Monday, August 3, 2015

Micro-Outreach: A Guy Moving the Sofa and Autism Speaks

My wife and I bought a swank new couch, love-seat, and coffee-table set. It's our first new-from-the-store piece of furniture, ever, and replaces a couch we got from freecycle. The old couch was big and cushy, but it was frankly falling apart when we got it and it needed to go. So we bought a new living room set and men came to deliver it last Thursday. One of them noticed a piece of art, currently in the entryway.

Abigail Gray Swartz is the artist-in-residence for the Motherlode section at the New York Times, where my essay about Autism Speaks was published last June. She kindly sent me the illustration she did for the piece. It's very cool, but as a picture without the story, it can also give the wrong impression that I'm supporting the blue puzzle piece.

Image description: Two ice cream cones, one of which has the Autism Speaks puzzle piece on it.
That's what one of the movers thought. He said to me, "As I come in I noticed the picture. It's very striking, and I couldn't help but see the puzzle piece. Does someone have autism?

"Well, no, but my son has Down syndrome. You know about Autism Speaks?" I said.

He said, "My nephew has autism and we did a walk." Autism Speaks sponsors a lot of fundraising and awareness walks.

I said, "I'm a journalist and I focus on disability issues. This is a piece of art that illustrated a piece I wrote for the New York Times that was critical of Autism Speaks. They aren't my favorite organization."

He got serious. "Tell me."

I said, "Well, they talk about autistic people as if they are missing, their families destroyed. Is your nephew's family destroyed?"

He said, laughing, "No!"

And so we talked some more about my critique of AS. I gave him a reference to the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network and my card, and said he or his family could get in touch with me any time.

And our couch looks fabulous.

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