The Argument for Autism

As The Seattle Times reported this morning, members of Seattle advocates of “neurodiversity” objected to a Seattle Children’s hospital bus ad that advocated for wiping out autism.

But as notable as the news itself was the fact that there is an active neurodiversity movement in Seattle – an active group of people who argue: Autism is a fact of life, and many of us like it that way.

“We want there to be so much less focus on how to eliminate or get rid of autism,” says Matt Young, a 39-year-old autistic Seattle man who is co-chair of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network’s Washington chapter. “If you get rid of autism, you won’t have any more autistic people.

“We still want to be here. We contribute a lot to society, to the human race. We are a natural part of human diversity.”

Young was quick to compliment Seattle Children’s Hospital not only for quickly pulling the ad but also for the service they provide to autistic people in Seattle. There are issues like anxiety that come from “living in a world that wasn’t built for people who move and think and perceive the world the way we do.”

However, Young says, “there are large assumptions made about the level of difficulty” of anyone’s life, including autistic people (Young says his group prefers the term “autistic people” or “autistic individuals” over “people with autism,” arguing the autism is a core part of their personality.”)

Given that Young is able to help run the chapter and conduct telephone interviews with reporters, we ask him whether he meets resistance from relatives of people with more severe cases of autism; are there non-verbal members of the society?

Young responds that while the local chapter doesn’t have any non-verbal members, the national society does have members that encompass the “full spectrum.”

And, he says, parents are among the people who need better understanding of autism.

“When a parent is throwing every type of therapy at them, of course that child’s condition is going to deteriorate,” he says.

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