Emily Titon grew up in Massachusetts and is Autistic, though she was not diagnosed until the age of 22. Throughout her public school education she experienced a combination of general education, special education and segregated school placements. As a high school student, she provided assistance to students with the most significant support needs, helping them with their schoolwork, Special Olympics, and making friends with some of them – she saw that they did not have enough opportunities to be included and to meet and learn with other mainstream students. She believes that much of the teasing and bullying experienced by people with disabilities she saw and experienced is the result of a lack of understanding by nondisabled peers and a lack of personal relationships with other disabled students.
Emily is the Rhode Island chapter leader of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and has been involved in advocacy work for many years, first at Bridges, Inc. where she served as a human rights trainer for new staff, and later as a human rights inspector at the group homes. Emily was appointed by the Governor of Rhode Island to serve as a member of the state’s Developmental Disabilities Council and serves on the Policy Advisory Committee of the DD Council. She is also on the Board of directors of several groups including Advocates in Action—Rhode Island’s statewide self advocacy group; the New England chapter of TASH, the National board of TASH, as well as AutCom. She is also a founding member of Occupy the Judge Rotenberg Center, a coalition made up of advocates from the autistic and mental health disability communities, dedicated to seeking the closure of the Judge Rotenberg Center and the banning of such aversive treatments.
Emily was first introduced to TASH in 2007 when she was invited to speak at the New England TASH Conference. Her experience with TASH members and the message of TASH made her fall in love with everything about our organization. She regularly volunteers in her community and was a volunteer in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. She is deeply involved in efforts to reform service delivery to disabled people and to see that these services are delivered in a respectful way that centers the human rights of the people receiving them. She has spoken both locally and nationally about service reform and making sure that people’s rights are respected and the dangers of current practice, such as compliance training and behavior modification programs, and the need for all people to have access to communication. She has testified against the use of restraint and seclusion in schools and also against the creation of a statewide autism registry in Rhode Island. Last year, she attended a conference of the European Association of Service Providers in Istanbul as part of an invited delegation from TASH to share our work and philosophy with our European counterparts. It was a wonderful opportunity to exchange ideas and also to learn about and connect with the self advocacy movement more globally. If re-elected to the TASH board, she plans to continue her work on the human rights committee and to continue to focus on initiatives that will empower and center the concerns and voices of disabled people to become fully and fairly represented and included in our schools, jobs, and communities – as well as here at TASH.