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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

More on Autistic Pols

In The Politics of Autism, I write:  "Support from the general public will be an important political asset for autistic people. Another will be their sheer numbers, since a larger population of identified autistic adults will mean more autistic voters and activists."  Previous posts have discussed autistic officeholders and political candidates in New YorkGeorgiaTexas, and Wisconsin.

Eric Garcia at Spectrum:
Jessica Benham was born a few months after the passage of both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990. It’s something that Benham, who is autistic, highlighted when I spoke to her on 5 November, two days after she won a seat in Pennsylvania’s state legislature, representing the Pittsburgh area. Those laws paved the way for her and other autistic politicians taking office.

In addition to Benham, two other state legislators — Democrat Yuh-Line Niou of New York and Republican Briscoe Cain of Texas — have said they are autistic, but Cain didn’t reveal his diagnosis until after he was elected. He did so in a speech on the Texas House floor last year, when he proposed a resolution to make April Autism Awareness Month. Niou first spoke about her autism in an interview with a website run by college students when she ran in 2016, and elaborated on it after she was elected.

By contrast, Benham, a Democrat, was openly autistic when she announced her run for office last year, and she made it a central part of her persona as a candidate.