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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Autism, Activism, and Intellectual Disability

 At The Los Angeles Times, Thomas Curwen writes:
Ido Kedar belongs to a rare confederacy.

Diagnosed with autism when he was a child, Kedar — now 17 and a junior at Canoga Park High School — refuses to be defined by his disorder and joins a number of other autistic activists who are out to redefine popular assumptions about intelligence and disability.

“Who are we?” Kedar recently wrote on his blog, “Ido in Autismland.” “Silent fighters, that’s who.… It is time to be advocating for ourselves. Why forever must the theories of scholars be listened to over the people with autism themselves?”

Mostly unable to speak, they communicate with iPads and letter boards. They blog, write books, make films. Mental deficiency and autism, they say, are not synonymous.

Some researchers and critics, however, are not so certain. In 2010, the journal Psychological Medicine published a study that concluded that of 156 autistic children, 55% had an intellectual disability. [See more recent contrary data here.]

Kedar, the subject of a profile in the Sunday Times, hopes more parents with autistic children will question these conclusions. For years, aides and teachers didn’t give Kedar credit for his work, and that frustration prompted him to write his blog and turn his blog into a book of the same name.