Autistics leading their own welfare organisations. Yes, it is a thing. It actually happens, contrary to the narrative we see from the big charity peak autism bodies, autistics are not locked up lost life-sucking molluscs withdrawing all that is good from the souls of those around them. When it happens we see positive outcomes. We see self-determination, autistic-rights being upheld, abuse of autistics called out, a counterpoint to the dominant narrative and most importantly enhanced the well-being of autistic people.
There’s this silly idea out there that we are not capable because we are impaired and in deficit. This is simply not true and we are in fact quite capable. We may do it differently and not the way the neurotypical world would do it, but that doesn’t make it less valuable or important. It just makes it different.
Looking around the world one does not need to look hard to see the theme of self-determination. We see it indigenous peoples leading their own organisations. It is prevalent in many disability communities. Workers unions tend to be led by, you guessed it, workers, sporting clubs tend to be led by players of the sport. These examples may not be universally true but they are a truism.
The importance of self-determination must not be underestimated. When one has control over one’s own life the outcomes are always going to be preferable. They may or may not be what is seen by the majority or the typical as preferable, but, that’s actually not relevant.
Follow your dreams we say. You can do whatever you set your mind to we say. Yet when it comes to autism society says oh but not you, we will tell you what dreams you can follow, what devices you can access, where you can live, whether you can work or not.
I embrace Autistics leading their own welfare organisations!
When it comes to autistic rights time and again these are trampled on by organisations that are not led by autistics. One must look no further than the debacle that was, and unfortunately remains, the vaccine conspiracy. The Autism Society of America and Autism Speaks both gave oxygen and sustenance to this debacle. In fact, it took until 2015 for Autism Speaks to finally declare that vaccines do not cause autism. The Autism Society of America had the quack doctor Andrew Wakefield as a keynote speaker at their conferences.
Even now, in 2016 the National Autistic Society in the United Kingdom refuse to publicly support campaigns against quack and dangerous treatments like MMS, GcMaf and the like. When campaigners have asked them for the support they have refused to do so. The human rights of autistic individuals are put at risk when this kind of inaction occurs.
In my home country of Australia, the peak autism body in my state supports ABA and promotes it via its newsletters and website and events listings. The organisation Autism Awareness Australia regularly engages in victim blaming when issues of autistic abuse raise their heads.
Within the last 12 months a case came to light of a mother chaining and handcuffing her autistic child to their bed whilst they went shopping. The head of Autism Awareness Australia came out not to condemn the behaviour, but, in sympathy with the mother having to parent the child. Not only did she do this, she did so with no knowledge of the case, no specific information, simply a default notion that the parents of autistic children are long suffering saints and automatically their behaviour and actions can somehow be justified.
Aspect a peak body here in Australia runs a number of schools. Schools in which autistic children are locked in cages. When autism welfare organisations are not run by autistics they lose sight of the human rights of autistic individuals. These rights give way to the prevailing negative narrative of autism equals bad.
I embrace Autistics leading their own welfare organisations.
Calling out abuse.
Time and again, as alluded to above, the abuse of autistics is not called out by autism organisations. Oftentimes the people within these organisations are equally appalled at the abuse perpetrated on autistic people, yet they do not call it out, they fail to publicly speak out about it.
In Australia over the last couple of years what has been clear is that the autistic organisations that are run by actually autistic people will not fail to call out abuse. In the glaring silence by the peak autism bodies at the systemic abuse of autistic children in schools, the voice of the Autistic Family Collective has rung out calling it for what it is. Abuse.
A failure to call abuse for what it is is a tacit approval or allow it to continue. Just as a failure to call out racism allows it to fester and thrive.
It is only through autistic-run welfare organisations that we will see a real and lasting change in this.
I embrace Autistics leading their own welfare organisations.
In the end.
In the end, it is imperative that this 10th principle of Autistic Union become a wider reality. Autism has had a name for 80 odd years now and the non-autistic run organisations have failed autistics. Yes, they have made some progress, however, that progress has been made under the guise of a less not different narrative, a narrative that supports a pathologising of autistic humans as less than human and incapable of looking out for themselves.
Parent-run organisation have gained good outcomes in terms of educational and institutional change. This must be acknowledged and celebrated. However, it must also be acknowledged that this is largely made in the image of the parents. It has been largely focused on treatments, therapies and interventions that will enable autistics to appear less autistic and be better at passing as neurotypical individuals.
The non-autistic led organisations have had their opportunity. These organisations are long in the tooth and it is time for them to either get behind the neurodiversity paradigm and empower autistics to self-determination are to step aside.
An autistic led organisation does not mean and autistic only organisation. It means what it says autistic led. Just as any organisation will harness the talents and skills appropriate to bring about the best outcomes, so too will autistic led organisations to utilise the skills and talents of autistic and allistic alike to bring about the best outcomes for autistic people.
I embrace Autistic leading their own welfare organisations.