Autistic pride

autism_pride_ribbon.jpgThe Observer has an article on the growing ‘autistic pride’ movement that aims to reframe autism as a variation of human experience with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, rather than as a neurological disorder that needs to be ‘cured’.

Many people with autism or Asperger’s syndrome describe people without such traits as ‘neurologically typical’ or NTs, based on the idea that autism might involve different brain ‘wiring’.

The autistic pride movement has found a natural home on the internet and several sites take a witty approach to making their point.

The Institute for the Study of the Neurologically Typical turns autism science on its head, by spoofing a research centre that examines non-autistic people as unusual or pathological.

The movement often places itself within a wider ‘neurodiversity‘ movement, demanding that society respects differences in brain structure and function, rather than always focusing on trying to ‘correct’ them.

The article also mentions the autism software project Reactive Colours, whose director, Wendy Keay-Bright, we interviewed back in July.

Link to Observer article ‘Say it loud, autistic and proud’.
Link to wikipedia article on autism rights movement.
Link to Institute for the Study of the Neurologically Typical.

8 Comments

  1. colin
    Posted November 23, 2005 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I agree with the movement’s stress on working with an individual’s strengths (focus and computers) instead of fighting against their weaknesses (social situations). That is a helpful perspective.
    However the concept that autism is just a variation in human experience is just exaggerated nonsense. Being attracted to the same sex vs the opposite sex is just a variation and synaestasia is a variation. Autism, which is devoid of social skills and often results in mental retardation, is not just a variation.

  2. colin
    Posted November 23, 2005 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    I agree with the movement’s stress on working with an individual’s strengths (focus and computers) instead of fighting against their weaknesses (social situations). That is a helpful perspective.
    However the concept that autism is just a variation in human experience is just exaggerated nonsense. Being attracted to the same sex vs the opposite sex is just a variation and synaestasia is a variation. Autism, which is devoid of social skills and often results in mental retardation, is not just a variation.

  3. Posted November 23, 2005 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Colin said:
    “Autism, which is devoid of social skills and often results in mental retardation, is not just a variation.”
    Autism. or better yet, autistic people, are *not* devoid of social skills whatsoever. Autism can delay development in some key areas but it does not ever stop it dead. I am aware of lots of autistic people, including my daughter who have social skills which are developing very nicely.
    The idea that autism often results in mental retardation is also totally incorrect. It can do, but that is not the same as ‘often’. Its a common misconception unfortunately that Colin elects to promulgate. As autism is something that can effect sensory equipment it is very often difficult to accurately assess the IQ of an autistic person. Lots of adult autistics who were diagnosed as low functioning grew up to be reclassified as their sensory issues lessened.
    Therefore, I would ask Colin to provide evidence that autism being a variation in human experience (nobody said ‘just’ in the article I read) is ‘exaggerated nonosense’.

  4. colin
    Posted November 24, 2005 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    Thank you Kev for correcting me. Usually I hold my tongue till I know what the hell I’m talking about but I guess my overworked life caused me to just open my mouth that time.
    Obviously my knowledge that I had regarding autism, seems to be a bit behinds the times. Since your comment, I’ve gone on to research a bit more and I side with you that autism is not as heavily linked with retardation as I once believed.
    And while they are not forever devoid of social skills, from my understanding, they are devoid of the innate social skills that most of us rely on. This combined with the sensory problems often leads to massive learning difficulties for certain tasks.
    As a result, it often takes intense effort to teach things that come naturally to most others. These efforts to find ways to teach autistics social and other skills can be viewed as a form of cure — a cure for the symptom, not the cause. And if we take the viewpoint that autism is a variation that does not need to be cured, than in effect we should also not put extra effort into teaching them.
    This is of course ridiculous — we should attempt to do all we can to teach autistic people how to correct (i.e. cure) their social problems, which are a symptom of autism. Additionally, we should also put effort into finding out the etiology of the disorder, which is autism, in hopes that we can one day find a way to correct its root cause.

  5. Posted November 24, 2005 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Colin said:
    “And while they are not forever devoid of social skills, from my understanding, they are devoid of the innate social skills that most of us rely on. This combined with the sensory problems often leads to massive learning difficulties for certain tasks.”
    Thats not so. No child, regardless of neurology, is born without *any* innate social skills. In autistic people, those skills can start from a very small point and be delayed in their growth.
    To be classified as having learning difficulties a person needs an IQ of 70 or less. When my own daughters IQ was tested she scored low as she has sensory issues that disallow her to speak and listen at the same time. This isn’t a learning difficulty, this is a functional sensory issue.
    But these skills do develop given time and therapy. A ‘proper’ learning difficulty can never develop past a certain point.
    “These efforts to find ways to teach autistics social and other skills can be viewed as a form of cure — a cure for the symptom, not the cause. And if we take the viewpoint that autism is a variation that does not need to be cured, than in effect we should also not put extra effort into teaching them.”
    Hmm. The word ‘cure’ is used here in a very ambiguous way. Medicine says that you do not cure symptoms, you alleviate them. I don’t think you can really say that giving an autistic child speech therapy cures them of autism. It may alleviate the symptom of not being able to speak but that person will never find speech a natural mode of expression and therefore you cannot say that are cured of lack of speech.
    “This is of course ridiculous — we should attempt to do all we can to teach autistic people how to correct (i.e. cure) their social problems, which are a symptom of autism. Additionally, we should also put effort into finding out the etiology of the disorder, which is autism, in hopes that we can one day find a way to correct its root cause.”
    I’m going to disagree with you on that as well Colin. I know a lot of adult autistics (including the young woman on gettingthetruthout.org ) who do not wish to be corrected or cured. I understand that that is a difficult thing to process for a lot of people but I think that we need to understand that helping people with sometimes disabling comorbidities and helping society to be inherently less disabling is better than a situation where we ‘teach autistic people how to correct (i.e. cure) their social problems’.

  6. Posted November 24, 2005 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Colin said:
    “And while they are not forever devoid of social skills, from my understanding, they are devoid of the innate social skills that most of us rely on. This combined with the sensory problems often leads to massive learning difficulties for certain tasks.”
    Thats not so. No child, regardless of neurology, is born without *any* innate social skills. In autistic people, those skills can start from a very small point and be delayed in their growth.
    To be classified as having learning difficulties a person needs an IQ of 70 or less. When my own daughters IQ was tested she scored low as she has sensory issues that disallow her to speak and listen at the same time. This isn’t a learning difficulty, this is a functional sensory issue.
    But these skills do develop given time and therapy. A ‘proper’ learning difficulty can never develop past a certain point.
    “These efforts to find ways to teach autistics social and other skills can be viewed as a form of cure — a cure for the symptom, not the cause. And if we take the viewpoint that autism is a variation that does not need to be cured, than in effect we should also not put extra effort into teaching them.”
    Hmm. The word ‘cure’ is used here in a very ambiguous way. Medicine says that you do not cure symptoms, you alleviate them. I don’t think you can really say that giving an autistic child speech therapy cures them of autism. It may alleviate the symptom of not being able to speak but that person will never find speech a natural mode of expression and therefore you cannot say that are cured of lack of speech.
    “This is of course ridiculous — we should attempt to do all we can to teach autistic people how to correct (i.e. cure) their social problems, which are a symptom of autism. Additionally, we should also put effort into finding out the etiology of the disorder, which is autism, in hopes that we can one day find a way to correct its root cause.”
    I’m going to disagree with you on that as well Colin. I know a lot of adult autistics (including the young woman on gettingthetruthout.org ) who do not wish to be corrected or cured. I understand that that is a difficult thing to process for a lot of people but I think that we need to understand that helping people with sometimes disabling comorbidities and helping society to be inherently less disabling is better than a situation where we ‘teach autistic people how to correct (i.e. cure) their social problems’.

  7. colin
    Posted November 24, 2005 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    I disagree with your statement that “To be classified as having learning difficulties a person needs an IQ of 70 or less.” Case in point, the learning difficulty dyslexia, which is also a sensory problem.
    Using dyslexia as an analogy, I am all for teaching methods that help people with dyslexia and attempts at increasing awareness and acceptance. Additionally, I also have no problem with research trying to deduce and potentially correct the cause of dyslexia.
    I understand that some?/many? of those who are autistic do not want to be cured and I would never want any potential cure to be forced upon them. However, like dyslexia, I see no problem with research that aims at a finding and possibly correcting the root cause of autism.
    All that said, I do agree with you that we need to attack the issue from both sides. we need to help people with autism and other disorders and we need instruct society as a whole how to create a more accessible world.

  8. Kelly Manning
    Posted May 26, 2011 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    For some reason the original urls do not seem to be accessible at this time.

    Cached copies are available at http://www.archive.org

    http://web.archive.org/web/20081225033120/http://isnt.autistics.org/


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