‘It is not a disease, it is a way of life’
This article is in today’s Guardian.
The article begins:
Today, an event run by and for autistic people kicks off in Somerset, the latest act of a burgeoning autism rights movement. Emine Saner reports on the campaign to celebrate difference, rather than cure it.
It contains some really good insights from the people she interviewed. For example, Gareth Nelson (pictured above) of Aspies for Freedom says:
I don’t think you should cure something that isn’t purely negative, It’s the same as black people, who seem to be more at risk of sickle cell disease than white people but you’re not going to attempt to cure ‘blackness’ to cure sickle cell.
The only unfortunate thing about the article is that it does play up the role of Aspies for Freedom (AFF) at the expense of other initiatives. I was surprised to read that:
Nelson, with his wife Amy, who also has AS, is leading the UK’s autism rights movement.
And I am not convinced that AFF has 20000 members when the discussion forum on their webite has less than 6000 members and many of those are from overseas. This is unfortunate as one of the strengths of the emergent movement for autism rights and acceptance for autistic people is that there are many voices and all are free to explore important differences as well as points of agreement. As an example, Larry Arnold and I work together within the structures of the NAS and are in broad agreement on many issues. But we differ sharply in our attitude to the role of scientific research in autism.
I would also have liked to read more about Autscape. This event is unique in Europe. It takes its inspiration from a similar event in America called Autreat. Like the AFF, Autscape began three years ago but it makes no leadership claims. Instead it aims to:
- Serve as a haven created by autistic people. An autistic space.
- Provide a venue where the majority of speakers will be autistic.
- Create possibilities within the conference for autistic people to communicate and socialise with other autistic people on their own terms.
- Educate and inform on issues arising from within the autistic community.
- Advocacy and self-advocacy.
- Promote acceptance of autistic people in their own environments.
- Enhance the lives of autistic people through empowerment, advocacy, and a nice relaxing time.
But these minor criticisms should not detract from a very valuable article in which the author shows respect for autistic people and accurately reports their views.
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