Someone close to me was recently diagnosed with autism and asked me to read this book to better understand them. I’m glad they did, because I didn’t realize how little I knew about autism or how to think about it.
- Autism is not actually on the rise—alarmingly or otherwise. Basically, we were really bad at identifying it and now we’re better at identifying it.
- Autism is fairly common. According to the CDC about 1 in 36 people is on the spectrum, making autistic people one of the largest minorities in America.
- Autism is a disability, not a disease. It probably can’t be cured because, as advocate Jim Sinclair said, “it is not possible to separate the person from the autism.”
- High functioning and low functioning are misleading, unhelpful terms. People with autism have different support needs, and the amount of support someone needs does not necessarily correspond to their ability to function.
And most important of all, autistic people must have their own say in their support options and autism policy. Even well-meaning parents and other neurotypical advocates are not a substitute for self advocacy.
The book reminded me of another disability rights advocate, Haben Girma, who I interviewed on The Lawyerist Podcast in 2019. Both Girma and the author of this book, Eric Garcia, advocate for the social model of disability—that it is society’s job to remove barriers to access by disabled people, rather than seeing them as broken people in need of mending.
Seems right to me.