Freedom to stim, under attack. What do we do? Act up, write back

Sometimes people send emails asking us to promote their products/services or give opinions about them. And some of these products and services are clearly problematic or even abusive for autistic people.

We recently got an email from a scientist seeking to create a technology they hoped to license to Apple Watch that would monitor an autistic person’s stims–the rhythmic movements we make when we need to regulate our emotions—and alert about the person’s stims. They then seek to develop ‘a whole set of wearable devices to capture all aspects/features of [stimming] in ASD in near future.”

While the scientist claimed that the product would be “supporting the autistic community with a technology to promote Self-Advocacy,” this technology does not support self-advocacy at all. It supports the absolute friggin’ panopticon of the ABA industry, which seeks to license new and crueler tools to monitor, grade and punish autistic people—especially those who are intellectually disabled—for our natural ways of being.

But here’s the really interesting part: the scientist identified as autistic. So, we wrote back.

“Thank you for your email. Autistics for Autistics does not support ABA in any way, shape or form and cannot endorse your research that enables ABA and its harmful impacts on autistic people.

“Monitoring gadgets like this only enrich the developers and licensers without providing something of value to the end users. They end up being forced on autistic people who are not given the opportunity to say no and that is unethical.

“It is our hope that autistic researchers consider their own quality of life as they go down the research path, think about what services and products or social research could meaningfully improve the quality of life for autistic individuals and focus on that, because that is rewarding work. You are young and still have time to shift your path in that direction.”

As to the scientist’s aspirations that AppleWatch would ever pick up such an application, we’d invite anyone who finds that plausible to look at the autistic apps supported by  Apple, including Proloquo, GoTalk, Keeble and Time Timer. Or travel to Cupertino and watch the developers there, pacing and fidgeting and stimming their way to a new suite of amazing applications and products that legit do improve quality of life.

We have the right to stim, to move in the ways we need to move to regulate our bodies and emotions. Nobody should be monitoring, stigmatizing or shaming us for it. Join us each year on September 17 for our online event, the International Day of the Stim. 😊