What are we talking about?

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What are we talking about?

This week I researched high and low in order to keep you updated on current events in the community of people with disabilities. Hope you enjoy!

1. A tumultuous conflict between one family and their city council has taken place this past week in DeBary, Florida. About a year ago the Hart family made the decision to buy chickens in response to their pediatrician’s suggestion that owning a pet might be beneficial for their young son, J.J., who has autism. According to his mom, Ashleigh Hart, since first owning the chickens, “[J.J.] still has speech problems, but he’s talking much better. It’s great exercise for him.” The chickens came to J.J. through an experimental program organized by the city. However, one year later, the city council has decided to cancel the program, effectively taking away J.J.’s chickens. In response, J.J.’s family created a petition on the website Change.org, a facebook group telling J.J.’s story, and the website jjclucknducks.org. In addition, an attorney hired by the family put forth the idea that the city was disregarding J.J.’s rights under several federal laws protecting the rights of people with disabilities, and threatened to sue. Now, according to The Orlando Sentinel, the city council is considering making an exception for J.J. in light of his disability, and on December 18th, the family will know whether or not the chickens will be allowed to stay with J.J.

Watch a video telling J.J.’s story at “3-Year-Old Florida boy with autism denied right to keep his pet chickens” on The Huffington Post.


2. Despite autism and other conditions on the spectrum being more common in males, it cannot be forgotten that females too can have autism. However, when it comes to resources and research on autism, it seems that this fact has been disregarded.  People find few resources for women and girls with autism in comparison to the amount of resources for boys and men with autism. In addition, often left undiscussed are the unique challenges that young girls on the spectrum face, in particular, the conflict that occurs between having autism and societal expectations of women. As online blogger and parent of a girl with autism, Rachel Norton, stated, “Females are biologically and socially expected to be nurturing, intuitive, and empathetic…For girls, the collision between autistic characteristics and social expectations can be especially difficult and almost insurmountable during the teen years.” This “collision” can even be dangerous for girls on the spectrum, as they may be oblivious to or liable to misinterpret signals in social settings that could have alerted “typically-developing” girls to a potentially harmful situation – in particular in their interactions with boys and men.

Read more on the situation and discover resources for women and parents of girls with autism at “Girls with autism face unique challenges during adolescence” at Autism Daily Newscast.


3. The actions of sign language interpreter, Thamsanqua Jantjie, at the funeral service of Nelson Mandala has thrown the international deaf community into an uproar. Despite the man’s statement that he was an experienced interpreter who had translated for several other important events, his latest work horrified many viewers. During the service, Jantjie proceeded to sign incoherently, only succeeding in signing a few actual signs, delivered completely out of context. According to Marlee Matlin, the credited actress who also happens to be deaf, “It was almost like he was doing baseball signs. I was appalled.” In response to the outrage of the deaf community, Jantjie stated that while on stage he underwent a schizophrenic episode which made him unable to accurately interpret, yet he felt he could not leaf the stage in the middle of the proceedings. Charlie Swinbourne, of the blog The Limping Chicken, stated that, “On a day when the world saluted a man who fought oppression, a guy stood on stage and effectively oppressed another minority – deaf people, by making a mockery of our language.”

Read more about the incident at “5 things to know about the ‘fake’ interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s funeral” on Parade.com.


4. A post published on Facebook has cost one California teacher her job. On the morning of December 5th, 2013, Suzanne Hutton, who teaches students with autism, posted the comment, “Well I have an annual IEP this morning with lawyers and crazy parents. The student is a hot mess but so sweet! So after work I’m hitting happy hour at least I have something to look forward to!!! Deep breath…I’m going in!” Parents of another student of Hutton’s took a screenshot of the post, via Hutton’s publicly accessible Facebook page,  By the morning of December 6th, 2013, Hutton had been “removed from the classroom”. Said the mother of another of Hutton’s students, “You cross the line when you call a student severely impacted with autism a “hot mess”. And she’s not just saying that to friends after work. She’s saying this on a completely public, open forum where anyone can go see it.” Hutton’s experience reflects the increasing rate in America of disciplining teachers for comments said via social media.

Learn more about Hutton’s situation and that of other teachers at “Facebook post lands Torrance special education teacher in hot water” on The Daily Breeze.


I’ll leave you with our quote of the week:

“Try to be like the turtle – at ease in your own shell.” – Bill Copeland

Emily Pate is a third-year student at Seattle University interested in Strategic Communications, learning Spanish, and working with non-profits. Her work for Rooted In Rights is focused on discussing current events in the community of people with disabilities. Her experience previous to Rooted In Rights includes writing broadcasts for KBOO radio in Portland, OR, and managing a neighborhood blog in the Seattle community. In addition to work, Emily enjoys drawing, spending time with her friends and family, and backpacking.