DADD is deeply saddened for the families and communities affected by last night’s act of senseless violence in Atlanta, GA where eight people, including six women of Asian descent, lost their lives. We stand with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and unequivocally condemn this act – and all acts – of racially-fueled violence. We also acknowledge that anti-Asian racism has existed in the United States for more than a century and that it has recently increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March 19, 2020, hate incidents towards Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have risen by as much as 150% in some US cities. According to a coalition that tracks reports of racism and discrimination, Stop AAPI Hate https://stopaapihate.org/about/, there have been over 3,000 anti-Asian incidents since the beginning of the pandemic, and over 500 between January 1 and February 28 of 2021 alone. Women report experiencing hate incidents 2.3 times more than men, and 3 in 10 Asian Americans (31%) report having faced racial slurs or racist jokes during the COVID-19 pandemic (Pew Research Center survey, 2020).
These events impart urgency to our ongoing efforts at DADD to combat bias and advance social justice, equity, and inclusion. We are committed to growing our advocacy and leadership in these areas and we aim to offer resources for impacted community members and for those of us who need to step forward as allies and activists. Please join us in educating yourself, educating others, taking action, or donating:
The fight for racial justice must continue despite any resistance and setbacks that are encountered. DADD's course of action is clear - we must press forward in supporting Black lives and pursue our impact in dismantling oppressive ideologies. Our responsibility in the fight for social justice in special education is only as strong as our efforts to combat bias and advance social justice, equity, and inclusion.
-Liz Harkins (Diversity Committee Chair) and Ginevra Courtade (President)
First and foremost, to DADD’s Black members, Black students and their families, and Black practitioners – your lives matter. We share the outrage and grief and condemn the killings of our Black brothers and sisters, as well as the terrible injustice and bias that continues to dictate their fates. We support the expression of hurt, anger, and outrage that has stemmed from centuries of systemic racism.
The Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities joins with other organizations and individuals calling for action to end racial injustice and violence to people of color in this country. Children with autism, intellectual disability, and other developmental disabilities and the practitioners who serve them are not immune to racial injustice. Practitioners of color face biases and discrimination every day. Our students of color are referred to special education at higher rates than their white peers and yet do not have access to the same services. These points alone bring another meaning to the words, “I can’t breathe.”
These events impart urgency to our ongoing efforts at DADD to combat bias and advance social justice, equity, and inclusion. We acknowledge that the majority of special education practitioners are white, and practitioners are not yet equipped to incorporate racial justice in their daily practices. We recognize our responsibilities to listen to people of color and engage in self-reflection. We commit to educating ourselves and others on how to serve as allies and how to be anti-racist.
Please refer to DADD Diversity Tab for anti-racism resources.
As you have likely seen, earlier this month the U.S. Secretary of Education released the report to Congress on recommended waivers under IDEA and other education laws. In it, DeVos recommended only minimal waivers under IDEA and the Rehab Act (particularly protecting Section 504). Because her report strongly supports our position, we will remain signed on as one of the supporting organizations for the CCD letter sent May 7th (see April Blog post) to Congress urging them not to support waivers under IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehab Act.
We are continuing the #MyIDEAmatters social media campaign and are urging our members to do the same by tweeting at or send letters (electronically) to their Members of Congress. You can use this NCLD Toolkit to help you spread the word!
Later this month, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will seek permission from Congress to waivers of states’ and districts’ obligations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. This would be a direct attack on the civil rights of students with disabilities.
The undersigned members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Education Task Force and allies submit this letter in response to the directive that the Secretary of Education submit, within 30 days of enactment of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act a report to Congress with recommendations on any additional waivers the Secretary deems necessary under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehabilitation Act) and other education laws. The undersigned organizations are unwavering in our pursuit of educational equity and stand unified in the strong conviction that NO ADDITIONAL waivers are necessary under either the IDEA or the Rehabilitation Act.
DADD presented a mini-conference at the University of Arkansas at the end of July for special education professionals. https://news.uark.edu/articles/49590/special-education-professionals-soak-up-knowledge-at-dadd-conference-on-the-u-of-a-campus?fbclid=IwAR3wmTY3ZDATp1lJjo3dyTxyEW3yib6DY55kNivAQ5uM_6SldU9o8sNNcHo
What is Intersectionality? Intersectionality theory is a way to understand social inequalities by
acknowledging how multiple overlapping social identities impact and oppress certain populations (Weber, 2007). Examples of social identities include race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and [dis]ability, among others.
For example, a female student of color who has autism will have different school experiences than her peers who are white, male, and neurotypical. Each category – race, gender, and [dis]ability – places her at higher risk of discrimination or oppression (National Association of School Psychologists, 2017; Proctor, Kyle, Fefer, & Lau, 2017).
An intersectional perspective requires sensitivity, vulnerability, and a willingness to listen to alternative perspectives.
Why is Intersectionality important to DADD? The DADD Diversity Committee seeks to advocate for the intersectional rights and safety for (a) individuals with autism, intellectual disabilities and/or developmental disabilities, and (b) the professionals who work with them. The Committee supports intersectional contributions to the field and commits to educating others on the importance of multiple perspectives of intersectionality in special education.
If you would like to get more involved with DADD’s Diversity Committee, with concepts of intersectionality in special education or in DADD, or get resources to apply these concepts to your practices, please contact Elizabeth Harkins, Diversity Committee Chair firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Association of School Psychologists. (2017). Understanding intersectionality.
[handout]. Bethesda, MD: Author.
Proctor, S. L., Kyle, J., Fefer, K., & Lau, C. (2017). Examining racial microaggressions,
race/ethnicity, gender, and bilingual status with school psychology students: The role of intersectionality. Contemporary School Psychology. Advance online publication. doi:10.1007/s40688-017-0156-8
Weber L. (2007). In Landry B. (Ed.), Race, Gender and Class: Theory and Methods of Analysis.
(pp. xi–xiv) [Forward] Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
The Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities is currently seeking self-nominations for three upcoming board positions including: Vice-President (January 2020-December 2023), At-Large Member (January 2020-December 2022), & Student Representative (January 2020-December 2020/2021). Please take a moment to consider if this may be a good year for you to run for a position. For more details and a link to the nomination form, see below. And, please feel free to reach our with any questions to Jordan Shurr, Nomination Chair @ email@example.com
Nominations are due online by July 31 at 11:59pm.
The DADD Board of Directors supports the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities’ statement on identifying sexuality as a basic human right that everyone, regardless of cognitive or physical ability, has the right to make choices regarding sexual and gender expression and social relationships. Historically, people with intellectual disability and/or autism spectrum disorder were infantilized and assumed to have no interest in or ability for healthy sexual or gender expression. They also have limited access to a comprehensive sexuality education, tend to experience limited opportunities to establish gender and sexual identity (Niles & Harkins Monaco, 2017), social relationships and skills (Perkins & Borden, 2003), self-worth, self-determination, and emotional wellbeing (Murphy & Elias, 2006), and are at increased risks to engage in unsafe or unhealthy sexual activity as well as at increased risk for sexual abuse (Balderian, Coleman, & Stream, 2013; Harrell, 2014; Krohn, 2014).
As a basic right, each individual with intellectual disability and/or austim spectrum disorder has the right to explore and understand the complexities of gender and sexual diversity. Being supported in discovering gender and sexual identity is critical for these rights to be observed. We recommend families, schools, and support communities work together to deliver individualized education on sexuality that (a) is reflective of the individual’s values; (b) encourages informed decision-making; and (c) promotes sexual health and safety.
Baladerian, N. J., Coleman, T. F., & Stream, J. (2013). A report on the 2012 national
survey on abuse of people with disabilities. Los Angeles: Spectrum Institute.
Harrell, E. (2014). Crimes against persons with disabilities, 2009-1012 statistical tables.
Washington, DC: US Department of Justice.
Krohn, J. (2014). Sexual harassment, sexual assault, and students with special needs:
Crafting an effective response for schools. University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law and Social Change, 17, (1), 2.
Murphy, N. A., & Elias, E. R. (2006). Sexuality of adolescents with developmental
disabilities. Pediatrics, 118(1), 398-403
Niles, G., & Harkins Monaco, E. A., (2017). Gender Identity and Sexual Diversity:
Supporting Individuals with an Intellectual or Developmental Disability, manuscript submitted to DADD Online Journal.
Perkins, D. F., & Borden, L. M. (2003). Positive behaviors, problem behaviors, and
resiliency in adolescence. In R. M. Lerner, M. A. Easterbrooks, & J. Mistry (Eds.), Handbook of psychology: Vol. 6. Developmental psychology (pp. 373–394). New York: Wiley.
White House Council on Women and Girls (2014). Rape and sexual assault: A renewed
call to action. Washington, DC: Author.