Note For Anyone Writing About Me

Guide to Writing About Me

I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

Citing My Posts

MLA: Zisk, Alyssa Hillary. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

APA: Zisk, A. H. (Year Month Day of post.) Post Title. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Viewpoint Essay on the YAI Network Relationships and Sexuality Policy

So, I know I mentioned my viewpoint essay in my update on my gender and woman's studies action project. This is the essay.

Trigger Warning: Incompetence assumptions, references to erasure and abuse

Attribution Paragraph
The YAI Network lists aims to provide hope and opportunities for people with developmental disabilities and their families, and it provides many resources that programs, staff, and family members can use to help those with developmental disabilities. Among their goals are allowing people with developmental disabilities to maintain control over their own lives to the greatest extent possible while meeting their support needs, and their policy on relationships and sexuality affirms this. They note that people with developmental disabilities have the same rights as anyone else: “to express their sexuality so long as they are not injuring themselves or others” (2,) giving many specific examples and specifically affirming the right to needed educational resources along with the “right to make mistakes” (4.) They also recognize that not everyone can consent verbally and state “other means of seeking consent are used such as pictures, symbols, signs, etc.” (3.) In order to protect clients from abuse, “All consent is documented through a formal process of consent screening” (3.) The idea is to keep clients safe from undue harm and from being abused, but to allow them the same freedoms as any other person. They also affirm that people with developmental disabilities may “make informed decisions about the reproductive aspects of their lives” (8,) as well as “their sexual health, including HIV/AIDS” (8.) The network states in policy that the morals of staff and program managers are not the relevant morals for determining what is and is not acceptable, both broadly requiring that “any behaviors that are not illegal are to be allowed if all parties are consenting” (10,) and specifically listing several forms of sexual identity or expression which some people may find immoral but which are legal and to be allowed. Staff are to “Accept that people with developmental disabilities may be heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, monogamous or not monogamous, and have the right to express themselves accordingly” (7,) along with allowing “fetishes, cross dressing, and other similar activities” (10,) provided all parties are consenting. The policy also explicitly states that should a developmentally disabled adult be found capable of consent, “the family cannot stop the behavior even if they are the legal guardians” (10.) The policy is intended to require staff and program managers to allow people with developmental disabilities to form and consent to their own relationships, both sexual and not, and it cites several approved educational resources with which developmentally disabled people can be provided.

My view

Reading the YAI policy on relationships and sexuality left me with some questions, many of which are probably answered in the other policy and staff resources the network provides. It also left me impressed with the extent to which they were stating that disabled people do have all the same rights as abled people, including sexual and reproductive education, healthcare, and expression. They also stated that people who can not provide verbal consent can consent in other ways and listed a few ways, though that single sentence, “Where a person is unable to consent verbally other means of seeking consent are used such as pictures, symbols, signs, etc.” (3.) was the only mention given of consent for those who do not consent verbally, and other difficulties which affect communication without affecting comprehension were not referenced at all. It is possible that the resource on determining consent contains more detailed information on other ways that consent can be determined and other issues besides inability to consent verbally- I hope it does, because those are important. Without a good understanding of those, it is impossible to make sure that both consent and boundaries are being properly communicated.
I also think it's extremely important that they specifically included gender identity, sexual orientation, and things like cross-dressing as ways in which we might differ from normative behaviors or identities, and that those things need to be accepted. From other research, I know that many programs do prevent intellectually and/or developmentally disabled clients from engaging in sexual relationships with others of the same gender (Löfgren-Mårtenson 2009,) sometimes lumping all same-gender acts in with risky activities such as not using protection (Thompson, Bryson, and De Castell 2001,) so explicitly stating that other sexual identities are legitimate and are to be allowed is a significant improvement over much of what occurs in programs. It's also important to note that YAI Network reminds care providers that they need to provide education on contraception and make it available, but that if a client wishes not to use it, they have that right, a contrast with service providers who refuse to allow the activities classified as risky (Thompson, Bryson, and De Castell 2001.)
Having never seen any of the YAI network programs nor met with their staff people, I have no way of knowing if they actually follow the policies outlined in this document, but I do feel that the policies outlined here are a significant improvement on many similar policies. The worries I have are largely in terms of the stated ability to prevent activities that could cause undue harm being used to prevent consenting parties from engaging in sexual activity that a staff person did not approve of and in terms of failure to properly gauge the ability to consent/things which are done in order to “protect” those found incapable of consenting. I worry because I know both of these things do happen (Beckford; Dolak,) but it is not a policy document like this one by YAI Network which allows that to happen. It is authority figures abusing their power which allows those issues to occur, and those issues would generally appear to be in direct contradiction with the policy document.

Beckford, Martin. "Autistic Woman Banned from Having Sex in Latest Court of Protection Case." The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 03 Feb. 2012. Web. 24 May 2013.
Dolak, Kevin. "Mentally Disabled Couple's Legal Battle Ends with New Home." ABC News. ABC News Network, 23 May 2013. Web. 24 May 2013.
Löfgren-Mårtenson, Lotta. "The Invisibility of Young Homosexual Women and Men with Intellectual Disabilities." Sexuality and Disability 27.1 (2009): 21-26. Springer Link. Springer, 9 Oct. 2008. Web. 1 Apr. 2013.
Thompson, S. Anthony, Mary Bryson, and Suzanne De Castell. "Prospects for Identity Formation for Lesbian, Gay, or Bisexual Persons with Developmental Disabilities." International Journal of Disability, Development and Education 48.1 (2001): 53-65. Web. 30 Mar. 2013.
YAI Network. Relationships and Sexuality Policy. YAI/NIPD Resource Center, Dec. 2004. PDF.

(OK, I've actually got a lot of issues with YAI network in general, including for stuff like trying to co-opt the word neurodiversity and use it for things that are very medical/individual model of disability at their most recent conference. But I did like this specific resource and wish the resources they use to determine consent were free so I could get at and cite them too. I found this one when I was doing research for the paper about the erasure of Queer Autistic people to present at Debilitating Queerness, which it applies to as well.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

I reserve the right to delete comments for personal attacks, derailing, dangerous comparisons, bigotry, and generally not wanting my blog to be a platform for certain things.