The Autism Rights Movement-the Underrated Movement of the 21st Century
In the midst of human rights movements, one has gone forgotten and ignored by the mass media: the autism rights movement, also known as the neurodiverse rights movement.
Approximately 1% of the UK population is on the autistic spectrum, yet it is only this decade that significant autism rights movements and groups, as opposed to advocacy groups that may not properly take into account the wishes of autistic people themselves (as opposed to the wishes of their families, not all of whom fairly consult autistic people), have developed.
For nearly two years, January 2017 to October 2018, I was secretary of the most prominent autism rights organisation, Autistic UK, which has helped organise such events as Autistic Pride around the country and it calls for acceptance, not merely awareness, of neurodiversity: http://autisticuk.org/
How does it connect with feminism, you ask?
Although the ratio of women: men diagnosed as having an autistic spectrum condition (ASC) is relatively equal, fewer women get recognised as autistic because of the different ways society expects from men and women in terms of socialising and the more subtle social skills of women, and also because of a bias in research about autism towards men and boys.
There is also an important social justice dimension: the unemployment rate for autistic people, men and women, exceeds 80 per cent in the UK, and support for autistic adults wanting to live independently and live the same lives as those who are not autistic is scarce and often does not understand their rights and needs.
Autistic mothers, whether or not their children are autistic, face considerable challenges in family life, as noted by Lana Grant in her book From Here to Maternity.
In the last year, the activism of writer and autistic mother of six Emma Dalmayne, along with her friend Fiona O’Leary in Ireland (also an autistic mother), has been crucial to ensure the autism rights movement can face down challenges from those wanting to harm autistic people, such as those who market false and dangerous “cures” for autistic people.
This is a movement we truly need for the 21st century to be as inclusive and accepting as it sounds, especially for autistic women whose voices often go unheard and who still find it difficult to get a diagnosis.
Many men and boys are diagnosed in childhood, whilst a lot of women and girls have to wait until adulthood for an autism diagnosis.