We’ve called autism a disease for decades. We were wrong. – Vox

is autistic person who could report what it was like to have an autistic mind.However, at one of these conferences there was a young autistic guy named Jim Sinclair. A year later, he appeared on a panel where he was reporting what it was like to be autistic to a room full of parents peppering him with questions. He told me that he suddenly felt like “a self-narrating zoo exhibit.” He didn’t want to be this bug wriggling under glass for these people who had filters in their own minds that pathologized everything he said. He really just wanted to meet other autistic adults and find out what they shared in common.Autistic adults started showing up to parent conferences and crashing them. As the clinicians and the parents would drone on and on about autism, suddenly autistic people would come up to the microphone and say, “Well actually, it’s like this.” They became a roving band of proud autistics who would go to conferences, and eventually they didn’t want to go to parents’ conferences where they would have to hide in the coat closet if they got overwhelmed by people being neurotypical really loudly. They no longer wanted to be in a neurotypical environment.So they split off and created Autreat, which was an environment designed by autistic people for autistic people. Among the people whose minds would’ve been boggled by the notion of an autistic community was Leo Kanner. Can you imagine? He never would’ve thought there could’ve been such a thing.IT WAS REALLY ONLY AFTER A COUPLE OF YEARS OF SPEAKING AT CONFERENCES THAT TEMPLE GRANDIN WAS LIKE, “HEY, I’M NOT RECOVERED. I’M STILL AUTISTIC.”At the same time that the early Autism Network International was starting to plan stuff like Autreat, they were forming online communities, and they originally functioned as allies of the parents’ community. Like, “We’re here, we will answer your questions,” like they had done at parents’ conferences.But eventually they got really bummed out, as parents would either pump them for information or say things like, “Could you guys stop perseverating about that thing you did at the last conference?” Because it was so easy to create a new space in the emergent online world, they created autistic communities online that were primarily for autistic people.In the early days of online autistics participating in conversations, one of the most frequently asked questions among psychiatrists was, “Can Kanner’s syndrome persist into adulthood?” Think about that. It’s really heavy. It’s super profound. They were thinking, “Wait a minute, we’re still autistic. We were diagnosed as kids, but we still are.” Even Temple had to recognize that. Something everyone forgets is that when Temple’s book Emergence was first published, it was billed as the first book by a “recovered autistic person.” It was really only after a couple of years of speaking at conferences that Temple was like, “Hey, I’m not recovered. I’m still autistic.”From these online communities, synergizing with the planning of events in meatspace, this very vibrant community arose.What’s so interesting is that eventually a bridge was built between the autistic community and the larger disability rights community. Before that, autism was never considered in a disability rights context. When you had young adults who had been diagnosed in the ’90s, they started to read about other disability rights groups and the fate of other disabled people. It was like, “Hey, wait a minute, this person is talking about my life, actually.”When people say “neurodiversity is just about high functioning people” — no it isn’t. It’s about disability rights. It’s the bridge between the world of autism and the world of cross-disability activism. Disability activism is not about leaving the people in wheelchairs behind and only putting the pretty people on camera. Disability means everyone comes along, including the people who are “low-functioning.”Was this article helpful? In this StorystreamDylan’s XangaThe 7 big questions Republicans have to answer on tax reformWe’ve called autism a disease for decades. We were wrong.This week on “What’s Up With Lincoln Chafee”: Lincoln’s no longer in last place!VIEW ALL 801 STORIESNext Up In SCIENCE & HEALTHTrump’s talking points on clean air and energy are stale and OrwellianOpioid overdoses are climbing. 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Source: We’ve called autism a disease for decades. We were wrong. – Vox


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