Last week, Ari Ne'eman stood at a dais in front of a room full of people celebrating the five-year anniversary of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), an organization he co-founded shortly after he graduated from high school.
"Then, the national conversation on autism was very different than it is today," he said. He and co-founder Scott Robertson were driven to start ASAN, Ne'eman said, because, "Good intentions and love were not enough. You cannot help people through pity and fear." Indeed, ASAN, with its slogan, "Nothing about us, without us" has helped bring the concept of neurodiversity and awareness of autistic adults to the autism community, although not always without controversy.
Attendee Chad Carson, who is a staffer at the American Association of People with Disabilities, one of the celebration's sponsors, says that as an autistic person, he wanted to attend to see how far the organization has come. "It's definitely something that's needed," he said. "With all the attitudes in regards to autism, they are pity-based."
A PSA from at ASAN's YouTube channel: