Eric Garcia is the Washington Bureau Chief and Senior Washington Correspondent at the Independent and the author of the book We're Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation. He is also a columnist for MSNBC. He previously worked as an assistant editor at the Washington Post’s Outlook section and an associate editor at The Hill, as well as a correspondent for National Journal, MarketWatch, and Roll Call. He has also written for the Daily Beast, the New Republic, and Salon.com. Garcia is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Autism: How bad ideas about autism harm autistic people
Roughly 1 in 44 children have Autism Spectrum Disorder. But for decades, autism has been subject to multiple myths, half truths, urban legends and moral panics. But many of these ideas--from the mistaken belief that unloving parents caused autism to the oft-repeated and just-as-frequently-debunked lie that vaccines caused autism--are rooted in fear. As a result, much of public policy and culture around autism is rooted in the idea that educators, parents and autistic people themselves should fear autism. This mindset has oriented much of the policies meant to address autism. Eric Garcia, a respected political journalist who is autistic himself, speaks about how these harmful ideas led to negative policy outcomes for autistic people and how society should move from attempting to cure autism to focusing more on changing society to accommodate autistic people. He describes how during his time covering politics in Washington, he realized the chasm between the way politicians discussed autism from the genuine needs of autistic people in their daily lives. A politics junkie from birth and policy obsessive by trade who was born and came of age just as the public began to increasingly turn its gaze toward autism, Garcia discusses how he realized the effects of the politics of autism panics and outdated ideas surrounded him and shaped his path to adulthood. In turn, he chronicles how he hit the road across America to learn how these poorly-formed ideas shaped autistic people's lives to this day, who they leave out and how to build a better world for autistic people today. In turn, he also argues that the only way to create a more accepting society for autistic people is to let them have a say in every policy about autistic people, borrowing from the classic phrase in disability rights "nothing about us without us." Garcia also discusses how his own "Spectrum Generation" of autistic people are shaping politics today and how the generations that have followed him are furthering this conversation.
Autism, Accommodation and Academia: An Unrequited Love Triangle
By the time many autistic people enter higher education, they have run the gauntlet of dealing with accommodations through their K-12 education. It often turns them off of asking for accommodations, or they still deal with lingering internalized ableism, thinking that by virtue of them heading to college, they somehow "overcame" their autism or, more insidiously, they fear asking for accommodations. Conversely, many academic administrators, professors and others involved in higher education believe the term "autistic person" and "college student" are mutually exclusive since they believe autistic people are "too disabled" to enter higher learning or do not take autistic people's needs seriously enough when they say they need accommodations. This leads to mutual misunderstanding that does not serve either students or those in charge of their education. Eric Garcia, a graduate and journalist who himself went through the process of asking for accommodations, discusses how to ameliorate these understandings. He discusses why autistic people can and should advocate for themselves to ensure they get the best education possible and encourages those working in higher education to take accommodations seriously, particularly as more autistic people will enter higher education in the near future. Drawing on research, interviews with autistic students themselves, and his own life experience, he talks about how the trouble with accommodations is they put the onus on students and how to improve accommodations to make life better for autistic students.
How the autism panic created our modern-day politics
America’s current era of political extremism has a pedigree filled with many distinguished and dubious ancestors. But the Covid-19 pandemic revealed one culprit that many have overlooked: The panic around autism from the 1990s and the 2000s. From Dan Burton, the chairman of the former House Oversight Committee who pursued the Clintons and vaccines for causing his grandchild’s autism with equal vigor, to figures like Robert Kennedy Jr., who promoted the theory that vaccine caused autism and became one of the big promoters of conspiracies about Covid-19 vaccines; to Oprah Winfrey and Dr Oz, who each spread fear about autism in their own way; to Bob Wright, the founder of Autism Speaks and former NBC Universal executive who put The Apprentice on air and paved a path for Donald Trump to enter the White House, we live in a world shaped by fear of autism. Today, many conservative Republicans spread fear about transgender identity by saying autistic kids are being fooled into transitioning their gender. All of these ideas are rooted in the idea that autism is something to be feared. Eric Garcia, a seasoned political reporter who is autistic himself, discusses how we got here and how autism acceptance can lead to a less vitriolic style of politics
Congress as a fight club–how can we expect Washington to govern?
Republicans control the House and Democrats control the Senate with equally thin majorities. Kevin McCarthy barely earned the speaker’s gavel after a literal fight almost broke out while Democrats have welcomed a new generation of leadership. Joe Biden is weighing whether to seek re-election while Donald Trump is running once again. All the while, political posturing seems to be rewarded more than actual policymaking. Eric Garcia breaks down where Washington is today, what the big crises Congress must tackle, who has the power in Congress and why it isn’t who you might always think. In addition, Garcia breaks down the state of the 2024 election, not just for the White House but also the Senate as Republicans face a once-in-a-generation chance to massively grow their majority while Democrats try and defend from a complete calamity.