Tuesday, October 6, 2015

We Need Gun Control. Autism Blamed Again.

The first thing that needs to be said, as always, is that we need to remember and mourn for the victims of the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, and their families. As I have said elsewhere, "When crimes like this happen, it is in some ways easier to turn toward the perpetrator, speculating about the person's mental health, life history, and motives. It is much easier than thinking about the dead victims, the people whose lives have been shattered, the stunned, crying, angry families who will never see their loved ones again. It is so much easier to turn away from their pain and to become fascinated, fixated on the killer."

I have never come out publicly for gun control. I am doing so now. We need gun control laws and we need them now. Many other developed nations have already come to their senses about limiting gun ownership. The image I have posted here is "Gun Murders per 100,000 Residents," taken from E. G. Richardson and D. Hemenway: "Homicide, Suicide, and Unintentional Firearm Fatality: Comparing the United States with Other High-Income Countries." Journal of Trauma 70, no 1. (January 2011). The U.S. has 3.7 murders per 100,000 residents, followed by Italy with 0.68, Luxembourg with 0.59, on down to England with 0.0.

We have a problem. It should be obvious that not all these murders (and other fatalities) could possibly be committed by people on the autism spectrum, or with mental health conditions. On the contrary, many of the victims are disabled, including Autistic people.  Disabled people are 1.5 times as likely to be victims of violent crime as people without disabilities. 

Regarding autism and homicide statistics, I put together these figures in 2007. My statistics have not been refuted by any study to date:

"In 2007, the Autism Society reported that 22 people in a 5-year period used Asperger syndrome as a defense in a violent crime case, or about 4.5 per year. For comparison, the FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics for 2006, shows 1,417,745 violent crimes committed. 4.5 of almost 1.5 million violent crimes. Clearly, autism is not the prime suspect in violent crimes of any type.

"The link to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports that I used to find violent crime statistics for just one year (a year close to the years used by the Autism Society) is here: http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2006/offenses/violent_crime/index.html

In addition, I took apart the shoddy Washington Post article that claimed a link between autism and mass murder. That "study" included as sources the following: "murderpedia" (which itself has unverifiable "information"), a British tabloid, and other speculative and non-credible "research."

Autism Mass Murder Link? Washington Post Needs to Learn to FACT CHECK
Most Autistic people are not violent. Most people with mental health conditions are not violent. Most PEOPLE are not violent. But when they are, no matter their neurology, if they have easy access to numerous firearms (the Oregon shooter, whom I won't name, had at least 13 firearms), they can take the lives of many people in a matter of minutes. 

Recently, in an undisclosed location, I saw a young, presumably non-autistic, well-built man (as in I think he probably did not need much of a weapon to protect himself, but maybe he has an invisible disability and feels safer with a gun) wearing a gun in a holster while buying something like chips and soda in a convenience store. It looked a bit silly to me, a guy packing a weapon in broad daylight. I did not feel "protected" by his presence, by the way. Another person I know (in a limited way) says he went out and bought MORE weapons after one mass shooting because he was concerned that the government would "take his guns," although no one has suggested anything of the sort. I think he now has enough weapons to carry one in each hand and rig up some way to shoot the others with his feet. I don't consider either of these people dangerous, but they might be. Who knows. They both exemplify to me the pervasiveness of gun-oriented thinking and the tendency for U.S. Americans to go to some kinds of extremes about weapons. It seems to be to be one thing to have a gun in the home for protection and another to carry them around in the streets or to own more than you could possibly use at a time because you're afraid someone is going to get the ones you already have. 

Mass murders are senseless and horrible. So are other types of murder, which are not being focused on at this time. Although in a way I do not want to turn away from the fact of mass murder, I also need to point out that gun-related violence is pervasive in other areas. One of those areas is domestic violence. This link is a bit dated but it is what I can find right now, and shows the general picture, which can be boiled down to: People with guns get mad and kill other people. "In 2002, 54 percent of female homicide victims were shot and killed with a gun." The Facts on Guns and Domestic Violence  My point is that gun regulation needs to be a concern in many areas and that a narrow focus on the diagnosis of mass murderers needs to be broadened. Focus on it for a bit after the next gun-related crime happens, and then consider getting to work on ALL gun-related violence.

If we as a country continue to focus on everything but the fact that not only mass killings but other gun-related fatalities are one of the most serious problems facing our nation, we will continue to see shootings (although I hope not, but what is changing? Nothing!) If we focus, as we always do on "mental health" and whether or not the perpetrator is Autistic, we will miss the chance to make real change- change that involves putting some teeth back in the part of the Second Amendment that says "well-regulated." 

Comments are welcome. Comments need to be approved by me. I will get to comments when I can. I am not always online. Comments need to be respectful even if you disagree.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sensory Friendly Concert ® and The Musical Autist

I am giving an organ concert on October 24, 2015. Read CJ Shiloh's post about the concert here: Our next Sensory Friendly Concert – Featuring Paula Durbin-Westby! The concert will take place at St. Martin's-in-the-Field Episcopal Church in Severna Park, Maryland, at 6:30 pm. The address is 375 Benfield Road, Severna Park, MD 21146.

Image of me sitting at an organ (different than the one I will play in Maryland), wearing a light blue tie-dyed top and black pants, and looking happy, because ORGANS! The words are "Musical Autist brings you a Sensory Friendly Concert (TM). The date and location and the name of my organ assistant are included. A link to www.TheMusicalAutist, and proudly sponsored by: Minuteman Press, Annapolis Music Therapy, and Creating Communities: Harnessing the Power of the Arts.

This concert is a bit different than the average organ recital. It is a Sensory Friendly Concert ® , presented by TheMusicalAutist:

"We advocate for EQUAL RIGHTS TO THE FINE ARTS. We promote Neurodiversity and Self-Advocacy through Community Music Therapy. We are a nonprofit organization developing Sensory Friendly Concerts, for the purpose of cultivating a vibrant autistic culture and to advance the Autism Rights Movement."

This Sensory Friendly Concert ® is sponsored by Annapolis Music Therapy and Creating Communities.

I am still in the process of creating the concert. Current plans are to proceed from softer to louder so that attendees who are very sensitive to sounds can adjust for different parts of the concert. Stimming, hand flapping, dancing, leaving to take a sensory break? Those are all OK at Sensory Friendly Concerts®!

I will also be talking about about music and disabilities, including developmental disabilities. I will be talking about sensory processing differences and disabilities, and about movement and music and disabilities.

This is an exciting opportunity and I know a lot of people are planning to attend. I hope to talk to people a bit more after the concert (as I don't hang out before concerts since I need to save my energy!)

I am proud to be associated with The Musical Autist. CJ Shiloh, MT-BC has written a Huffington Post article about The Musical Autist and Sensory Friendly Concerts ® Autism and Public Performances: How Do We Do This? From the article: "Typical public concert venues are inaccessible to those who are unable to sit still and be quiet. Experiencing live music in the fine arts is totally elusive to the growing number of people in our society on the autism spectrum. This is not okay. This is why I got started with the concept of Sensory Friendly Concerts ®, and why it's been developing into a model of 'community music therapy'."

My interview for The Musical Autist is here: http://www.themusicalautist.org/paula/

I would write more, but I need to go practice the organ! I will post some updates closer to the concert date.

The organ at St. Martin's-in-the-Field Episcopal Church in Severna Park, MD. It has 26 ranks of pipes, all of which I am looking forward to playing!
A stack of flyers for the concert! The photo is the same one of me below by Katie Miller. The Musical Autist logo is in the upper left-hand corner. Text says "The Musical Autist brings you a Sensory Friendly Concert (TM). Saturday October 24, 2015, 6:30 pm. St. Martin's-in-the-Field. Benfield Road, Severna Park, MD 21146. Featuring Paula . Durbin-Westby. Organist, Choir Director, Music Instructor. Founder of International Autism Acceptance Day, Month, and Year, 2010-2020. [the name of my organ assistant is listed]. For more info visit: www.TheMusicalAutist.org. Proudly sponsored by Minuteman Press, Annapolis Music Therapy, Creating Communties [the logos of these three businesses are shown].

Another view of the St. Martins-in-the-Field organ.

A photo of me at a different organ, taken by artist Katie Miller

Note: "Sensory Friendly Concerts® are trademarked so that only Board Certified Music Therapists (or WFMT equivalence) can facilitate these events." When I was first invited to do this SFC, I did a search on "Sensory Friendly Concerts" and found an instance of intellectual property violation. I am not going to sidetrack my post here and I will let you guess the name of the offending organization. You probably knew who it was before you finished reading the sentence! Of course, Autism $peaks. Of interest might be the fact that CJ Shiloh, the creator of and trademark holder for Sensory Friendly Concerts® first met me at an anti-Autism $peaks protest I organized on behalf of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network in 2010 in Washington DC.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Single Mom Needs Piano to Teach-GoFundMe

Piano in its new home! 

Image is: Small grand piano with lid open. Piano is a nice brown color. On the music rack is a sign in several colors that says "Thank YOU!" with some music notes and a treble clef.

Update: Thanks to a generous donation from the GoFundMe team, I have met my goal! I am working on locating a piano mover. Once the piano is in place, my students will be so happy!

Image is my piano, and my goal exceeded by a bit (which will cover GoFundMe and WePay percentage, since I did not put those in my goal). Total now is $4,516, and a donation came in after the goal was met. Anything after moving expenses will go into a teaching library. Thank you to the people who contributed and to those who shared. Shown here are 764 total shares, 720 via Facebook and 44 via Twitter, and I know there was some tumbr activity too! Thank you all so much!

Text says:
Paula, I came across your campaign and just love your positive attitude and determination to make the best of your situation. The support from your community is so inspiring, and it’s clear you make an impact on people’s lives. May your new piano help extend your reach even greater, and thank you for spreading the gift of music! - Christy from GoFundMe

Also, I have a new page here on my blog about my music career.

The original post here:

Single Mom Needs Piano to Teach

I recently lost a job that provided half my income. I am fortunate that I still have my other part-time jobs, but suddenly losing $15,000 in yearly income ($7500 for the last six months of 2015) is quite a shock, especially as I am the sole wage earner in my family. I also lost the space that I use to teach students.

Part of my plan for income replacement is to do a lot more teaching of music students. I do not have a "real" piano and my Clavinova has about 5 keys that stick on a regular basis, which makes it almost impossible to use. I am doing a GoFundMe to help me get a decent piano. I do not want a fixer-upper, or a free one with problems. Teaching can't really be done well on a piano that has sticking keys or other flaws.

Image is a Yamaha P-22 for sale at a local piano dealer. The cost is $3490, plus tax. I have raised $586 so far (GoFundMe also takes about 8% so I think it's really a bit less. (Now up to $656.)

I am trying to make the best of this situation, and to move as quickly as I can to fill the gaping income hole. Please help donate if you can! I like what one person wrote as a comment on their donation:

I know that I do inspire my music students, which is one reason I am choosing to pursue more teaching at this point. I will also be looking into other options, but teaching is something I enjoy and do not have to make a huge investment in, as I already have skills and experience and a growing clientele.

Single Mom Needs Piano to Teach

A blog post that was written about this! http://auti-stim.tumblr.com/post/124039591668/single-mom-needs-piano-to-teach-by-paula-c  Thank you!!!!

Up to $656. Very encouraging at a time like this! Now $776!

Now at $826! Yay!

Amount is now $2040 and I wrote "What a wonderful community!!!!!"

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Typed Words Loud Voices - Autonomous Press

It's out! Finally, the book we have been waiting for!

Typed Words, Loud Voices, is edited by Amy Sequenzia and Elizabeth J. Grace, and published by Autonomous Press.

At 147 pages, this volume is packed with important information, thoughtfulness, explanations for people who are not familiar with or do not understand nonspeaking or partially-speaking communication. It feels to me like way more than 147 pages-worth of material.

This book is for people who are Autistic, people who do not speak or have irregular access to spoken language (including Autistic people and others), anyone who is interested in autism and Autistics, parents of people who are Autistic, educators, therapists, speech therapists.I really wish educators, therapists, and non-Autistic/speaking people would read this book, especially those who think that because people can't talk, they can't think. PLEASE read this book if you fall into that category.

First, I am posting a link to the video that accompanies my essay. I wanted to put the link in with the writing, which is about the video and why I made it, but the link was inadvertently left out. This is a direct link to the video. If you buy a copy of Typed Words, Loud Voices, you can go to this link to see the video that I made in 2012, which shows me not being able to talk at that time. Nonspeaking (at Times) Autistic Makes Video, Version II Readers of my blog will probably have seen the blog entry and video that are my essay in Typed Words, Loud Hands, but for those who access the blog from reading the book, here it is.

The first day I had the book, I read the front blurbs (four of them) and the foreword by Melanie Yergeau. I read Amy and Ibby's introductory material, and then had to stop because I loved the book so much already that I had to walk around hugging it like it was a favorite stuffed animal or pet. I love this book! It is so important to me because it gives me a lot of insight into other people who type to communicate. some of them are very much like me, some are quite different. All the language in its almost infinite (57 contributors [if I counted correctly] and 68 entries not counting the front and back material, which is just as important as the other essays) variety speaks something to me that I can't get from, well, spoken language, and speaks to a lot of my experience as a partially-speaking communicator.

This amazing book is now available on Amazon here:

Typed Words, Loud Voices- Paperback edition

Typed Words, Loud Voices [Kindle Edition]

"Owned by disabled workers, Autonomous Pressseeks to revolutionize academic access." You can find Autonomous Press at these links:

http://autpress.com/ "Access First. We are Autonomous."

Autonomous Press on Facebook


Autonomous Press also has two other releases and is seeking submissions for a new anthology.

Cover of Typed Words, Loud Voices, with cover art by Alyssa Hillary -with orangeish-red and greens, purple and very dark gray (I think) on a sort-of periwinkle blue background.  Text says: Typed Words, Loud Voices Edited by Amy Sequenzia and Elizabeth J. Grace.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

#AutismAcceptanceDay5 - 5th Annual Autism Acceptance Day

#AutismAcceptanceDay5 International Autism Acceptance Decade 2010-2020. Moving Beyond Awareness.Original blue version

#AutismAcceptanceDay5 International Autism Acceptance Decade 2010-2020. Moving Beyond Awareness. Red version
Celebrate Autism Acceptance Day and Month for the fifth year!

2015 also marks the half-way point in International Autism Acceptance Decade, from 2010-2020

The original blog is here. Interviews with Autistic people are still being accepted. We have been doing interviews with Autistics for three years now. The interviews highlight Autistic experience and  acceptance of Autistics. 


A number of new initiatives this year are:

#WalkInRed at



Please do searches on Autism Acceptance, Autism Acceptance Day, Autism Acceptance Month, Walk In Red. I have scheduling conflicts that do not permit me to search and put everything here right now. Please put links to ACCEPTANCE in the comments section and I will post them.

Other important links:



Friday, February 13, 2015

Who Killed Alex Spourdalakis?

Movie Review: Who Killed Alex Spourdalakis?

Note: I am too exhausted by this topic to add more text. Please read the links and pass it on. I made the first two images. I will provide a translation for the second one when I can do so. It is another image originally made by the "documentary" makers that I have altered for the sake of correct information- that Alex Spourdalakis was murdered by D. Spourdalakis.

Sensitivity warning for image of murder knife (made by the "documentary folks at Autism Media Channel). Image is of a DVD cover, and is a knife (which points down toward the name of Alex Spourdalakis because these people really are violently inclined). The text above says "Ignorance, Negligence, Indifference: Autism and the US Healthcare System." Below that is the title "Who Killed Alex Spourdalakis" and then "A documentary by the Autism Media Channel." I have altered it a bit. I added text that says "Alex Spourdalakis was murdered by his ex-mother, and by the fanatic conspiracy-mongering anti-vax hype that led her down the slippery slope of disrespect and violence." Down where it used to say "A documentary.." it now says "A conspiracy theory by the Autism Media Channel."

Image of a single candle. Text: "He was 14 years old. His name was Alex Spourdalakis. (larger text): His name was Alex Spourdalakis. (larger text): His name was Alex Spourdalakis. And he deserved to live. Autism is never a reason to murder. By MamaBeGood.blogspot.com

Autistic Community Vigil in Memory of Alex Spourdalakis 

Alex Spourdalakis Murder-ASAN Calls for Federal Hate Crime Prosecution

CBS Provides Glimpse into "Documentary" Defending Autistic Teen Alex Spourdalakis' Killers

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Murder of London McCabe, Age Six

It is with a heavy heart and much anger that I report yet another murder of one of our people. Six-year old London McCabe was murdered at the hands of a relative. I have stopped calling these murderers by any sort of parental or familial name. When you murder your child or family member, you stop being a family member. When you murder someone under your care who is dependent on you, you don't get to be called "caregiver" any more. One of our people refers to belonging MORE to the Autistic and disabled community than to a murderous family member. This does NOT dismiss those family or community members who would never have wanted the murder and would have done anything in their power to stop it. It does mean that the murdered person ALSO belonged to the community of disabled people, even if that person was not aware of our (non-monolithic, by the way) community.

News media, including NBC, has the usual "both sides" stories. As though there was a legitimate "other side" consisting of people who would murder their children or are planning to, and that "we" should give "equal time" to those people. They certainly should have enough airtime to be exposed as people who need to be monitored closely, but they don't need their views to be "equal." When someone is murdered because of their race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, do we give "equal time" to racist supremacists, anti-gay fanatics, or other "justifiers?" No, we do not. At least not in supposedly professional "mainstream media." (Bloggers can, of course, write what they want, and those who support and justify murders need to be watched closely for signs that they are about to commit crimes.)

"Expert" Dee Shepherd-Look was dug up from somewhere by NBC and has this nugget of "truth" (because she's an expert....) "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." Really? Because PARENTING IS NEVER RECIPROCAL. Newborns don't reciprocate. They cry and need their diapers changed and eat every twenty minutes. Not exactly reciprocal love. SIX-YEAR-OLDS, which London was, whine and beg for candy at the store, even when you are exhausted from whatever else has gone on in your day. They might say "I love you" or not. Their needs come first, especially THEIR NEED FOR SAFETY AND PROTECTION AT AGE SIX. Teens- reciprocating? Sure, but not all the time. Sometimes they are TOO clingy, which is NOT reciprocal. Most teens are not all about "Did I reciprocate enough with my parent?" London will never get to BE a teen. People in their twenties and thirties? They are living their own lives. For a parent who has a grip on what raising a child means throughout the lifespan (a lifespan that London McCabe will never get to experience), the GOAL is to have the person NOT reciprocating all the time. Or even any of the time in some cases. PARENTING IS NOT RECIPROCAL AT ANY AGE. This is not earth-shattering news. Sure parents feel hurt, rejected, even despised at times, depending on the age of the child, the situation, the context, the need for distance.

A number of blog posts have been written in the wake of Shepherd-Look's questionable portrayal of Autistics: A Defense Against Libel

I am DONE with excuses for murder, asking me to "walk in the shoes" of some "mom" who has killed her kid. But before I was finally and completely done with thinking about walking in the shoes of a murderer....

I tried imagining the murderer in the case of London McCabe, because I thought "Gosh, I should actually try this instead of always countering it like I did with Alex Spoudalakis (age 14, brutally murdered including almost hacking off his hand) or Issy Stapleton (attempted murder by charcola burner in car, which she survived). So, I imagined being in the room with the person who murdered London McCabe, and..... I am a very visual thinker, so can easily imagine being right there. And.... what I felt most was that I wanted to punch her. I did not feel this about the other murderers, because I did not try. And won't. I don't want to feel that aggressive about anyone. I can't murder anyone, I can't even feel comfortable wanting to punch a murderer. So sorry, people who want me to "walk in their shoes." I then tried imagining being her and holding a child, even MY child, over the edge. I could also NOT DO THIS because EVERY CELL IN MY BODY would be trying to SAVE MY CHILD not KILL him. This made me feel very frightened and disoriented and wanting to cry and scream. I could not because my child is in the other room and he would want to know what is going on. I did not get as far as imagining letting go of the small hand (Or whatever body part) that would allow my child to plummet to an icy death below. Recently I lost health care access and so access to anxiety medications, but I managed to save a few for difficult times. After doing this thought experiment, and having to go out and conduct a rehearsal tonight, it might be one of those times, as I am still shaky.

I COULD, however, imagine dangling from a bridge and how it would feel to hit water 130 feet below (like hitting concrete) and then drowning slowly. What that made me feel was: frightened, sort of like I could not breathe, cold, and shaking. There. Now those who want to suggest walking in someone else's shoes? Be sure you take that walk yourself- imagine yourself hitting water after accelerating at 32 feet per second per second for 130 feet.

So much for asking me to imagine being a murderer. I will NOT ever try this again, but will go back to JUDGING murderers (but not hating them, actually. Hate is another matter altogether, and hate and negative judgment are not always linked) and countering people who make excuses for the murders or people with disabilities.

London McCabe, age 6, murdered by dropping him off a 130-foot bridge into icy water. Yet, "expert" Dee Shepherd-Look whines about "the moms" [sic] and how they don't get "reciprocal" love. Guess what. PARENTING IS NOT ALWAYS RECIPROCAL FOR ANYONE, MS. "EXPERT."



London McCabe was a wanted child

Comments on the murder of London McCabe by Zoe Gross


Have someone you are afraid might be plotting to kill you? Have concerns about yourself maybe hurting or killing someone? Some resources are here. Not an exhaustive list but might help prevent the worst kind of harm. http://tool-kit-autistic-alternative.blogspot.com/

*Included in being "DONE with excuses for murder, asking me to "walk in the shoes" of some "mom" who has killed her kid," as I said above, I will not be posting comments that then ask me to make excuses for murder for one reason or another, including "I don't approve of what she did, but....". I just won't.

Many people notice the stark difference between the media and "comment section" treatment of murdered Autistics and people with disabilities, and murders where the neurology of the child is "typical" (or presumed to be). An excellent post about this topic is here, comparing the murder of London McCabe and that of Scott McMillan, reported two days later. NOTE: The blog post links to some graphic descriptions. A Tale of Two Murders

Image of London McCabe wearing a hat. Text says "Belssed Be, London McCabe. 2008-2014. NO MORE AUTISM FILICDE

Image of London McCabe holding toy helicopter. Text is #JusticeForLondon