Subscriber Rules For The Autism List


Membership in this list is a privilege not a right! This is not a free board for people to peddle their philosophy or belief. This list was formed by an owner who has every right to setup and enforce rules and every right to eliminate those who will not abide by the rules. My belief is that when you try to push your opinions and beliefs on other people that is an infringement of their rights and I will not abide by that. Nor will the excuse that you think it is important be accepted for breaking the rules. While there may be important topics that may be banned by the rules, to keep the sanity of this those topics have been banned. If you feel the need to express your opinions find another forum or start one of your own.

This page/sheet sets the rules for participation in the Autism List that used to be located at St. Johns University's Listserv but now is hosted by APANA ( Every subscriber should be aware of these rules and accept the responsibility to ensure that each of their posts abide by these rules.

At one time this list did not have any set rules, however complaints, flames, personal attacks and sarcastic posts have shown a need for them. Some of these actions have caused people who were desperately in need of support to leave the list.

Since 'autism support' is the purpose of the list the rules are created to assure this list will be a comfortable place for all subscribers. The rules are a way of dealing with people who post content which doesn't conform or comply with the purpose of the list. The procedure which listowners are to follow in such cases is set by these rules.

NOTE: These rules were not derived haphazardly. Many hours of the listowners' time has gone into constructing these rules in an effort to make membership of the list a pleasant and supportive experience. Nor were they devised for the purpose of allowing the listowners to block topics or views they did not agree with. They were derived soley for the purpose of making the list a useful tool for people who need support.

These rules may be updated at times as The Panel Of Listowners deem necessary. No prior notice to the populace need be given and the rules are in effect as soon as they are announced. New rules and changes to rules are not open for discussion on the list. If you have a problem with them contact the panel of listowners.

Panel Of Listowners

The derivation and application of the rules, handling of complaints, and various maintenance procedures for the list, will be performed by a panel of 3 to 4 listowners. (From here on refered to as the "Panel"). Their duties will also include assisting subscribers with listserver commands and endeavouring to help or advise regarding any mailing difficulties or problems members may experience.

Ray Kopp formed this list in April 1992 and remains a member of the Panel. Ray is the parent of a child with autism. Ray set the list up to support families with difficulties in dealing with issues with special needs and for the purpose of sharing information and helping locate resources. It's main direction has always and Ray and I hope will always be to support people and to provide information to gain access to needed resources. Ray no longer has time to answer private email from listmembers which is the only reason his name and email address do not currently appear in any public information regarding the list.

In July 2000, when Ray realized that he no longer had the time to devote to maintaining the list, he asked me (Carolyn Baird) to take over all duties as primary listowner from him. I am the elected Autistic Representative on the Panel and have held that position since the Panel was created over 3 years ago.

By way of introduction, I and all 4 of my children have diagnoses on the autistic spectrum. I have one grandchild who is 12 months old. I have been a continuous member of this list since May 1992, despite numerous address changes. I also am an experienced listowner having created and/or maintained numerous lists continuously since 1994.

The Panel consists of volunteers who belong to at least one of the following categories:

  1. A parent of a disabled child (preferable with autism or a similar developmental disability).

  2. A professional such as a teacher, administrator, therapist, counselor or anyone who works daily with the disabled or their families.

  3. An Autistic or similarly developmentally disabled individual.

In the event that one of the current Panel members resigns and a suitable volunteer replacement cannot be found belonging to the same category then that position may be filled with a person from one of the other categories.

When a Panel member resigns, the method utilised to select his/her replacement will be determined by the Panel Members at that time. It may be by election (calling for nominations on the list and then a tally of votes from all listmembers) or by appointment by the Panel (selecting a suitable condidate either from a list of volunteers or by a private request to a listmember from the Panel)

Posting Rules

Respect for all subscribers is paramount

On this list, We all have the right to be respected. As stated above, membership in the list is a privilege not a right. Parents are under constant pressure dealing with school districts, professionals who are trying to help their children, seeking services for their children and trying to keep their day to day life somewhat intact. Professionals are often under pressure to use methods and techniques which they have not been sufficiently trained for but have been directed to use. Autistics constantly have to deal with the stresses daily life puts on them as well as the issues of a society that is not often very supportive of autistic issues.

The professionals on this list are on here for a number of reasons including:

  1. To learn from those closest to the situation, what living with special needs means on a day to day basis.
  2. To offer support on programs, therapies or services they may be expert or familiar with.
While it may sometimes be an economic advantage to such members, others should accept that they are here to help us in case people want more details about their area of expertise. Their programs may be controversial, they may not work for all, but once again they are here to help parents and autistics who may want the information these professional members can provide.

However, all members should note that this is not an advertising board for any products for which you receive monetary gain. Too much promotion of such products on the list may be viewed as inappropriate use of this list.

The autistics are on the list for fellowship and the opportunity to socialize with other autistics and others in general. They are also here to share their very valuable experience with all of us. They can offer a unique inside view that all of us have a need to understand.

No one on this list needs to be challenged by others on this list. Being told their parental abilities are poor, or that the program they are using is wrong or they are negligent are all forbidden. The purpose of the list is to offer support and ideas to other subscribers, not to belittle them. If you can't offer support or helpful ideas, you should not offer anything. This applies to all subscribers, parent, autistic or professional. All of us have something to offer and have a place on this list and are not to be ridiculed, criticized or replied to with sarcasm.

Topics Banned

Our aim in managing the list is to ban as few topics as possible as especially if they relate to Autism. We permit non-Autism related posts so long as they are not taking up the bulk of the email. Please be considerate with non-Autism posts and with humor posts, put something in the "Subject" line of your post, such as "Off-topic" or "Humor" and keep them decent and brief. A Panel member with the approval of at least one other member of the Panel may issue a request to halt any discussion which is dominating list discussions and causing inconvenience to other members not involved in that discussion. Such requests are to be regarded as OFFICIAL and no debate will be entered into either privately or on the list regarding that request.

The topics we do ban are not because the list owners have a preference in the issues, it's usually because the topic is too controversial and will for certain, based on past experience, detract from the purpose of this list.

Currently the only topic banned on this list is the subject of Abortion. It is banned in any form, regardless of how it relates. This is too hot a topic for this list, too often it has completly dominated the list when it has been brought up. This is too often a religious decision or a decision with the same reasoning as religion. It hasn't been decided elsewhere despite protesting, panel discussions etc. And likewise it's discussion on this list is not likely to influence people's belief regarding abortion. If you feel the need to discuss this then find a different forum. It will be a banned topic in any form, including forwarding publications or email bulletins which include the topic.

This is the only banned topic. However that doesn't mean we might not ban another discussion if it becomes too hot. If so we will notify and then the populace is to drop the topic or pay the consequences.

Guidelines for discussions of topics:

I find that some guidelines for discussions are necessary, to prevent exchanges that are serving individuals interests rather than serving all members of the list.

In the past on this list and others I've seen topics and beaten to death with tactics such as mudslinging and outright intimidation of other people's opinions. I can name ABA, FC, Vaccination and a few others. Where certain parties didn't believe in a method or treatment and felt it was their duty to discredit it. On the other hand I've seen it used in the reverse to intimidate people into using a therapy or treatment, either by belittling other methods or by implying that to fail to try a treatment is child neglect. In almost all of these cases these people started discussions that ruined any useful discussion of the topic. I've also seen these tactics used against individuals - usually professionals who are identified with a particular treatment or therapy.

I will not allow any such discussion like that on here at all. While the wording of such a rule may not be able to be too specific, the intent can be quite clear. The Listowners will open complaints if they see such tactics and they will honor any complaints sent to us on this matter.

If you represent an organization that fosters a treatment or policy in relation to Autism or you feel strongly about such a group, the discussion must carry on describing the benefits of the treatment or policy you are advocating. If you or the organization you represent, or are involved with, also advocate the belittlement of another organization or treatment, that side of your organization is not welcome here. The parents on this list are intelligent people who can figure things out themselves by what they see and hear and the results they see. Discussions of the validity of proofs are not appropriate for this list, take them to a professional list.

Once again, the purpose of this list is to help people find resources, not to advocate particular ones or to discredit others. Advocacy of a treatment, policy or organization must take a positive attitude (discussion of benefits), not a negative one (discrediting of other therapies etc. in favor of what you advocate). Discussions of these treatments etc. must never include names of other subscribers.

To be more exact I don't want to see any battles with one organization bashing another. Likewise if anyone is a member of an organization I see no need for discussion of that on this list unless they themselves bring it up in an effort to help someone. Present the positive things regarding your organization, not the negatives of other organizations.

Please also remember that when heated debates start up, think of the rules. If something looks like a flame war starting, do not join in, flame wars are extremely forbidden.

If you see such a discussion beginning, do not join in with it, if you just jump in on bashing, such as "You Go Girl!" or "You tell him", you will be considered to have committed the same breach of the rules!

In all discussion on this list, keep posts and responses civil or keep them to yourself. If someone else gets uncivil, do not respond, instead contact the Panel and ask for a complaint to be lodged.

Program Plan and Methodology Discussions

Discussion about programs and methodologies are permitted so long as they continue to be about the program or methods rather than the poster or other listmembers.

Some topics tend to be controversial and generate some heated discussion. If arguments get too heated and yet they are reasonable one of the Panel may ask for a two or three day recess, where parties halt discussion for a set number of days in hopes of cooling off discussion, and come back to the discussion in a set number of days.

Posts which begin to be directed at the poster more than the topic will be considered in violation of the rules. The Panel may step in and take action, especially where the Panel begin receiving complaints from subscribers.

REMEMBER! Despite how a program, therapy or treatment works for you does not mean it will work for every child or person. If a parent choses to use or not to use a certain treatment or therapy on their child it is their business only.

Posts that lead people to believe that they are being negligent or abusive if they do or do not use a specific therapy or treatment are considered in violation of the rules.

It is fine to relate your experiences with a therapy or treatment but it is a violation of the rules to tell them they are doing something wrong.

If you think that some other plan or treatment is better you may offer them a suggestion with an offer of more information via private email if they are interested. If other people are also interested they may request it posted public and you may post it public.

Regarding Subscribers who have Products or Services to Sell

########### People may subscribe who are either commercial suppliers of products related to Special Needs or people who have an interest in Autism but also may have some product or service to sell.

No one on the Panel of Listowners support/benefit or endorse any of these products. I allow them because some subscriber(s) may have a specific need for these products, and it may be the easiest way for someone in need to find the resource.

However the following stipulations will apply. No routine daily/weekly/ monthly advertisements on this list. Contact information and a brief description of what you sell may be sent out in a reminder, however no more than once weekly unless requested by a subscriber or Panel Member.

Anyone who has received an unsolicited advertisement from any commercial subscriber and wishes to lodge a complaint against the commercial subscriber may send that complaint to the Panel of Listowners.

Membership on this list is not to be considered an indication of an interest or invitation to send solicitations, information or advertisements to other subscribers. It will be considered a violation of rules if a subscriber sends unsolicited advertisements or information of a commercial nature to other subscribers.

Personally I will exempt myself from this. If you have a product to sell and you wish for me to know about it with possibility of it being added to my web page or posted to the list, that is fine, provided it is infrequent and if I ask for such mailing to stop it ceases.

If I get a complaint it will be considered the same as any complaint and action may include removal from the list. Count of infractions before removal will be up to the Panel of List Owners and personally I will take a more strict stand against corporate subscribers than I do social subscribers.

This policy is not intended to offend anyone, it is meant to address previous complaints from subscribers who wished to know the standing concerning advertising, commercial solicitation on the list. I hope it makes regular subscribers realize that while I'm letting these commercial subscribers on the list, it is not an open door to flood the list or other subscriber's mailboxes with advertisements.

I've had complaints before about people pushing products they have a financial interest in. But I've never wanted to close off people's availability to a resource. And I've always hoped and expected that those with such an interest would realize and keep advertisements to a minimum and just provide information when people ask.

This is a much more liberal policy than many other listowners have adopted.

Rule, Listowner, Panel and Censorship Discussion

Listowners have a right to set rules for participation on their list. They also have a right to enforce those rules. In fact it has been described as one of the responsibilities of a Listowner at St. Johns.

If everyone was considerate of everyone else's feelings and spoke politely to each other and didn't try to evoke responses using sarcasm, name calling and flaming there wouldn't be a need for rules and enforcement. Since instances on this list have shown the need to create rules, methods of enforcement have also been needed.

It is further stated that these rules are not for public list debate, or criticism. Criticism of the Panel or the host site, even if they are warranted are no longer allowed. If you have issues with the Panel or the rules, address them strictly to the Panel via email or directly to one of the Panel members.

If you have complaints about the host site you can figure out who to address them to there.

This site was gracious enough to allow, and continues to allow this list, which consumes considerable resources. Nothing made them do it and they have no responsibility beyond that, but we also have to abide by their rules.

Complaint Handling

How to Lodge A complaint

If you feel that someone has broken these rules or you have taken offense at something someone has said DO NOT POST IT TO THE LIST. SEND YOUR COMPLAINT TO THE PANEL. If you wish to send a copy of your letter to the panel to the poster of the offending message that is up to you. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE THE OFFENDED PARTY TO LODGE A COMPLAINT, ANYONE CAN LODGE A COMPLAINT ON BEHALF OF ANYONE ELSE.

In your mail to the Panel, you need to show specifically the post that broke a rule and which rule it broke. This means actually forwarding a copy of the post in your email to the Panel, and including the text of the rule (either full text from this publication or from the brief one posted weekly), and then identifying how you feel the rules were broken.

The Panel member that receives the email will use their own discretion to decide who if any of the members involved will be set to have their posts moderated and alter their settings accordingly. The complaint will then be forwarded to the rest of the Panel members along with an account of the actions taken and their reasons for them. The complaint will then be discussed amongst the Panel members until a decision is reached. This process should commence within 1 day, allowing for the fact that all panel members may not read their email after normal business hours (and some may not be in your time zone), and some do not have access to email during the weekends or holidays.

The only notification any member can demand or expect to receive that a complaint has been lodged against them is notification directly from the listserv indicating that their posts are being moderated.

By utilising moderation the Panel members believe that the complaint process will be much simplified. No-one will be called upon to defend their actions and no-one will be advised who or who isn't being moderated. Having posts moderated is not a punitive measure, it is a protective measure to guarantee that you or others involved do not inadvertently breach any further rules that might complicate the outcome of the Panel's decision regarding the matter.

The Panel will discuss the situation via email and attempt to decide on appropriate action. The decision if the post is or is not a violation will be based on a majority of the votes of the Panel (ie. 3 of 4). If there is a tie vote the Panel will decide on a method of resolving the tie.


If it's decided that the complaint is unfounded then you will receive notification from the listserv that your posts are no longer being moderated. However, if the Panel decides that there is grounds for the complaint then you will continue to have your posts moderated until such time as the Panel is convinced that you are endeavouring to abide by the rules and that neither you nor other listmembers require the protection that moderation affords.

Suspension or removal are penalties that will only be used in extreme circumstances of grievous or multiple offenses that the Panel considers cannot be resolved any other way.

If a member of the Panel sees a post that they feel is a breach of the rules they may initiate this process on their own, but it still must be handled the same.

What happens if I post my complaint to the list?

Posting of a complaint to the open list is very likely to start a flame war or discussion about a fellow subscriber, therefore it is a direct violation of the rules. In that matter it will cause a legitimate complaint to be lodged against you.

Notifying the list that a complaint has been lodged or the outcome of any complaint is a violation of the rules.

Ban On Discussing A Banned Subscriber

Public Discussion of a banned member will not be allowed. That person has a right to be a part of the discussion. IF YOU WISH TO OFFER YOUR SUPPORT OF THAT PERSON SEE THE NEXT SECTION.

Supporting a Banned Subscriber

It is my opinion that Panels will sometimes make a mistake. Therefore I am not going to ban reasonable discussion with the Panel by subscribers offline, that is if you wish to support someone who has been banned, email the Panel describing why you think this person should not have been removed. The only additional content to add here is that if they've broken the rules and shown no intention of correcting their behavior or refraining from future offenses of the same nature, the decision will most likely stand.


If you wish to state a point or discuss a decision with the Panel it must be done in a decent respectful manner. If this discussion turns into a berating of the Panel, the discussion will be considered a violation of the rules.

All of us deserve respectful meaningful correspondence and there is no reason anyone on this list, subscriber or Panel Member should be expected to put up with anger, name calling or badgering by a subscriber. The Panel members all were volunteers who were approved by the majority of the population of this list that felt it in their interest to vote.

No Panel member shall be obliged to respond to any private email which they receive regarding the Autism list . However they can if they wish respond in their own time or forward that message to another Panel member who may elect to respond on their behalf.

If you don't like the way the Panel operates or you don't like the rules, you are free to unsubscribe and seek out another list more suitable to your taste. There are others out there, some are more tolerant but most won't be.

Requests - Not Rules

The following are included due to a need, however they are not rules, actions will not be taken against people who may not do as requested. The request is due mainly to disk space limitations on the server at St. Johns where this list resides and as a common courtesy to others.

  1. Please do not include large quotes when replying to posts, include only what is needed to show what you are responding to.

  2. Please, if possible send "me too", "Thanks" and "good ideas" to the individual posters rather than the list, unless some subscriber has asked for a count for purposes of gathering statistics for their use. Another incident that would be ok would be in the case of where the Panel has asked for a readership opinion on some topic.

  3. Please refrain from posting "repeat documents" on a regular basis. Exceptions to this would be FAQs relating to disability issues, these rules, the List FAQ, and related notices. Please keep these brief and to the point.

  4. If you have a special interest please consider creating a web page for this information. Then when you add documents or information post a notice of what you have added and the reference to your page as well as a brief description of what the document is about. I know much information gets posted on here that has a wide audience, but some of it is of use to a limited number of subscribers and yet takes up alot of space, however if you don't have web capabilities we recognize that shortfall. You could even ask for suggestions of sites to set such a page up.

  5. Please try to keep to the topic of disabilities and family experiences somewhat. However with such a serious topic occasional off-topic items and humor are often a needed respite from the seriousness. Also try to really figure out if it's possible that what appears off topic to you might be directly related to disability for another person.

  6. If you are going to send a joke please include in the subject line something such as "Subject: Jokes: Joke title".

  7. If you are going to send something not directly related to autism lets put something in the subject line such as "Subject: Non-Autism: Poor Roads In New York" or "Subject: Off-topic: I wish I would win the lottery!". This is a nice convenience for people who are spending money trying to keep up to autism issues by reading this list.

Summarized Rules

To summarize the above:

  1. Posting is a privilege not a right

  2. No ridicule of another subscriber or The Panel.

  3. No sarcasm directed against another subscriber or The Panel.

  4. No name calling.

  5. No personal attacks or harrassment of any subscriber or The Panel.

  6. The only banned topic at this time is Abortion. (Subject to change!)

  7. Limit pointless lengthy or controversial debates.

  8. Stick to Discussion Guidelines while discussing anything.

  9. No open or public posting regarding complaints (see above for how to handle complaints)

  10. No open or public posting of complaints about a type or subject of postings (see above for how to handle complaints)

  11. No open or public posting calling for someone's removal (see above for how to handle complaints)

  12. No open or public posting of discussion regarding a banned member. (see above for how to support a banned member)

  13. No obligation for Panel to explain their actions or decisions.