Jan 24, 2013
The Loud Hands Project
By Guest Blogger Julia Bascom
The Loud Hands Project is a project by and for autistic* people. Our tagline is "autistic people, speaking," because the focus of the project is on sharing the fact that autistic people, verbal and nonverbal alike, have things to say and are finding ways, right now, already, to say them. The Loud Hands Project exists to create a record of autistic people communicating, by whatever methods they use (speech, sign language, writing, AAC, pointing, behaviorally, etc.) about issues that are important to the autistic community. We raise awareness of the existence of autistic communication, community, and culture, and encourage autistic people to speak for themselves, and nonautistic people to listen to us.
Because autistic people can use many different methods to communicate, depending on our needs, abilities, and preferences, the Loud Hands Project is a transmedia project. This means we exist on multiple platforms and in multiple mediums. Currently we have the video you saw above, and an anthology, now for sale on Amazon and in Kindle form. The anthology features an essential collection of some of the most fundamental writings by autistic people about autistic communication, community, and culture from the last twenty years, as well as some new pieces written just for this book. You can find the anthology here. In 2013, we are developing our website, loudhandsproject.com, and starting to film additional work.
The Loud Hands Project is a part of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, a disability rights advocacy organization run by and for autistic people.
Why are you called the "Loud Hands" project? What does "loud hands" mean?
A common experience for autistic people, as they grow up and go to school, is being told "quiet hands" and having their hands restrained when they flapped, stimmed, or moved in a way that their teachers disliked or found distracting or too visibly autistic. But for many autistic people, stimming, even movements that seems distracting or directionless, serves an importan
t role in self-regulation and helping us process, think about, and communicate and interact with the world. We're called the Loud Hands Project because we don't think there's anything wrong with being visibly autistic, or moving in an autistic way. We think it's much more important that autistic ways of behaving, moving, and being in the world are recognized as legitimate, valuable, and a part of human diversity, deserving of respect, accommodation, and acceptance. This idea is called "neurodiversity."
What is "neurodiversity?"
The Loud Hands Project is an outgrowth of the neurodiversity movement. Neurodiversity is the idea that it is important for our society to accept all kinds of minds and all kinds of people. It's similar to biodiversity, racial and ethnic diversity, or cultural diversity, but applied to cognitive disabilities.
Neurodiversity means that rather than trying to make an autistic person less autistic, we should recognize that their brain has an important and valuable way of looking at the world, and find ways to include them in our society, honor their perspective, and support them to be the happiest and most successful autistic person they can be. Neurodiversity is a basic extension of inclusion or disability rights.
If we all thought the same way, the world would be a very boring place! Neurodiversity recognizes that if can be difficult, frustrating, or painful to think in a way that is different from the way most people around you think. Rather than trying to make the person who thinks differently change and think like everybody else, neurodiversity is about finding ways that all kinds of minds and people can be a part of the same society.
Why should educators care?
Inclusive educators already rely on the basic ideas behind neurodiversity as they work to include and educate every child in the general education classroom. Educators who want to become more inclusive, especially for students with autism or other cognitive disabilities, might find learning more about and practicing neurodiversity to be an easy start.
For example, many education programs for autistic students focus on behavioral control and teaching the student to appear as nonautistic as possible instead of academic instruction. An educator whose work is informed by neurodiversity will know that there's nothing *wrong* with their autistic students, and that they have the same needs as the rest of her class--but how those needs will be met might look a little different. Instead of focusing on getting students "table-ready," a teacher who is practicing neurodiversity will find ways for her students to get the movement and stimulation they need while providing academic instruction. A teacher who is practicing neurodiversity will look for alternative ways for nonverbal students to communicate and participate, will support autistic students in areas of extra challenge, will recognize, respect, and celebrate differences and harmless variation in all of his students and will, essentially, use inclusive practices to ensure that every student in his classroom is learning, participating, and growing.
Neurodiversity in the classroom looks like respect, inclusion, and acceptance of every student's differences, development, and self. Neurodiversity means that every student, regardless of neurology or disability, is a valued member of the classroom. Many teachers are happy to find that they're practicing neurodiversity already, without even meaning to. It isn't rocket science--just respect.
How can the Loud Hands Project help educators?
The Loud Hands Project can help educators by letting them know about neurodiversity and sharing the voices of a wide variety of autistic people. Our anthology, available for purchase in both hard copy and kindle form, is a good starting place for educators who want to know more.
*The Autistic community, like the Deaf community and the Blind community, strongly prefers identity-first language (Autistic person) over person-first language (person with autism.) The Loud Hands Project is run by autistic people. We appreciate your respect for our linguistic choices and self-definition.
Julia Bascom is an Autistic writer. Her blog, Just Stimming… is her internet home and the official depository of her collected writings on disability, disability justice, and growing up and living as an Autistic girl.
Julia started writing when she was twelve and now makes speeches and presentations on Autistic identity and culture, as well as contributing to the blog LOVE-NOS.