Note: The International Charter of Autists Rights has been officially adopted at AmericanBadassActivists.org. Please support, share and help educate others on Autists Rights.
THE 10 POINTS OF Âû (The Autistic Union)
- I am Autistic. [or] I support those who are Autistic.
- I embrace my Autism as a very significant part of my identity.
- I embrace those who would sacrifice to protect all Autistic life.
- I embrace the belief that Autism does not need any “curing”.
- I embrace the self-advocacy goal of “Everything about us, with us”.
- I embrace the definition of Autism as a neuro-social difference.
- I embrace measures directed at protecting Autistics from attack.
- I embrace a person-centred approach to all Autism issues.
- I embrace rigorous scientific approaches to co-occurring conditions.
- I embrace Autistics leading their own welfare organisations.
1. THE RIGHT TO LIFE
We will prevent eugenic elimination of autistic people by opposing pre-natal testing for autism.
With the right support services in place, all autistic people are capable of living meaningful and fulfilling lives. However, negative media coverage and deliberate pity campaigning have created the public opinion that autism is a “tragedy”, and that people with autism have no hope of achieving anything. As such, the availability of a pre-natal test would cause the majority of autistic people to be aborted.
A recent study has shown that 91-93% of foetuses that test positive for Down Syndrome are aborted. As autism is genetic, if these figures were similar for a pre-natal test for autism, the autistic population would be decimated, and autistic culture would be destroyed.
Also, the majority of worldwide autism fundraising currently supports genetic research. If this money were to be channelled into support services, autistic people would have a much greater chance of living productive lives.
2. THE RIGHT TO HUMANITY
We will oppose physically or mentally harmful “treatments” targeting autistic people.
Due to the public perception of autism, a large number of unethical treatments have become quite common. These include physically harmful treatments (such as aversive behavioural therapies or restraints), mentally harmful treatments (such as 20-40 hr/week ABA, restriction of non-harmful stimming and other autistic coping mechanisms), dangerous non-medically approved therapies based on discredited theories or religious beliefs (such as chelation or exorcism), and therapies that would be called “torture” if they were used on nonautistic children (such as the electroshock “behavioural” devices).
3. THE RIGHT TO PARITY
We will emphasise the “spectrum” view of autism, and de-emphasise the differences between the various autism spectrum labels.
There are several different labels used for people throughout the autistic spectrum. These include “High Functioning” autism, “Low Functioning” autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and PDD-NOS. The differences between these labels are often quite blurry, and are often based around childhood development, which has little bearing on the nature of an autistic adult.
One of the largest barriers to accessing support service is the use of sub-groupings to assign support, rather than assessing the needs of the individual. This means that, for example, someone with “high functioning” autism may be denied needed housing support due to the label, whereas someone with “low functioning” autism may be deemed unfit for activities of which they are entirely capable.
The autistic spectrum covers a very wide range of people, and these people do not always fit neatly into the available groupings. Often these groupings are barriers to understanding, rather than tools for understanding. Essentially, the people in all the above groups are all a part of the autistic spectrum, and generalisation of the specific groups within the spectrum is counterproductive. The personality and needs assessment of a person on the spectrum should be looked at on an individual basis, rather than on the basis of a label.
4. THE RIGHT TO IDENTITY
We will oppose the idea of an autism “cure”.
Part of the problem with the “autism as tragedy” point of view is that it carries with it the idea that a person is somehow separable from autism, and that there is a “normal” person trapped “behind” the autism.
Being autistic is something that influences every single element of who a person is – from the interests we have, the ethical systems we use, the way we view the world, and the way we live our lives. As such, autism is a part of who we are.
To “cure” someone of autism would be to take away the person they are, and replace them with someone else.
Also, funding for “cure” research is unlikely to ever produce a result. In the meantime, support services for autistic people are under-funded. This money would be far better used to help existing autistic people.
The “cure” mentality also influences cultural treatment of autistic people. Many parents focus on the idea of finding a cure for their child, and may neglect actual help and support in the process. Also, teaching children that they are “broken” and need to be “fixed” has long-term consequences for their mental health.
5. THE RIGHT TO SAFETY
We will seek evaluation of alleged treatments for ethical approaches.
One of the problems with the current state of autism treatments is that there is little in the way of quality control, and often a suggested treatment is commenced without thought for the ethics involved. Some examples of unethical practices include the use of aversives (e.g. “behavioural” physical harm, denial of food, deliberate triggering of sensory overloads), unreasonably long hours (e.g. many people advocate 40hrs/week of ABA), potentially dangerous treatments (e.g. Chelation), and focusing on “normalisation” rather than help (e.g. restricting non-damaging autistic behaviours, such as stims).
6. THE RIGHT TO SUPPORT
We will seek increased funding for, and access to, autistic support services and ethical forms of treatment.
Many forms of treatment are highly beneficial to many autistic people – for example, speech therapy, sensory integration therapy, and general counselling. Also, ongoing support services can help people live more productive lives – for example, emergency housing, specialised medical services, and employment support services.
7. THE RIGHT TO REPUTATION
We will oppose negative publicity campaigns against autistic people as a group.
The majority of autism fundraising is currently generated using “pity” campaigning, suggesting that autism is tragedy, disease, or epidemic that needs to be stopped. Unfortunately, this point of view has propagated itself through to talk shows, news stories, and other forms of media coverage.
The usual technique is to show nothing but footage of (presumably) autistic children having tantrums, and then footage of parents complaining about their lives. It is very rare to see footage of an autistic child engaged in ordinary activities and even rarer to see footage of an autistic adult.
This “tragedy” view of autism is extremely damaging to autistic people, far beyond the scope that any funds generated could justify. It causes employment discrimination, it worsens social isolation, and it leads some parents to give up on helping their children, in favour of holding onto a false hope of a cure.
Some organisations take this even further, using phrases such as “soulless”, “worse than cancer”, or “incapable of love”. One of the biggest anti-autistic organisations, Autism Speaks, even went so far as to create a propaganda film in which a woman talks about wanting to drive herself and her autistic child off a bridge. This statement was made while her autistic child was in the same room.
These campaigns are based on stereotypes, prejudice, and deliberate misrepresentation, and they need to be stopped.
8. THE RIGHT TO ACCURACY
We will help promote an accurate yet positive image of autism.
One of the aims of our organisation is to help create a more positive view of autistic people, by showing the things we actually do, and emphasising positive stories about autistic groups and people. Autistics are a very diverse group, and our differences are a very valuable part of human diversity.
The reason for including the word “accurate” is that, although autistic people have achieved great things in art, science, mathematics, writing, and other creative endeavours, it is often the case that this is exaggerated to say that all autistics are geniuses – which has the unfortunate side effect of suggesting that an autistic person needs to be a genius to be considered a worthwhile human being.
Another extreme is the desire of some groups to ascribe mystical qualities to autistic people, which has the side effect of dehumanising autistic people.
Autistic people are everywhere. There is a good chance that you work with or know an autistic person without realising it. Autism is not a tragedy, or a side effect of genius – it is a difference to be valued.
9. THE RIGHT TO EQUALITY
To oppose all forms of prejudice and bigotry.
Many problems associated with autism are caused, or worsened, by prejudice. The root of this is prejudice itself – if we deal with only the forms of prejudice that currently relate to autism, another form of prejudice will rise up to replace them.
Because of this, we choose to oppose all forms of prejudice and bigotry.
This includes forms of bigotry related to autistic culture, such as:
- The idea that being neurotypical (i.e. not autistic, or another psychological neurotype) is “better” than being autistic. (Note: this does not relate to talking about specific abilities, just to the idea of general “betterness”).
- The idea that being autistic is “better” than being neurotypical. (Note: again, this does not relate to talking about specific abilities, just to the idea of general “betterness”).
- The idea that some labels on the autistic spectrum are acceptable, but others are tragedies.
- The idea that Asperger’s Syndrome or PDD-NOS should not be part of the autistic spectrum. The idea that people have no right to self-identify as autistic.
Aspies For Freedom (AFF) was founded in 2004, and established June 18 as Autistic Pride Day starting in 2005. AFF was also instrumental in initiating protests against the National Alliance for Autism Research, Cure Autism Now, and the Judge Rotenberg Center.