ANI-L, an online discussion list


General information
How to subscribe
Principles and Policies
Topics feature
Parents' Auxiliary
listserv commands
A guide to the WWW interface

General Information

ANI-L is the list for Autism Network International. It is intended to be a meeting place and advocacy network for autistics and cousins abbreviated as "ACs." (A "cousin" is loosely defined as a person who does not have a diagnosis of autism, but who has some other significant social and communication abnormalities that render him or her recognizably "autistic-like.") Family members, friends, and professionals are welcome to participate as well. However, it has been our experience that forums in which professionals, family members, and disabled people all participate together tend to end up being dominated by parent and/or professional interests at the expense of the interests of the disabled people themselves, which are often quite different. Therefore, ANI-L has been established with certain principles and policies meant to ensure that this remains a safe, hospitable, and helpful forum for autistics and cousins.

Principles and Policies

*This list is "autistic space." Autistics and cousins are here to participate for our own benefit, not to put ourselves on display for the benefit of parents or professionals. Non-autistic people who wish to participate with us as fellow human beings, with respect for our dignity and our privacy, are welcome. People wanting to study us are encouraged to look for study material elsewhere.

*This list is not a place to conduct research about autism, either by actively soliciting information or by lurking and observing. Professionals with research interests in autism will not be admitted unless they provide a statement that information shared on ANI-L will not be used for any research purposes, and that research subjects will not be solicited from the membership of ANI-L.

*Subject matter and communication style in the AC-oriented topics are determined by what autistics and cousins are interested in. (See the "Information about topics" message for an explanation of the topics.) If a topic of discussion is of interest to autistics and cousins on the list, even if non-autistic people are not interested in it, the topic is considered appropriate content for the list. On the other hand, if a topic is of interest primarily to non-autistic readers and is uninteresting or offensive to a significant portion of autistics and cousins, that topic is considered inappropriate for this list. It is not acceptable for non-autistic list members to lecture to autistics and cousins regarding "correct" topics or styles of communication. If you are not comfortable with autistic communication, there are other lists which you may prefer to subscribe to.

*The list has a Parents' Auxiliary section where family members who believe in the principles of Autism Network International can connect with other family members who share this philosophy. Some autistics and cousins may choose to participate in discussions in the Parents' Auxiliary. However, this is entirely at the discretion of the individual autistic person or cousin; being able to discuss parenting issues with autistic adults is not something parents should expect or feel entitled to as a part of membership in ANI-L. The primary purpose of the Parents' Auxiliary is for parents to share information and feelings with other parents. See the "Special information about the Parents' Auxiliary" message for full guidelines regarding this section.

*One of the fundamental principles of Autism Network International is that autism is a way of being, not a defect or a tragedy. We are here to affirm that autistic lives are meaningful and worthwhile lives. Discussions about ways to make autistic people "less autistic," to "cure" autism, to render autistic people indistinguishable from non-autistic people, or to prevent the births of future autistic people, demean and devalue our lives as autistic people. These topics are not appropriate for this list.

*Topics that are appropriate for this list include sharing of ways autistic people can cope and function as autistic people, promoting civil rights for autistic people, advocating for appropriate educational and vocational services for autistic people, autistic humor, square-dancing llamas, and autistic culture in general.

Special Information For People Who Use Assistance In Using This Forum:

  1. You are responsible for adherence to list policies. If the person who assists you breaks list policies using information gained through this listserv, you will still be held responsible.

  2. We feel it is best if only the subscriber speaks through his/her account. In face-to-face interactions, there is a tendency for people to address an assistant rather than the person with the disability. Let's not do anything to foster those dynamics here.

  3. We encourage facilitators and other support people to subscribe to ANI-L under their own names and accounts. You are welcome here, but it is felt that it would be best if you get your own subscription to this forum if you wish to be a participant.


The listowners do the best we can to maintain the safety and security of the list. Our success depends on the cooperation of all the members. Please keep the following in mind as you participate on ANI-L:

*While this is a closed list, it is nevertheless a public list. Anything you post here is read by a large number of people, most of whom are strangers to you. If there is something you wish to say to a small number of list members that you consider friends, but you do not want it to be read by a large number of strangers, you should send it by private email only to the people you want to read it.

*In any public forum there is a risk that people will join and will proceed to harass other members. This is a risk we can try to reduce by requiring new members to be approved by the listowners. But since listowners are not clairvoyant, we cannot eliminate the risk entirely. Therefore, please DO NOT include your snail mail address or phone number in any post to ANI-L. If you have a sig file that automatically adds this information to your outgoing mail, please remember to delete it before sending posts to ANI-L.

*Since this is a closed forum, most things that are posted on it should be treated as confidential. Posts that specifically invite people to pass them along, public announcements (for example, regarding conferences, media events, or other public events), and cross-posted items from open lists may be shared outside ANI-L. Anything else that is posted on ANI-L is NOT to be shared with anyone who is not a member of ANI-L, unless the person who posted the item gives permission for it to be shared elsewhere. Violation of this policy is grounds for removal from the list.

Private Email Between Members Of ANI-L

Private email should usually be treated as confidential. However, sometimes people use private email to harass other people. People who do this depend on the victims not to report them. They try to convince the people they're harassing that the victims are obligated to protect the harassers' confidentiality. If this kind of harassment takes place only in private mail, the listowners cannot take any action unless someone lets us know about it.

If someone is sending you private email that you find disturbing, you should forward the mail to one of the listowners. Some indications that private mail might be inappropriate and not protected by the confidentiality policy include:

mail whose primary purpose is not to share anying about the person who sends it, but only to attack the person who receives it;
mail that shares things about the sender that the recipient has not asked to share and can reasonably be expected to find upsetting (for example, unsolicited mail about sexual topics, suicide, etc.);
mail from someone the recipient has already indicated that he or she does not want to receive private mail from;
or mail about things that the recipient has already indicated that he or she would rather not discuss.
If you are unsure about whether you are being harassed by another list member, ask a listowner to read the mail in question.

Special precautions should be observed in private correspondence between parents and autistics/cousins:

  1. ACs on the list have a right to know that we are valued and appreciated for ourselves, not for what people want us to teach them about their children. Parents who want to correspond privately with an autistic person or cousin for the purpose of gaining insight into a child's behavior should post a public message in the Parents' Auxiliary saying something like, "I would be interested in corresponding privately with <person's name> about <subject>." If the person reads the Parents' Auxiliary and is willing to correspond privately, he or she can contact the parent privately. If the person does not wish to engage in private correspondence with this person about this subject, he or she will not answer. Parents and other family members should not send unsolicited private email to autistics or cousins seeking advice about their children. This is intrusive behavior. If it occurs, the recipient of the offending email should forward it to a listowner or a Parents' Auxiliary moderator.

  2. Parents on the list have the right to parent their own children. ACs who may wish to offer suggestions to a parent about how to deal with a particular situation should either post their suggestions publicly on the Parents' Auxiliary, or post a public message in the Parents' Auxiliary saying something like, "I would be interested in corresponding privately with <person's name> about <subject>." If the parent is willing to correspond privately, he or she can contact the AC privately. If the parent does not wish to engage in private correspondence with this person about this subject, he or she will not answer. Autistics and cousins should not send unsolicited private email to parents or other family members offering advice or criticism about their children. This is intrusive behavior. If it occurs, the recipient of the offending email should forward it to a listowner or Parents' Auxiliary moderator.

    How To Subscribe

    If you wish to subscribe to ANI-L, send a message to the list owners (James Bordner or Jim Sinclair), stating that you have read the list policies and agree to abide by them. Please include a brief introduction telling us something about who you are and what your interest is in autism. THIS IS FOR LISTOWNER REFERENCE ONLY, AND WILL NOT BE SHARED WITH THE LIST. You should also include your postal (i.e., "snail mail") address and phone number, either at home or at work, so that we can verify who you are. THIS INFORMATION WILL ALSO BE KEPT CONFIDENTIAL. It will be released to the proper authorities in the event we receive complaints of threatening or abusive email. Otherwise, it will not be shared with anyone.

    Thank you for your interest and cooperation in keeping this a safe list for everyone.

    Your listowners,

    James Bordner
    Jim Sinclair

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The ANI web site was last modified 19 July 2009. Comments, questions, and suggestions concerning this site should be addressed to the webmaster at webmaster@autreat.com. Regrettably, due to the webmaster's heavy workload, personal replies may not always be possible.