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Neurodiversity

What is Neurodiversity ?

1. The belief that differing neurologies are a natural part and form of human diversity.

2. The belief that atypical or divergent neurologies are not indicative of disease, defect, disorder, or illness.

3. The philosophy that neurological difference should be celebrated and accepted as natural and normal.

Definition by Lydia X.Z. Brown at Autistic Hoya 

Why Center Neurodiversity? (click to learn more)

When we talk about intersectionality and diversity in children’s literature, it is essential to discuss stories that affirm and feature the authentic voices of disabled and neurodiverse people, instead of allowing the narrative of their lives to be defined by neurotypical and able-bodied people.

We search high and low for books that feature identity-first language and stories that don’t erase, silence or belittle Neurodivergent people, and we have also collected resources for neurotypical and non-disabled educators, parents or anyone who works closely with children!

Our Favorite Books
featuring Neurodiverse Characters & Themes

Why boycott Autism Speaks?
Before you donate, consider the facts

MissLunaRose12, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Title and text from ASAN’s PDF, free to download here.

“Very little money donated to Autism Speaks goes toward helping autistic people and families.

Only 1% of Autism Speaks’ budget goes towards the “Family Service” grants that are the organization’s means of funding services. Autism Speaks spends 20x as much—20%—on fundraising. Although Autism Speaks has not prioritized services with a practical impact for families and individuals in its budget, its rates of executive pay are the highest in the autism world: some salaries exceed $600,000 a year.

Autism Speaks talks about us without us.

Autism Speaks has only 1 autistic person out of a total of 28 individuals on its Board of Directors. By contrast, 23 out of 28 board members represent major corporations, including current and former CEOs and senior executives of PayPal, Goldman Sachs, White Castle, FX Networks, Virgin Mobile, eBay, AMC Networks, L’Oreal, CBS, SiriusXM, American Express, S.C. Johnson, and Royal Bank of Scotland.

Autism Speaks’ fundraising strategies promote fear, stigma, and prejudice against autistic people.

Autism Speaks uses its platform and advertising budget to portray autism and autistic people as mysterious and frightening. Their fundraising tactics increase stigma and create barriers to the inclusion of autistic people in our communities.”

Support Self-Advocacy Instead!

“There is no one way to be autistic. Some autistic people can speak, and some autistic people need to communicate in other ways. Some autistic people also have intellectual disabilities, and some autistic people don’t. Some autistic people need a lot of help in their day-to-day lives, and some autistic people only need a little help. All of these people are autistic, because there is no right or wrong way to be autistic. All of us experience autism differently, but we all contribute to the world in meaningful ways. We all deserve understanding and acceptance.”


Black Lives Matter

2016 AF-Am stat graph
Why center books written by and for African & Black readers?

“For the next few years we began to see an increase that was enough to make us hopeful. But that didn’t last. By the mid-1990s the numbers began to plateau and they have stagnated ever since. But a couple of years ago we began to notice a dramatic increase in the number of books about African-Americans — it nearly doubled from 2013 to 2014 (from 93 to 180), and then jumped to 265 in 2015. In 2016 we saw a small bump to 278. We’re not sure what caused this. Was it the Obama effect? (If an African American can be President, why not a book character?) Was it the call for more Black books in the New York Times editorials by Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers early in 2014? Was it the impact of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement? A combination of all three? Regardless of the cause, many saw this as a reason for celebration.

But the increase in the number of books about African Americans doesn’t tell the whole story. It needs to be looked at next to the number of these same books that are actually by African Americans.”

Looking towards the future of books for and by people of color, the words of Walter Dean Myers ring ever more true, as diverse writers and illustrators labor to “make [children of color] feel as if they are part of America’s dream, that all the rhetoric is meant for them, and that they are wanted in this country” and give them that moment where they are “struck by the recognition of themselves in the story” that “validation of their existence as human beings” and “an acknowledgment of their value by someone who understands who they are”

KT Horning provides a thoughtful explanation on the CCBC blog: “We can see that there are a whole lot of books being written about African Americans these days by people who are not African American. Does it matter? It certainly can. Especially when you care about authenticity.” “And, more significantly, this means we are not seeing African-American authors and artists being given the same opportunities to tell their own stories. In fact, last year just 71 of the 278 (25.5%) books about African-Americans were actually written and/or illustrated by African Americans.  The graph above shows this gap quite dramatically. Horning’s nuanced take on the steps needed to bridge that “gap between the books about and the books by African Americans” includes her explanation:

Horning’s nuanced take on the steps needed to bridge that “gap between the books about and the books by African Americans” includes her explanation:

We don’t just need more African American authors and artists being signed and nurtured by publishers, we also need white authors and artists to take a step back to make room for people to tell their own stories.

What can happen when books lack authenticity?

Great representation can occur when “books about diverse characters, written by those in the same diverse group” or “#ownvoices submissions, take on the challenge of closing the gap in children’s literature. The conversation around diverse literature in 2016 consisted of a variety of  “concerns around representation of characters in stories” that led to “Scholastic’s decision to pull A Birthday Cake for George Washington to discussions around the use of the word “tribe” alongside images of children in natural surroundings with feathers in their hair, in Lane Smith’s There Is a Tribe of Kids.”

“While mainstream reviews from sources such as Kirkus called When We Was Fierce “...a compassionate, forceful look at the heartbreak and choices these black boys and men face”, educators and librarians such as Horning and Jennifer BakerMinorities in Publishing podcast creator and member of We Need Diverse Books pointed out that the book’s content was “highly problematic from the inaccuracies to this very arm’s length approach, [and] the stereotyping of black characters specifically…the made up dialect the author used was so egregious, it is horrible.”

Our Favorite #ownvoices books
Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Children’s reading and play advocates Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom have teamed up to create an ambitious — and much needed —  national event.  On January 27th five years ago, 2014 Jump into a Book and PragmaticMom presented their very first Multicultural Children’s Book Day as a way of celebrating diversity in children’s books. The results and support overwhelming as authors, publishers, parents, teachers, bloggers, and librarians joined forces to offer up an online event designed to shine the spotlight on diversity in children’s literature.

CCBC

The CCBC is a unique and vital gathering place for books, ideas, and expertise in the field of children’s and young adult literature. The CCBC is a noncirculating examination, study, and research library for Wisconsin school and public librarians, teachers, early childhood care providers, university students, and others interested in children’s and young adult literature. The CCBC is part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education, and receives additional support from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction”.  More about the CCBC.

Lee & Low

“Lee & Low Books is the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the country. We are also one of the few minority-owned publishing companies in the United States, as well as a throwback to what many publishers used to be: independent, generational businesses in which the people running the company have a personal stake in its success.”

Gender Identity

What does Gender Identity mean?

Gender identity is how you identify and see yourself. Everyone gets to decide their gender identity for themselves. You may identify as a girl or a boy. If you don’t feel like a boy or a girl, you might identify as agender, genderqueer, nonbinary or just as a person. You may choose not to use any specific term to define your gender identity, or you may use a term today that you decide later doesn’t fit. You have a right to identify however you want, and your identity should be respected.

Sex Assigned at Birth

Sex assigned at birth is the sex that the medical community labels a person when they are born. If your gender identity matches the sex assigned to you at birth, then you are cisgender. For example, if you identify as a girl and you were assigned female at birth, then you are cisgender. People whose gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth may be transgender.

Gender Expression

Regardless of our gender identity and sex assigned at birth, people express their gender in a variety of ways. This includes the way that we talk, our mannerisms, how we interact with others, our clothing, accessories, hairstyles, activities we enjoy, and much more! You should never use a person’s gender expression to guess their gender identity.

Gender Attribution

Gender attribution describes how your gender is perceived by others. This can change depending on the people you’re around, the country you’re in, or even the time period. For example, although we might consider dresses to be stereotypically feminine, ancient Romans wore dresses or “togas” regardless of their gender, and a man wearing one at that time would be perceived as masculine.

Our Favorite Books about Gender Identity

For more from GLSEN’s Gender Terminology Visual, download it here on their website!

Social-Emotional Learning

5 Core SEL Competencies

For more information and resources, head to CASEL’s website!

The 5 Core Competencies Are:

Self-Awareness

Identifying emotions

Accurate self-perception

Recognizing strengths

Self-confidence

Self-efficacy

Self-Management

Impulse control

Stress management

Self-discipline

Self-motivation

Goal-setting

Organizational skills

Relationship Skills

Communication

Social Engagement

Relationship-building

Teamwork

Social Awareness

Perspective-taking

Empathy

Appreciating diversity

Respect for others

Responsible Decision-Making

Identifying problems

Analyzing situations

Solving problems

Evaluating

Reflecting

Ethical responsibility

Our Favorite Social-Emotional Reads:

Disability

(Image from @CFLIC twitter: Increasing access and equal opportunity for people with disabilities by building the capacity of Independent Living Centers since 1976.)

Why Center Disability? (click to learn more)

from Sins Invalid “What is Disability Justice?”

“Disability justice activists, organizers, and cultural workers understand that able- bodied supremacy has been formed in relation to other systems of domination and exploitation. The histories of white supremacy and ableism are inextricably entwined, created in the context of colonial conquest and capitalist domination. One cannot look at the history of US slavery, the stealing of Indigenous lands, and US imperialism without seeing the way that white supremacy uses ableism to create a lesser/“other” group of people that is deemed less worthy/abled/smart/capable.

A single-issue civil rights framework is not enough to explain the full extent of ableism and how it operates in society. We can only truly understand ableism by tracing its connections to heteropatriarchy, white supremacy, colonialism, and capitalism. The same oppressive systems that inflicted violence upon Black and brown communities for 500+ years also inflicted 500+ years of violence on bodies and minds deemed outside the norm and therefore “dangerous.”

Our Favorite Books
featuring Disabled Characters & Themes
Disability Justice Framework

A disability justice framework understands that:

  • All bodies are unique and essential.
  • All bodies have strengths and needs that must be met.
  • We are powerful, not despite the complexities of our bodies, but because of them.
  • All bodies are confined by ability, race, gender, sexuality, class, nation state, religion, and more, and we cannot separate them.”

from Sins Invalid “What is Disability Justice?”

What is Sins Invalid?

Sins Invalid is a disability justice based performance project that incubates and celebrates artists with disabilities, centralizing artists of color and LGBTQ / gender-variant artists as communities who have been historically marginalized.

Art by Ricardo Levins Morales, based on a slogan popularized by South African disability right and youth activists.

Mixed Media – Scatchboard, Ink And Watercolor

Fine Art America- Ricardo Levins Morales Art Collections

Image Description: Five disabled people of color with canes, prosthetic legs, and a wheelchair sit on a rooftop deck, laughing and sharing stories. Greenery and city high-rises are visible in the background. (Disabled & Here Collection)

Disabled & Here Collection

This collection is a disability-led effort to provide free and inclusive stock photos shot from our own perspective, featuring disabled Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) across the Pacific Northwest.

Resources to Explore

The recently released Second Edition of Skin, Tooth, and Bone: The Basis of Movement is Our People is a Disability Justice Primer based in the work of Patty Berne and Sins Invalid. The Disability Justice Primer offers concrete suggestions for moving beyond the socialization of ableism, such as mobilizing against police violence, how to commit to mixed ability organizing, and access suggestions for events.

LGBTQ Families

Approximately 4.5% of adults in the U.S. identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ).

That means that there are more than 11.3 million LGBTQ adults in the U.S.

(Conron, 2019)

How many children in the US have an LGBTQ parent?

Between 2 million and 3.7 million children under age 18 have an LGBTQ+ parent. Many of these children are being raised by a single LGBTQ+ parent, or by a different-sex couple where one parent is bisexual.  Approximately 191,000 children are being raised by two same-sex parents. Overall, it is estimated that 29% of LGBTQ+ adults are raising a child who is under 18

(LGBT Demographic Data, 2019; Press Release 2019; Gates, Marriage and Family 2015).

Do LGBTQ+ people adopt children?

Yes! LGBTQ+ people and same-sex couples are more likely to adopt and foster children, compared to their non-LGBTQ counterparts; specifically, same-sex couples are seven times more likely to foster or adopt than different-sex couples.

(Goldberg 2018).

Tips for raising children in LGBTQ families
  1. Talk with your children openly and honestly. Let them know that even though your family may be different from other families in some ways, your family is similar in the way you love your children unconditionally.
  2. Teach your children about many kinds of families, including LGBTQ families, using books or websites.
  3. Encourage your child to tell you if he is ever teased about being from an LGBTQ family. Don’t blame yourself for the bullying! Help your child understand that people who try to make others feel bad don’t feel good about themselves, either.
  4. Teach your child’s school about family diversity and work with school personnel to ensure that diversity is valued.
  5. Seek families similar to yours. Your child may benefit from a sense of familiarity and a break from feeling different.

Source: PCAND

Intersectional Thinking: Lived Experience of Children Raised in LGBTQ Families of Color

Confronting a Dual Burden of Social Stigma and Discrimination

Despite more than three decades of civil rights legislation, race-based discrimination is still widely documented in employment and housing, and racial/ethnic profiling remains a common practice. As a result, families of color confront stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination throughout their daily lives.

Source: Rebecca M. Blank, Marilyn Dabady, Constance Forbes Citro, National Research Council (U.S.). Panel on Methods for Assessing Discrimination, “Measuring Racial Discrimination: Institutional Patterns and Politics,”2004.

In addition to race-based bias, LGBT families of color also cope with inappropriate questions about sexual orientation and gender identity, the politicization of their families, and anxiety about the lack of legal recognition—stressors which are heightened when they intersect with other forms of prejudice.

Source: Preliminary Analysis of 2010 Social Justice Sexuality Survey.

A 2008 survey of LGBT parents and their school-age children found that 40% of students with LGBT parents reported being verbally harassed because of their families and three-quarters reported hearing derogatory terms about LGBT people at school. In the same study, 43% of students of color with LGBT parents said that they had experienced verbal harassment because of their race/ethnicity, 16% had been physically harassed or assaulted, and 12% felt unsafe.


Survey of LGBT families conducted by GLSEN, COLAGE, and the Family Equality Council in Movement Advancement Project, Family Equality Council and Center for American Progress,“All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families,” October 2011, p95.

This double jeopardy means that experiences at school are often both race-based and based on family composition. In the study mentioned above, one parent explained, “The school discriminates more against our child because he is black than because we are gay. Race is a much bigger issue!”

Resources to Expand Your Knowledge

PFLAG is the first and largest organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) people, their parents and families, and allies. With over 400 chapters and 200,000 members and supporters crossing multiple generations of families in major urban centers, small cities, and rural areas across America, PFLAG is committed to creating a world where diversity is celebrated and all people are respected, valued, and affirmed. This vast grassroots network is cultivated, resourced, and serviced by the staff of PFLAG National, the National Board of Directors, and the all-volunteer Regional Directors Council.

Family Equality: Vision Statement

  • We envision a future where all LGBTQ families, regardless of creation or composition, live in communities that recognize, respect, protect, and value them.
  • We envision a world in which every LGBTQ person has the right and the opportunity to form and sustain a loving family, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, national origin, geography, socioeconomic status, disability, or the intersection of those characteristics.
  • Finally, we envision systems of service and support that are free of discrimination and that maximize opportunities for LGBTQ youth needing permanency and LGBTQ adults seeking family formation through adoption, foster care, assisted reproductive technology or other means.

MAP: Movement Advancement Project: Founded in 2006, the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) is an independent, nonprofit think tank that provides rigorous research, insight and communications that help speed equality and opportunity for all. MAP works to achieve these goals in three key ways:

  1. Advancing the conversation.
  2. Advancing policy.
  3. Advancing collaboration.

Indigenous Own Voices

Farewell to the Smokies (Trail of Tears)

Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee, b. 1935), 2007. Oil paint on wood panel; 36 x 72 in. William Sr. and Dorothy Harmsen Collection at the Denver Art Museum, by exchange, 2008.14A-B

Why Center Indigenous Own Voices?

Simon Ortiz, Puebloan writer of the Acoma Pueblo tribe shares his viewpoint on integrating Indigenous voices as well: “It is vastly important and necessary that Native (or Indigenous) American literature be a basic part of high school education for three reasons:

1. Indigenous cultural knowledge is an essential part of the cultural community of the present American world.

2. Land, culture, and community are intrinsically the binding elements of overall cultural connection to the natural landscape of the environment and the world as a whole.

3. The power of the Indigenous voice comes from the cultural connection to the world. Native American literature is an expression of that connection.”

Our Favorite Books about Indigenous History and Ways of Life
Resources to Explore

“The Map Of Native American Tribes You’ve Never Seen Before” Map created by Aaron Carapella, a self-taught mapmaker from Warner, Okla., who has pinpointed the locations and original names of hundreds of American Indian nations before their first contact with Europeans. (Full map PDF available from NPR)

“The Map Of Native American Tribes You’ve Never Seen Before” Map created by Aaron Carapella, a self-taught mapmaker from Warner, Okla., who has pinpointed the locations and original names of hundreds of American Indian nations before their first contact with Europeans. (Full map PDF available from NPR)

Latinx Narratives

“Write with your eyes like painters, 
with your ears like musicians,

with your feet like dancers.

You are the truthsayer with quill and torch. 
Write with your tongues on fire.” 
― Gloria Anzaldua

Why use “Latinx” instead of Hispanic?

Juliana Martínez, author and assistant professor at American University provides a quick breakdown of the terms:

  • “Hispanic” is the oldest term used to refer to the largest and one of the most diverse growing minorities in the U.S. The word is often associated with the origins of Spanish colonialism in America and can exclude indigenous, Brazilian and other non-Spanish-speaking groups. 
  • “Latino” is thought to be more inclusive in terms of geography as it doesn’t relate to language and embraces the whole region. However, the androcentric nature of this Spanish-language term, i.e. the use of masculine form as universal, excludes an entire group of identities. 
  • “Latinx” a newer term that has recently gained popularity among scholars, activists and millennials that is inclusive of gender-expansive and gender non-conforming individuals. Additionally, “Latinx” challenges the binary nature of the Spanish-language term Latino(a). The powerful “X” has opened the door to a variety of identities, and it is also used in the term “Chicanx(o/a)” to highlight the broad indigenous heritage of many groups.
Where did the term Latinx originate?

Latinx was originally formed in the early aughts as a word for those of Latin American descent who do not identify as being of the male or female gender or who simply don’t want to be identified by gender. More than likely, there was little consideration for how it was supposed to be pronounced when it was created. Nevertheless, people have attempted to assign some pronunciations to it. The most common way to pronounce Latinx is the same way you would Spanish-derived Latina or Latino but pronouncing the “x” as the name of the English letter X.

So you get something like \luh-TEE-neks\.

Our favorite Latinx Libros

Mental Health

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Mental Health. gov

What factors contribute to your mental health?

Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:

  • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
  • Family history of mental health problems

Is there a connection between racism & mental health?

“Mental Health America understands that racism undermines mental health. Therefore, we are committed to anti-racism in all that we do. This means that we pledge to work against individual racism, interpersonal racism, and institutional racism in all their forms.”

Racism is a mental health issue because racism causes trauma. And trauma paints a direct line to mental illnesses, which need to be taken seriously.

Past trauma is prominently mentioned as the reason that people experience serious mental health conditions today.  But obvious forms of racism and bigotry are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to racial trauma.

Every day, people of color experience far more subtle traumas:

  • People who avoid them and their neighborhoods out of ignorance and fear;
  • Banks and credit companies who won’t lend them money or do so only at higher interest rates;
  • Mass incarceration of their peers;
  • School curricula that ignore or minimize their contributions to our shared history; and
  • Racial profiling

Most people believe that mental health conditions are rare and “happen to someone else.” In fact, mental health conditions are common and widespread. An estimated 44 million Americans suffer from some form of mental disorder in a given year.

Most families are not prepared to cope with learning their loved one has a mental illness. It can be physically and emotionally trying, and can make us feel vulnerable to the opinions and judgments of others.

If you think you or someone you know may have a mental or emotional problem, it is important to remember there is hope and help.

To hear personal descriptions of mental illness, visit feelslike.

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