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Monday, June 10, 2019

Divisions in Autism

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss divisions and factions within the autism community.
To the extent that the stakeholders form a “community,” it is a quarrelsome one. James Madison identified the causes of faction, including a zeal for different ideas and interests.  In autism politics, the factional disagreements are diverse and deep.    Emotions run high because the stakes are high. Few things are more frightening to parents than not knowing whether a child will ever be able to live independently, indeed to survive without them.  For people with autism, the issue involves their very identity.  

Jonathon Rose at History News Network:
One also has to be mindful that the autism community is riven by ideological divisions, and the unwary researcher may be caught in the crossfire. For instance, if you invite an autistic individual to tell their own story, they might say something like this:
As a child, I went to special education schools for eight years and I do a self-stimulatory behavior during the day which prevents me from getting much done. I’ve never had a girlfriend. I have bad motor coordination problems which greatly impair my ability to handwrite and do other tasks. I also have social skills problems, and I sometimes say and do inappropriate things that cause offense. I was fired from more than 20 jobs for making excessive mistakes and for behavioural problems before I retired at the age of 51.
Others with autism spectrum disorder have it worse than I do. People on the more severe end sometimes can’t speak. They soil themselves, wreak havoc and break things. I have known them to chew up furniture and self-mutilate. They need lifelong care.[7]
This is an actual self-portrait by Jonathan Mitchell, who is autistic. So you might conclude that this is an excellent example of the disabled writing their own history, unflinchingly honest and compassionate toward the still less fortunate, something that everyone in the autism community would applaud. And yet, as Mitchell goes on to explain, he has been furiously attacked by “neurodiversity” activists, who militantly deny that autism is a disorder at all. They insist that it is simply a form of cognitive difference, perhaps even a source of “genius”, and they generally don’t tolerate any discussion of curing autism or preventing its onset. When Mitchell and other autistic self-advocates call for a cure, the epithets “self-haters” and “genocide” are often hurled at them. So who speaks for autism? An interviewer who describes autism as a “disorder”, or who even raises the issues that Mitchell freely discussed, might well alienate a neurodiversity interview