A year ago, I found Julia Bascom's blog, Just Stimming, and it changed my life. Julia is a beautiful writer who eloquently describes the joys and challenges of being autistic. Within the last year, Julia created the video "The Loud Hands Project." This video, together with Julia's blog, is mandatory viewing for any and all who are even remotely interested in autism or know someone on the spectrum.
Click "here" and "here" for LHP's Twitter and Facebook pages. Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking is the newly-released book and anthology that so many of us have been eagerly awaiting. I am happy to report it is everything and more I had hoped for! Julia agreed to speak with me about all her various projects.
AZ: Julia, would you begin by talking about how the Loud Hands anthology came into being?
JB: Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking is the first published work of the Loud Hands Project. It's an anthology of essays written by and for autistic people, discussing autism, neurodiversity, the history of the autistic community and autistic culture, and disability rights. We have sections that discuss our historical context, the diversity of current realities experienced by adults on the spectrum today, the histories of abuse many of us have grown up with, the many different ways we can speak and communicate, our rhetorical foundations, and our hopes for the future. Some of the pieces were written two decades ago; others were written two months ago in response to our call for submissions. To quote from our Amazon page:
Spanning from the dawn of the neurodiversity movement to the blog posts of today, Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking catalogues the experiences and ethos of the autistic community and preserves both diverse personal experiences and the community's foundational documents together side by side.
I'm really proud of it.
AZ: I understand why! I thought it was brilliant. How long was it in the making?
JB: The Loud Hands Project was the convergence of several different ideas I'd been playing with over the last several years -- though I'm hardly the first to think about civil rights in terms of narrative, resilience, and voice. Things started to come together in the fall of 2011, and they got a jumpstart when my essay "Quiet Hands" -- about the abuse and silencing of autistic people -- went viral. A project centered around honoring autistic voices, however they're shared -- through speech, AAC, behavior, or another medium -- seemed the obvious next step.
The project itself has been in the making for about a year now -- I filmed the video about 13 months ago, and we started fundraising Dec. 26. The anthology has been in various stages of editing and production since May, though the call for submissions went out before we were done fundraising, and I was emailing people asking for reprint permissions over the winter and into the summer. It's been a mad rush.
AZ: Now that the anthology has been published, what's next?
JB: We're in the final stages of production for our website right now -- loudhandsproject.com. You can sign up there for an email alert to let you know when we're live! I'm really excited about this site. Long-term, our plans are for it to function as a sort of library of autistic culture, community, and history. When we launch, we're going to have some really innovative materials, a sort of neurodiversity 101 section. We're also going to be experimenting with some community engagement platforms that will allow a whole community to come together and, using various mediums and methods of communication, create a community text on a chosen topic -- what does accessible technology mean to you, what does autism look like grown up, what does stimming do for you, anything, really.
As we develop our library, we're hoping to include both archives of texts that are important to the autistic community historically-- Don't Mourn For Us, In My Language, etc. -- as well as newer voices, and texts that are written as well as video or in other media. The Loud Hands Project is all about the fact that, whether we can use oral speech or not, autistic people have voices. We're showcasing and documenting the ways in which we're already speaking.
AZ: The anthology and the coming website represent autistic people, verbal, non-speaking and everyone covering the full spectrum, yes?
JB: Absolutely. Some of our contributors speak orally; a number of them use augmented communication or type to communicate, either part-time or full-time. One of the main focuses of the Loud Hands Project is deconstructing what we mean by the idea of "autistic people, speaking." It's a pretty basic assumption in the disability community that everyone speaks and everyone has something to say --it's just a question of finding a way to communicate that is accessible to all parties.
AZ: Was the anthology and the coming website created for a specific audience?
JB: Our first audience, and the community we focus on, is the autistic community. We are preserving, organizing, and showcasing our voices, our resilience, and our heritage. We are speaking and hearing ourselves reflected back. But if other people want to hear us -- or discover that we have things to say at all -- they are of course welcome. They'll be hearing us soon enough.
AZ: Your blog, Just Stimming was the first blog written by an autistic adult that I found, and it quite literally changed my life. It was the first time I'd read an autistic person describe both the joys and the challenges of being autistic. It gave me hope, not just for my daughter, but for all of us. I'm guessing you've heard this before. Does it surprise you?
JB: You know, I get emails every so often now, still, from parents telling me they brought Quiet Hands into an IEP meeting. I have emails from people who knew nothing about neurodiversity or disability rights, who saw my piece about Abed and fell down the rabbit hole, and now that's one more person who thinks every brain matters. I get a lot of messages from other autistic people, some intensely personal, saying this happened to me too. I know, for a fact, that there are people, a lot of people, people I've never even met, who are safer now because of a stupid essay I couldn't not write after I watched some television.
It never stops being bizarre.
I still don't know how to respond. I don't blog very much, and when I do it's not for other people, it's so that I can remember that I thought this thing, I found these words, and they helped me. My blog is called Just Stimming for two reasons: because all I'm doing is lining up words, just stimming ... It's hard work. It's important to me. It's significant.
And I know that. I know it matters, because anytime someone claims their voice it matters, but it's so intensely personal. It's not written for an audience.
But I also remember being 15 and scared and looking at people saying some very big and terrifying things about me, and then going online and finding other people like me, who were writing for themselves. And I don't think they meant it to, but their writing changed my life. Their writing told me I could have a life.
And if I can let someone else have that, I think that can only be good.
Ariane Zurcher can be found on her blog: Emma's Hope Book.
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