events page.
Disability Day of Mourning 2020
Image: candle against black background. Text reads "Disability Day of Mourning Remembering people with disabilities murdered by caregivers
On March 1st, 2020, Autistics United chapters held local vigils to honour the lives of disabled people murdered by their caregivers. This annual international event works to bring awareness to these tragedies and to send the message that disabled lives are worth living.
Our next DDOM vigil is happening online on March 1st, 2021. Visit our Facebook event page and stay tuned for more details.
All Brains Are Beautiful Workshops
Twice in May, we hosted our All Brains are Beautiful workshop, an introductory workshop on neurodiversity, autistic identity, disability justice, collective access, inclusive event planning, and more.
We will be hosting this workshop again in the future. Keep a look-out on our social media pages and our mailing list for when the next one will be!
If you attended the workshops and didn’t receive the follow-up materials, please contact us to let us know!
International Day of Protest Against ABA
August 31st is the International Day of Protest Against ABA. Started by an Autistics United Canada organizing member, Protest ABA Day grows bigger every year. Last year, we started a Facebook page, @ProtestABA, and received submissions from autistic survivors of ABA, autistic activists, and allies to continue speaking out against ABA.
Have an article, piece of art, or writing to share about ABA? Send it to us via e-mail or our @ProtestABA Facebook page!
Infodump: Sharing Our Interests
In May, we hosted Infodump, an online social event where autistic people gave 5 minute talks on a topic they were passionate about! We had 8 presenters presented on a variety of topics! We hope to host this type of event again in the future.
COVID-19 Resource List
As the COVID-19 pandemic set in, we worked with Autistics for Autistics Ontario to create a COVID-19 resource list for autistic people. If you have a suggestion for a resource to add to our list, please contact us!
Violence against Autistic People & AAC users
(Content: filicide, abuse)
The past year, autistic people and otherwise disabled people have had our lives uniquely threatened by COVID-19 and the societal inequities that it exacerbated. We have felt the effects of COVID-19 through ableist policies around access to healthcare, education, and basic needs--including essential visitors and AAC access in hospitals. Child abuse rates have risen; filicide of autistic people remains a pressing issue to our community.
Autistics United Canada organizers continue to meet with policymakers to advocate on behalf of our communities. We also know that state violence cannot be entirely solved with state solutions, and we’re working to build online peer support and mutual aid through Facebook and Discord.
In June, we released a statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and included a resource list for people to learn, support, and take action. People of colour, particularly Black and Indigenous people, face disproportionate state violence, which can be compounded by disability status and also create disability.
Disability justice and the liberation of all disabled people requires racial justice. Black lives matter and Black disabled lives matter. Indigenous lives matter and Indigenous disabled lives matter.
Nova Scotia: Petition Against New Institution
In July, Autistics United Nova Scotia petitioned against a Cape Breton institution that was being built for autistic children as young as 2 years old. Autistics United opposes institutions and other forms of segregation and believes that autistic people and their families should be given support to lives within their communities.
Protests Against Anti-Vaccination Film Screening
In February, members of Autistics United Manitoba, Autistics United Nova Scotia, and Autistics United BC protested the screening of an anti-vaccination film that spread misinformation about autism. Vaccines are safe, effective and save lives. We oppose the misinformation and fear-mongering about vaccination and autism perpetuated by anti-vaxxers.
An Autistics United Canada organizing member created an auto-captioning starter guide, which you can find in our resources list, and was interviewed about it and the importance of captioning recently on CBC.
Taking on 2021 Together
If you are interested in getting more involved with Autistics United Canada, consider signing up for our volunteer training! We will be hosting workshops on accessible activism, disability justice, goal-setting, and other skills for volunteers. This training is only open to autistic people.
Sign up: http://bit.ly/AutisticOrganizerTraining
Discord Server for Autistics
We’re setting up a Discord server that will be open to autistic people! This will serve as an online community for discussion, activism, and peer support.
If you would like an invitation to the Discord, please email us at info@AutisticsUnitedCA.org or contact us on our social media.
Upcoming Events: Disability Day of Mourning and Neurodivergent Hangouts
On March 1st, 2021, Autistics United Canada will be hosting the 9th Annual Disability Day of Mourning, a vigil that celebrates and honours the lives of disabled people murdered by their caregivers. This year, the vigil is being held virtually.
Visit our Facebook event for updates: https://www.facebook.com/events/235701151423535
We will continue to host our Neurodivergent Hangouts on the last Sunday of each month.
Visit our Facebook page for updates: https://www.facebook.com/AutisticsUnitedCA/events/
We're Looking for Autistic Artists and Graphic Designers!
To fundraise for future projects, we’re commissioning autistic artists and graphic designers to work with to create merchandise (prints, t-shirts, cups, etc.) with positive messages about autism! The funds will be used to help us host accessible community events with ASL interpretation and CART.
This is a paid opportunity. Autistic BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) are especially welcome. If you are interested, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or through our social media.
Continued Advocacy, Resource-Building, and Community Support
In 2021, we will continue our advocacy for autistic people during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly on our right to access safe and accessible healthcare. We will continue to call for provincial and national policies to be made in consultation with the most marginalized of our communities. We will continue to create and build resources and spaces by autistic people, for autistic people.
Let’s take on the next year together!
Autistics United Canada organizing team
Hello everyone! Here are some updates on what’s been happening in the different chapters of Autistics United Canada. It's a long one--we have been busy since our last update!
BC Accessibility Legislation
BC members of Autistics United met with the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction to discuss the autistic community’s priorities for the historic BC accessibility legislation in the making. We also attended the in-person sessions held by the BC government in Comox Valley and Vancouver.
We teamed up with the Neurodiversity Listening Society to host an input session for autistic and neurodivergent people across BC, to generate a report to submit to the government.
We will keep meeting with the Ministry in the coming months to ensure autistic voices are represented in the new law. This means we need to hear from you! Our online survey is still open for comments: https://forms.gle/xZjGifqHFZYnzfCbA
Our Stories, Our Voices: Autistic Intergenerational Storytelling Event
Our Stories, Our Voices is a storytelling event connecting autistics of all ages, held on August 25th. The event aimed to provide social stories by and for autistic people, rather than the neurotypical-centred social narratives we often encounter. A picture-book making session followed the storytelling itself.
Protest Against Autism Speaks
Members of Autistics United Vancouver protested against Autism Speaks Canada at their walk on October 6th in Richmond. The protesters stood on the sidelines of the walk and held signs, handed out pamphlets, and told passersby about the issues with Autism Speaks. We invited them to consider the neurodiversity perspective and positive alternatives. The protest was covered by several media groups. We made the front page of The Province!
We also had coverage from CBC, News 1130, and Richmond News.
Summer Fire Roast Potluck
There was a potluck for autistic people in Comox Valley on August 14th at the Kin Beach Provincial Park. Autistic people in the area brought food and beverages to the event and enjoyed a bonfire and the natural scenery.
There was a game night at the Courtenay Vancouver Island Regional Library on October 9th. The event included coffee and snacks as well as board games for attendees to enjoy.
Protest Against Autism Speaks
Autistics United Fort McMurray protested against Autism Speaks alongside Neurodiversity YMM at the Autism Speaks walk in Edmonton on September 15th. The protesters wore red shirts to represent autistic pride, spoke to families about the neurodiversity movement, and referred people to further information about autism acceptance and pride.
Booth at Pride
Autistics United Fort McMurray attended the PRIDE YMM celebration at Jubilee Plaza on August 24th. The group answered questions about neurodiversity and held an interactive activity encouraging infodumping.
Collaboration with Manitoba Theatre for Young People
A major children's theatre, Manitoba Theatre for Young People, is putting on a play next year called Spelling 2-5-5, which has an autistic character. Autistics United Manitoba will be consulting on this play, which includes giving input on study guides for schools, and being involved with talkbacks after the show.
Autistic Pride Day
Autistics United Manitoba had a successful Autistic Pride Day picnic at Assiniboine Park. The event was held on June 15th and included snacks and outdoor games.
Unspoken Film Screening
The Nova Scotia chapter held a screening for the film “Unspoken” in Dartmouth on October 26. The film describes the life and experiences of Emma Zurcher-Long, a non-speaking autistic person who uses AAC to communicate. After the screening, participants had a discussion about the film and its contents, and the importance of respecting all forms of communication. More film screenings are planned for next year!
Article about Anti-Vaccination
Halifax Today released an article about the recent meeting between MLA Steve Craig and a known anti-vaxxer. He mentioned the meeting in a Twitter post which he subsequently removed, issuing an apology for the meeting. The article mentions Autistics United and quotes chapter leader Alex Kronstein discussing the situation.
Autistics United Canada is holding a fundraiser to raise money for improving accessibility at events, including ASL interpretation, braille transcription, sensory equipment and stim toys, and more. Donate through fundrazr to support Autistics United and help us make autistic-led events and projects accessible for everyone!
#AutisticsVote Federal Election Toolkit
Members of Autistics United worked on creating a toolkit to help autistic people vote at the November election. The toolkit includes information about Canada’s political system, the federal election and its candidates, and the process of registering to vote and voting at the polls.
Talking to Your MP About Autistic Self-Advocacy
We have a toolkit available to help people reach out to and work with their MPs on matters relating to autistic self-advocacy. The guide includes information on finding your MP and making a meeting, advocating during the meeting, and following up after the meeting.
The toolkit was by the Autistic Advocacy Coalition of Canada. Autistics United Canada is a member organization of the AACC.
Report to the United Nations Committee Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Autistics United submitted a report to the 22nd Session of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which was held August 26th to September 20th. The report highlighted areas of concern for autistic people in Canada in relation to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The report focused on a variety of areas, including the right to life, education, accessibility, and employment.
International Day of Protest Against ABA
The second International Day of Protest Against ABA (started by the Nova Scotia chapter of Autistics United) was held on August 31st. The protest featured hashtags such as “#SayNoToABA” and “#InternationalDayOfProtestAgainstABA”, and included information about the ways in which ABA is harmful to autistic people.
To counteract Canadian Autism Awareness Month, Autistics United held a social media campaign to highlight the achievements of autistic people, giving spotlights to 31 autistics in our community. We could not talk about everyone but will do it again next year!
The name Autober was coined by Albertan member Riki Entz, and Christopher Whelan took the lead in creating the posts.
Autober 2019 posts can be found on Fort McMurray and National Facebook pages.
International Day of the Stim
The International Day of the Stim was created by our colleagues at A4A to celebrate stimming and its significance. Members of Autistics United participated in the event, which included posts on Facebook and Twitter about the importance of stimming and stimming positivity.
Media Coverage about the National Autism Strategy
Autistics United was featured in an article by City News 1130 about the shortcomings of the national “autism strategies” discussed by campaigners in the 2019 election. Vivian Ly pointed out the importance of improving things for all disabled people, rather than singling out autistics. The article also mentioned the Federal Election Toolkit released by Autistics United around that time.
Interview about Issues with Blue Pumpkin Campaign
Vivian Ly was featured in a video by City News 1130 about the blue pumpkin campaign. Vivian highlighted the issues with requiring autistic children to out themselves to participate in trick-or-treating, and the risk of confusing the campaign with the use of teal buckets to show which houses have non-food offerings on Halloween.
We are currently working with other autistic-led advocacy organizations across the nation to establish the Autistic Advocacy Coalition of Canada (AACC)! Stay tuned for updates on our Twitter.
2018 was a busy year for Autistics United Canada!
In the last year, we have changed our name in order to better include our Indigenous autistic siblings and respect the land we occupy and work on, launched our website, and hosted socials and events to foster autistic pride in our communities and advocate for ourselves in and the wider disabled community.
Some of our major projects this year were our annual Disability Day of Mourning (DDoM) vigils, which we were able to live stream from Vancouver this year, and our letter writing campaign about immigration for people with disabilities regarding the medical inadmissibility provisions in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Both of these campaigns were held nationwide!
We have also been able to reach out and form stronger relationships with other self-advocacy organizations such as A4A Ontario and London Autistics Standing Together (LAST). These relationships have also helped us create a new chapter, Autistics United Nova Scotia - Wabanaki Confederacy and Mi'kmaq Territory, which was formed in early December.
AU Vancouver - Musqueam, Squamish & Tsleil-Wututh Territory
AU Manitoba - Anishnaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota & Dene Territory & Homeland of the Métis Nation
AU Nova Scotia - Wabanaki Confederacy and Mi'kmaq Territory
While this chapter just formed in December, Chapter Leader Alex Kronsteinhas been a long-time Autistic advocate, including hosting DDoM annually and advocating against dangerous therapies. We are excited to work with him more in the future!
What's Coming for 2019?
In addition to our annual events, such as DDoM and Autism Acceptance Month, this year we also plan on:
We could not have made it this far without the support from you and the community! If you would like to be more involved, or have any suggestions or stories to share, please consider becoming a member, volunteering with us, or reaching out to us over social media (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr) or email (email@example.com). We have our work cut out for us in the upcoming year!