Erin Ekins Thread

Twitter Thread by Erin Ekins (@QueerlyAutistic) on 5th February 2019

Why some #ActuallyAutistic people are really upset about the whole puppet thing: a thread for everyone involved in @allinarowplay.

Firstly, it’s really important to understand that this isn’t just people being offended on the internet. This is about serious generational trauma. (1/13)

You have to look back at how #ActuallyAutisticpeople have been historically treated. Whether it be the idea of the changeling, the Nazi genocide, or the anti-vaxxers decrying their ‘lost’ child, we have been treated as less-than-human beings – broken, soulless, and unworthy. (2/13)

Ivar Lovaas, the ‘Father of ABA’, explicitly described the autistic children he worked with as not being fully human. He didnt believe we had souls, he didn’t believe we were entitled to basic human rights unless we ‘earned’ them by learning how to be ‘not autistic’.  (3/13)

“With responsibility, the developmentally disabled individual takes on dignity and ‘acquires’ certain basic rights as a person.” – Lovaas literally wrote this in 1981. This isn’t ancient history. (4/13)

“You have a person in the physical sense— they have hair, a nose and a mouth— but they are not people in the psychological sense. One way to look at the job of helping autistic kids is to see it as a matter of constructing a person.” – this one is 1974. Not ancient history.  (5/13)

Lovaas is still held up by many people as a godlike figure. There are centres, ideas, buildings named after him. He received a glowing obituary at his death. People working today subscribe to his beliefs and ideals – an idea rooted in us not being actual PEOPLE. (6/13)

And there are many #ActuallyAutisticpeople who are alive today, suffering with the PTSD that comes from the ideologies espoused by Lovaas. We are at high risk of suicide. We are at high risk of abuse and murder by family, which the wider society still attempts to justify. (7/13)

When you begin to look at this, surely you can see why people are upset that the autistic child in your production is a puppet surrounded by flesh and blood actors? Again, we are reminded that we are not really people. At least not ‘real’ people in the allistic sense. (8/13)

When I see the puppet, I think of the idea of the #ActuallyAutisticbody as a shell into which an actual person can be moulded. I think of electric shock therapy, still going on in centres today. Because they think we don’t feel pain – we might as well be made of wood to them. (9/13)

This isn’t a commentary on your play. I don’t know your play. The script and the issues it tackles could be brilliantly done. But you have to understand the trauma and pain you have kindled with your decision to cast the autistic character as a puppet. Effect trumps intention. (10/13)

And it shows that the consultation process you went through was not enough. That you didn’t seek out a diversity of voices, who could easily have expressed this pain, and advised against a poorly thought out decision. Not all of us agree. But enough, if only you’d looked. (11/13)

To conclude: much of the theories that drive how we are treated in society are based on our dehumanisation. We are seen as objects, playing at being people, rather than people. We have died, and still die, because of this very idea. Your puppet casting underpins this narrative. (12/13)

We are in pain. Our trauma is real. And all we ask is that you acknowledge this, that you believe this, that you respect it, and, most importantly, that you be open to the discussions you should have had with us before taking this decision.

Here endeth the thread.  (13/13)