Autism advocate and comic lover Thomas McKean does not consider autism a superpower. Still, armed with his brilliant, open mind he pens a voice of reason amongst a universe of controversy. Thomas is “puzzled” by the epic autism battles other “advocates” choose. His story is a rare edition and his page-turning adventures prove the good advocates always win.
We are fans of Thomas A. McKean. His social media posts draw a lot of attention and we can’t stop watching the storylines unfold. Thomas spends a great amount of time explaining his point of view as an autistic. He also dedicates his energies toward attempting to understand others’ opinions, even those presented in a manner meant to bully or belittle others. Make no mistake, there are good guys and bad guys working for autism advocacy. If you don’t think so, give Thomas a follow and witness his journey of do-gooding. He’s been at it for quite some time!
Here are some of the questions we asked Thomas:
Brenda: Tell us about those early days. Who decided an institution would be a good option for you? How did you deal with that experience? And how did you escape that?
Kristi: When and how did the connection with the Autism Society of America happen?
Brenda: Thomas, before we tackle the PUZZLE PIECE TOPIC in detail, we want to tell our listeners how we as autism moms learned about you. As we have mentioned before and most recently on an episode discussing April Awareness month, there seems to be a discontent coming from some within our community. Mostly online bickering about what is and isn’t acceptable in terms of PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING. Which symbol best represents those on the spectrum. Is it “with autism” or autistic? Is ABA evil or not? And other tidbits.
KRISTI: While reading online we came across one of your postings where you discussed the origins of the puzzle piece. You were (and still are) the target of very vicious attacks. We sat in disbelief watching this unfold FOR DAYS. Because, you know, the puzzle piece symbol couldn’t possibly have been decided on by an autistic person. Did this take you by surprise? How have you been handling this?
BRENDA: You were one of the four original advocates along with Sean Barron, Donna Williams, and Temple Grandin who helped create the puzzle piece symbol. Tell us about that time. Had you met the other advocates before? How long was this meeting? Who brought up the idea of a puzzle piece? How did it go from that one meeting to its worldwide use?
KRISTI: And it wouldn’t be 2021 if we didn’t have to ask about the controversy over which symbol best represents individuals with autism. Have the haters even SEEN the SYMBOL that came BEFORE the multicolored puzzle piece?
If you don’t mind I’d like to quote something you posted that has really stayed with us. You say:
Even today, here and now, autism is still nothing if not a puzzle. For alllll we know about it now that we didn’t know in 1963, we still know nothing at all. And what we do know, or what we think we know, we will eventually learn a lot of it is wrong. I am certain of that.
AND YOU GO ON TO SAY – So why does it look hopeless? Because in 1963, it *was* hopeless. Totally, utterly, completely hopeless.
That took a lot of guts to say and was so eloquently written. Also, it’s the truth. Is there just no reasoning with those who deny the truth?
BRENDA: Having autism vs. autistic / acceptance or awareness / high functioning or requiring more services- parents today need a GUIDEBOOK! Can you please write and illustrate it for us? Better yet, what is your take? We feel like this focus on a war of words takes the spotlight off of those who need the most help- nonspeakers and the severely autistic.
KRISTI: Your superpower is your open mind and voice of reason amongst the universe of noise other (so-called) advocates are making. Many parents and organizations support these advocates with blinders on- not realizing that they’re being called martyrs, nazis, or worse- abusers. I want to listen to them but their delivery sucks! NO, THIS MOM DID NOT enter the autism universe to receive my 15 minutes of fame. Ugh. What is the ENDGAME these organized groups are seeking?
BRENDA: Our audience is made up of mostly autism parents, and we work hard to serve families of the newly diagnosed. I am sure LOTS of them would just love to pick your brain right now. Do you have any advice for parents who are struggling with a diagnosis and would love some direction? To them, you are an epic success story.
KRISTI: I too am a fan of comics as you are. I LOVED GREEN ARROW. What IS IT about comics that sucked you in? Is it that good guys win and bad guys lose? Or that bad guys almost always live to fight another day and good guys need to keep their guard up? Or not nearly as deep as what I just said?