Stories from the brainreels guests: Karen and John Krejcha of Autism Empowerment
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Karen and John Krejcha got a diagnosis of Autism for their younger son when he was around two years old. A few months later, their older son got an Asperger’s diagnosis. (That name existed as a separate diagnosis back then.) The process led to Karen receiving an Asperger’s diagnosis not long after. It’s not an uncommon story. What was very uncommon at the time was finding and meaningfully connecting with other families, accessing affirmative information and resources, and expressing the ways in which being on the Autism spectrum is a beautiful, valuable, worthwhile way of being.
What’s way too easy is finding promotional materials that use scare tactics about epidemics, medical professionals who emphasize and focus on the Autistic person’s limitations and how many can and should be fixed, and email campaigns announcing that we’ll have a better society once the Autism diagnosis is eradicated. (By the way, several brain injury advocates forwarded me that email campaign recently. It was by a famous TBI spokesperson who was, yes, doing fundraising for brain disorders research. He was not advocating inclusion, acceptance, understanding, or equity. He was advocating Utopia. You know, that place where most of my friends and I would not be allowed because we have impairments.)
Karen and John started the non-profit organization Autism Empowerment in Vancouver, Washington in 2011 to become a hub of information about life with Autism from the perspective of Autistic people and their allies locally, regionally, and worldwide. And the particular perspectives they promote don’t fantasize that society will be improved once they and people with similar life experiences are eliminated. They uplift, amplify, and support Autistic people of every age. (They also support anyone to identify however they like. I’m using the term “Autistic” here and not “person with Autism,” a term which is also fine by them.) Through a variety of services and programs, they accomplish their mission to enrich and empower the lives of children, teens, adults and families within the Autism and Asperger communities. Everything they do is built with four pillars (and more, really): accept, enrich, inspire, and empower.
Here’s a short video of Karen winning The Jefferson Award. I typically do not post videos without Closed Captions. This one only has the obnoxious YouTube auto captions, which sometimes are kinda accurate and sometimes ridiculous. So I transcribed the video. Please click on this sentence to read the video transcript.
I’m especially in love with this interview because it’s so filled with story. That said, I want you to be able to find Autism Empowerment online and see a list of their programs and services. Here is a bunch of links that will take you to Autism Empowerment paradise.
Autism Empowerment Radio: blogtalkradio.com/autismempowerment
I lastly want to leave you with these other links in case you want more things similar to Karen and John’s perspectives and experiences. They’re very much not alone in their disability justice attitudes around Autism.
“Understanding neurotypicality” is a completely hilarious satire on the We Are Special (Wij zijn Speciaal!) blog that describes neurotypical (non-Autistic) behavior as a list of impairments and limitations in need of rehabilitation.
“Do YOU Have a Child with Autism?” is a fierce post on the Yes, That Too blog. The post argues that Autistic people very well might know more about Autism than parents of Autistic children. (While this post has a different tone than Karen and John typically take, the idea of taking Autistic people as experts on Autistic life holds.)
Letters to autistic kids run by Ibby Grace is a place for Autistic kids and adults to write letters to the community or request someone write in on a given topic. Ibby promises on the site to “100% keep bullies out.”: toautistickids.blogspot.ca/
There’s some background and context for you. I hope you’ll have a listen to my podcast conversation with Karen and John. We had a wonderful time talking about both what Autism Empowerment does and the reasons that it’s so important to Karen and John and the community to uphold the values that they do.