Ari Ne’eman, 22
Advocate for those with developmental disabilities

He’s a presidential nominee who has served on state councils and has influenced legislation all across the country. And he just graduated college.

Though he now holds a degree in political science from University of Maryland Baltimore Country, Ari Ne’eman has been applying his field of study to the world at large for years.

Ne’eman was diagnosed in 2000 with Asperger’s syndrome, a developmental disability that places him on the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum.

Since he was a child, Ne’eman witnessed injustice against the diabled, both in society and the media. He has worked for years to advocate on their behalfs and to teach others in his situation to do the same.

In addition to serving on the New Jersey Special Education Review Commission, he has advised the government on creating legislation that it is inclusive towards those with disabilities. In 2006 (shortly after graduating high school), he founded the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, which organizes people from a variety of different backgrounds to promote autism awareness and changes in the law on both local and federal levels to benefit those with disabilities.

Ne’eman was also recently appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the National Council on Disability, and awaits his confirmation.

His work encompasses the national community, but he attributes his drive to help others to his Jewish upbringing. “As a Jew and as a human being, I believe we have an obligation to leave the world in a better place than how we found it,” he says. “I am glad that my experiences as a person with a disability have led me to the disability rights movement as a way for me to try to fulfill that mitzvah.”

Guilty pleasure: Watching the television show “Mad Men.”

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I have autism and am part of the Regional Center where I live. The reason I say Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) does not represent my views and those who do not choose to associate is because of their approaches. It’s not because everything they stand for is wrong it’s because they alienate really good ideas with very bad approaches. Using abortion politics to make demands toward tax-payers for services estranges the needs of real people and estranging compassion as pity in protests signs is just wrong. Caring people are called Nazi’s, their intents manipulated as if they meant harm and I just cannot ethically not speak against the propaganda because I think it’s wrong to warp others intention and everyone should be treated fairly.

ASAN needs to invent into the intentions of others so much to continue it’s PR game and it got them a nomination by a political party and this is not the first time an elected figure has done so. I am so tired of being expected to dumb myself down and go along for the ride as they manipulate what others say and to me it is a moderate amount of time farfetched as if I shouldn’t be expected to think as an independent self-advocate otherwise less I am and others detractors. Everyone deserves respect and when disagreements happen I believe there should be a diverse conversation going on and not just a group who has used abortion politics to force their views representing the self-advocacy community. People in the middle who actually listen to both sides are not often in the media nor are they allowed to speak through the self-advocacy network known as ASAN because the views are dictated and it’s not a true self-advocacy network in the diverse sense.

Neurodiversity simply denotes a diversity exists. As a concept it does not dictate how each individual of a diversity shall think, believe and choose.

Nathan Young
Humboldt County, CA

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