Many autistic, neurologically diverse and physically disabled adults have been critical of a website called, The Mighty for quite some time.

The for-profit and funded site states:

“We face disability, disease and mental illness together," as its motto.

Written primarily by unpaid non-disabled people with curated blog posts from around the internet, this is a site that boasts 30 million views. Disabled bloggers, such as at the Australian neurodiversity blog Michele Sutton Writes, have reported that when approached by The Mighty for curated blog content, they have been edited to have their message changed if the writing is about self-advocacy and decision-making by and for the disabled person themselves.

Writers allege that self-advocacy is a controversial topic to The Mighty.

The accusation is that this isn’t a site for disabled people as advertised, but rather a clickbait site about disabled people to objectify them. Blogger L. Kelley from the 30 Days of Autism blog writes, “…organizations like The Mighty are harmful to the Disability Community, because they are misrepresenting ableism as advocacy.”

This criticism turned into a flash-point Twitter hashtag and blogosphere explosion this week following an article and meme published December 20th article that made light of autistic meltdowns.

Autistic meltdown

An autistic meltdown is a state endured by someone with autism who has become overwhelmed, generally due to frustration, anxiety or sensory input overload.

While each person with autism experiences meltdown differently, this is an emotionally and physically draining experience that is both extremely distressing and painful to the individual. It might be compared to a state of fight-or-flight, but where the individual loses control, sometimes violently.

Adults with autism who are able to communicate through voice or writing describe the experience as not only draining, terrifying and agonizing, but in the cases where the reaction is violent, they may hurt others around them, compounding their guilt, agony, and sorrow following the incident.

Meltdown bingo

While a meltdown is certainly also distressing for the parent, family, or friends of the child or adult with autism, especially when they are on the receiving end of violent behavior, disability advocates around the world are expressing that it is no laughing matter, especially in the form of sarcasm, mocking or “Meltdown Bingo”.

In the game, while there was no clear winner or prize, a parent could mark a square each time a child with autism had a meltdownbehavior thatresulted in the child hitting and pinching, saying, “I hate you”, or other similar behaviors over the Christmas holiday. The Mighty has since removed the meme and accompanying article, and issued an apology on their website following an outcry from both individuals with disabilities and some parents.

Changes and authenticity

It is clear, even to those who struggle with disabilities, that maintaining a healthy sense of humor is essential when facing life’s more difficult challenges. This isn’t appropriate when attempts at even dark humor promote stereotypes or fear of citizens most in need of care and support.

Bloggers with various types of disabilities and members of the Disability Visibility Project feel that promoting and publishing instances of ableism for hits is beyond reproach. The reprisal for what is seen as an exploitation of the struggles of an autistic child for “clickbait” financial gain is embodied by the hashtag #crippingthemighty, now lighting up the internet and calling for change.

The parents and disabled adults calling for change at The Mighty would like to see, at very least, authentic stories by disabled people, for disabled people where ableism is what is controversial, as opposed to the rights and privacy of self-advocating people with disabilities. They would also like to see the for-profit site pay for the stories used for content on the site.