April was “Autism Awareness Month.” Or, as a great many autistic people prefer to call it, “Autism Acceptance Month.”
I’m not sure why I’m so interested in the intense debates about autism. As far as I know, I’m not autistic. Maybe I’m fascinated because the conflict over what autism is, how much of a problem it is, what kind of problem it is, for whom, and indeed whether it even IS a problem … reflects similar but less sharply defined issues in the disability community as a whole.
In any case, my reading list for April is all about autism …
The CDC just announced one in 59 children are autistic. Here’s why that’s not evidence of an epidemic
Ari Ne'eman, Vox.com - April 30, 2018
Ari Ne'eman clarifies the question of whether autism is an "epidemic." For one thing, it isn't because it isn't a disease ... although whether it is a disability still seems somewhat debatable, even among autistic people. What Ari focuses on here though is that it's not an epidemic because it isn't actually increasing. What's increasing is the number of people diagnosed and recognized as being autistic. One of the central arguments of the "neurodiversity" view of autism is that people have always been autistic at something like these rates. It's just that they weren't identified as such.
Welcome To The Autistic Community
Autistic Self Advocacy Network - February 14, 2018
An implicit reply to neurodiversity is, "Then what are we supposed to do about / for autistic people?" This handbook, by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network goes a long way towards answering that question, addressing autistic people directly.
Sarah Kurchack, Hazlitt - April 9, 2018
Sarah unpacks her personal experience with what seems to be another of the key conflicts over autism ... how differing definitions of autism include and exclude people who have been diagnosed as autistic, and experience definite characteristics of autism. It's hard to even discuss this without alluding to high and low "functioning" labels, because that seems to be what it's all about ... the perception that if an autistic person doesn't presently display a list of stereotypical "behaviors," then they aren't "really" autistic. It's a variation on the "No true Scotsman" fallacy, and it's enough to make anyone's head spin if they try to unwind it.
Meltdowns Over Meltdowns
Kerima Cevik, The Autism Wars
This is a very real and realistic examination of what "meltdowns" are, how they are regarded, how parents of autistic kids respond to them, and ... maybe most importantly ... how overlapping stereotypes and prejudices of autism, gender, age, and race can compound the impact and danger for autistic people.
15 Autistic Activists You Should Follow This Autism Acceptance Month
Alaina Leary, Rooted In Rights - April 26, 2018
The best way to get a variety of perspectives on autism ... other than usual "mysterious affliction," "parental nightmare," and "public health epidemic" versions ... is to see what autistic people have to say about autism. This piece is a good place to start.