Whilst there are many political roads one can go in the autism world, I see there are at least three quite BASIC ones :
* there’s the ‘Militant Curists‘ who do the sympathy/pity/tragedy thing and they use words like ‘handicap’, ‘disorder’, ‘disability’, ‘abnormal’, ‘pathology’ and are geared toward charity and over use the word ‘help’. This group see themselves as ‘normal’ and the goal to ‘normalise’ those who are not like them, or eradicate them. There are eugenicists in this camp currently trying to find the genes so they can breed out autism. These people confuse pity with love. They refer to ‘The autistic‘ and often see autism as pitiable, embarassing, broken, an obstacle to selfhood and a burden to society and families.
* there’s the ‘Militant Culturalists‘. Passionate is not necessarily militant. Passionate does not seek to crush others who think differently. Passionate can encompass diplomacy. Militancy, by contrast implies striving for dominance and crushing all opposition in the process. Culturalists see autism as a shared culture. Militant culturalists may do reverse prejudice (ie ‘Autistics’ are all linked to Einstein – they think he’s on the autism spectrum along with most of the highest achievers in history) and most culturalists refer to ‘non-autistics’ as NT (‘neurotypical’ and some of the less respectful culturalists use this interchangeably with the term ‘mundanes’ or call non-spectrum people ‘muppets’ and ‘breeders’). Cultuarlists, militant and passionate alike, staunchly drive the Autistic Pride movement and link it to Gay Pride and Deaf Pride. Whilst many culturalists accept treatments for health issues, most militant culturalists are strongly anti treatment in any form. Some militant culturalists are even against adapatations. For them ‘Autistics’ are ‘perfect’ just as we are. Culturalists tend not to use the word ‘disabled’ or ‘disability’. They use ‘neuro-diverse’, ‘differently abled’. Militant culturalists see ‘normality’ not only as ‘relative’ but some see non-spectrum people as having become so superficial and false they are not ‘normal’ nor do they see it as desirable or moral to be ‘like them’. Whilst many passionate culturalists are diversity friendly, militant culturalists may claim to be diversity-friendly but a percentage are also supremacists who see themselves as morally superior to non-spectrum people. Many militant culturalists are ‘self diagnosed’, sometimes once their child has a diagnosis. Culturalists tend to refer to themselves as ‘Autistics’ and see this as integral to their selfhood. Some culturalists go so far as to say that if any aspect of their autism were even reduced it would be the same as eradicating their selfhood.
* Then there’s Moderates (like me, my husband Chris and those on the spectrum and beyond who hang with us). I have gut, immune, metabolic disorders, a mood, anxiety and compulsive disorders, visual and verbal agnosias, dyslexia and I’m challenged in the info processing and learning departments BUT I’m a master of adapation and I don’t go for cure but I do believe in treatment and management for severely disabling or limited health or sensory perceptual disorders. So with me ‘normality’ is relative. You can use the word ‘disability’ and I don’t think it defines all I am. But I’m more comfortable with ‘disAbility’ and ‘disAbled’ which emphasised that I have many abilities as well as, sometimes because of my disabilities. I also use ‘diffabilities’, ‘differently abled’ and prefer to use the term ‘challenges’ rather than ‘disabilities’. When refering to those not on the autism spectrum I avoid calling them NT (I hate that reductionism). I use the term diversity-friendly as encompassing ALL diversity, not just those with labels (ie gay, deaf etc). Moderates on the spectrum are content to refer to themselves as ‘on the autism spectrum’ (happy to see ALL humans as having some elements of autism at least at some time) without seeing this as a ‘sell out’. They tend to see their autism as part of, intertwined with but not the whole of their selfhood. I use words like ‘support’ rather than ‘help’ (because support is egalitarian not paternalistic). Militant Culturalists often see moderates as undecided, weak or selling out in the battle to advocate and educate about autism.
Donna Williams, Dip Ed, BA Hons