• Lindsay Mohler,

The Disability Day of Mourning and Self Injury Awareness Day: March 01, 2021

Contributors: Lindsay Mohler March, 01, 2021

{ID: Faded candlelight dark background with lit red and white candles and text in white over it that reads: "Disability Day Of Mourning". On the bottom, white text reads: "FAA is unable to host an event this year, but will be providing event links and resources in social media posts and on the website. Please visit www.fierceautisticsandallies.org for more information!"} Piano music composed and created by Robert Gross, MT-BC, DMA., below in a video dedicated to the Disability Day of Mourning:


{Video Description: Piano Music being played.} Content warning: ableism, racism, queerphobia, filicide, murder, systemic violence, etc.

The Disability Day of Mourning is an important event every year to remember those who have been killed, murdered, and harmed by systemic ableism, racism, queerphobia, etc. within the disabled community. It is a day to acknowledge the filicide (which is the cause), and the victims that have suffered at the hands of able-bodied people. It is acknowledged world-wide. This day is not a day for racism, queerphobia, and other -isms. Filicide is defined as the legal term for a parent murdering their child. Filicide is not discussed enough within society, and many able-bodied folks do not acknowledge this day still. Here are some disclaimers about filicide, etc. that clear up misinformation and misconceptions about the murdering of the disabled by their caregivers. Disabled people are murdered by their caregivers more often than some may realize. We need to acknowledge the people that have fallen victim. This is a day to attend vigils. This is a time where able-bodied people need to allow disabled people to grieve. This is a time where able-bodied people need to allow families to heal and grieve. Domestic Violence is oftentimes underreported in the disability community because disabled people are more likely to become victims of abuse rather than perpetrators. Domestic violence can cause disability and more information about domestic and sexual violence can be found in this link. An article written by Sara Luterman for the Nation states:

"Gross also highlighted the dehumanizing way disabled people, particularly autistic people, are described in media. In 2014, a mother named Jillian McCabe flung her 6-year-old son, London, off a bridge along the Oregon coast. NBC News coverage quoted Dee Shepherd-Look, a psychology professor and parent: “These children are really unable to be in a reciprocal relationship, and the moms don’t really experience the love that comes back from a child—the bonding is mitigated.” She also described autistic children as “rigid and oppositional,” and said, “I’m surprised [filicide] doesn’t happen more often.” At the time the article was published, Shepherd-Look had been running an education group for mothers of autistic children."

This should never be something to say like: "I'm surprised filicide doesn't happen more often." These children do not deserve to die, and populations that are considered vulnerable are routinely targeted. According to the Autistic Self Advocacy Network:

"It isn’t clear how many disability-motivated filicides happen each year. While the FBI tracks the number of children killed by their parents in the United States, information about motive is not usually collected. Instead, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network tracks news stories about caregivers who kill. The stories are collected on a website and maintained by a volunteer. “It’s done with Google news search,” Gross explained. The person “has a pretty specific Boolean search string of words that they use.… It’s the best methodology available to us. Due to the delayed and incomplete nature of news reports, murders are sometimes added to the database years after they happen. Since March of last year, the website counts a little under a hundred killings. The site tracks murders dating all the way back to the 1980s. Gross is concerned that the coronavirus may increase the danger for disabled people. “There has been a spike in domestic violence during the pandemic,” she said, “and we know people with disabilities are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, including child abuse, including partner abuse.”

*Please note: FAA this year is unable to host a vigil; however, will be sharing more information about ASAN's and AWN's events. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network, which is located in Washington D.C., (and is one of our affiliates) will be hosting a Facebook live vigil event on this day, March 01, 2021, at 5-7pm EST. The Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network in Nevada, alongside the Georgia Community in GA will be hosting a Facebook live vigil event from 2pm to 3pm EST. More information about the live events can be found here via ASAN and here via AWN. Find your local vigil event here. More information can be found via the Disability Day of Mourning Website, here. There you can find the victims' information, who died, what year, etc. Plus, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network created an anti-filicide toolkit, which can be found here. This toolkit was created by ASAN for education.

{ID: Dark grey background with light orange colored ribbons and white text that reads: "Self Injury Awareness Day. March 01, 2021."} Content warning: ableism, racism, queerphobia, filicide, electroconvulsive shocks, restraint, extinction, etc.


We also wanted to acknowledge Self Injury Awareness Day, which falls on the same day as the Disability Day of Mourning. Self-injurious behaviors (SIBs) do indeed occur within the autistic community (as well as the disability community as a whole). Autistic people; however, are far more likely to be the victims of domestic violence. We do not advocate for or condone SIBs. SIBs do need to be redirected, and harm directed at anyone else does need to be redirected. SIBs are a form of self harm. Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and other forms of behaviorism that have been evidently harmful encourage forms of extinction used at disabled people to and punish SIBs, which in turn, punish that person's autonomy. We at FAA do not believe that someone should be punished through things like ABA for hurting themselves. Studies have shown that this only increases their chances of repeating the violence. Places such as the Judge Rotenburg Center, for example, are continually encouraging electroconvulsive shocks, ABA, and more, and have this persistent need of keeping autistics in Institutions. Institutionalization continues to encourage systemic violence. Autistic people are disabled by their environment, and SIBs may be occurring due to a lack of accessibility, or even a need for space from the perpetrator. SIBs can occur due to violence being directed at the autistic individual. Punishment directed at autistics also includes restraint and seclusion, as well as isolation. These types of punishments can further encourage SIBs and can harm autistic people. Other things, such as education vs incarceration, are important to discuss. Incarceration occurs often due to racism (and can include ableism, queerphobia, xenophobia, etc.). The list of punishment types above is not limited to what is mentioned here. Systemic ableism and racism can lead to incarceration. Microaggressions can build over time, and can very much cause distress in a person, and macro-aggressions are not the only types of punishment. Some educational institutions are more likely to contribute to microaggressions such as expulsions, suspensions, etc. due to a person's perceived behavior; however, folks within marginalized groups are more likely to be targeted because of hegemonic power structures at play. Learning to distinguish between top down and bottom up approaches are good to do, but more importantly, learning to distinguish between non-autistic and autistic behavior is something that some in society seem to still not fully grasp. A person cannot prevent a meltdown from happening once it occurs. If the meltdown involves self injury then one needs to not redirect the meltdown; however, redirect the SIB. A tantrum is not the same thing as a meltdown. They operate differently. More information on shutdowns, meltdowns, etc. can be found here. Some important things to ask yourselves while or before SIB may be occurring: 1. Why is it occurring? 2. What led up to it occurring? 3. What do I need to do in this very moment in time to prevent it from continuing? 4. How do I need to prevent it from further continuing through aiding the person? 5. How do I not use DARVO (Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender) techniques that dismiss the person's autonomy? 6. What can we do to prevent these things from happening in the future? 7. What are methods and approaches I can take that do not require further harm directed at the person I am aiding? 8. If the harm is me, what can I do better next time? The best thing to do? Ask autistic people what helps and what harms. Meet us in the middle. Ask autistic adults how to better help your child, including autistic parents. Fact: More often than not, the autistic person may not be in control of themselves due to a meltdown or a shutdown. Stigma needs to be addressed, and SIBs are usually caused by someone or something that may be happening. The autistic individual may not always mean to hurt themselves, but their body autonomy is not able to help them regulate, and overloads occur. SIBs can lead to suicide, and suicidal thoughts, but do not always. Self injury can also occur through folks who are allistic and non-autistic as well. Please keep up these conversations within yourselves and others. More information about the Disability Day of Mourning can be found under 'Events' on our site, Fierce Autistics and Allies.

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