Daily Archives: June 29, 2006

Autreat’s “Ask an NT” panel.

Standard

At Autreat, they had a panel in which non-autistic people could be asked questions, similar to the standard panels in which autistic people are asked questions at autism conferences. They transcribed it onto an IRC channel so that people not there could read and ask questions. Here’s one of the questions, and one of the answers:

JOEL SMITH (AUDIENCE MEMBER): ASKED PANELISTS IF THEY HAD PROOF OF THEIR NT DIAGNOSIS

CHLOE: (ANSWERING JOEL’S QUESTION NON-RHETORICALLY) NOT DIAGNOSED BUT IT IS CLEARLY THE WAY I OPERATE SO I AM COMFORTABLE IDENTIFYING MYSELF AS SUCH

That kind of answer is acceptable from non-autistic people. When autistic people say it, however, it’s not good enough. The default seems to be, non-autistic until proven otherwise.

I have, for reference, proof of my diagnosis, including a developmental disability waiver with “AUTISTIC DISORDER” written on it. I don’t, however, give it out. I do this on principle: People just as autistic as I am can lack a diagnosis (yes, really), and they have just as much of a potentially valid viewpoint on being autistic as I do. Moreover, whether my opinions are right or wrong does not always hinge on whether or not I am autistic to begin with.

Non-autistic people are not expected to prove that they are not autistic (even in some cases where they probably should be expected to).

Parents of autistic children are not expected to prove parenthood, in order to give opinions on autism (even in some cases where they probably should be expected to).

Even autism researchers seem to be granted an incredibly amount of immunity to genuine skepticism about who they say they are.

Yet somehow, with autistic people, it’s “How can you possibly say you’re autistic?” “Autistics shouldn’t be listened to on anything unless they provide proof of diagnosis.” “People are just pretending to be autistic so they can say these anti-cure things.” (When the only known instance I know of someone definitely pretending to be a “kind” of autistic they weren’t, and thus possibly suspect about any other claims they’ve made, is someone who was saying pro-cure stuff, which never gets questioned by these same people.)

So, while a few people have seen my proof of diagnosis, mostly those who have to, I’m unwilling to simply hand it out to anyone who claims that I’m not for real. That’s rude and an invasion of privacy to expect to see someone else’s medical records on demand when you have no medical connection to them and no reason (beyond disagreeing with them) to suspect they’re a liar. Nobody online ever questions that I get migraines, I noticed, and they’re even more subjective from the outside than being autistic is.

Edited to add:  Someone pointed out I should give this context.  A letter recently went out from a well-known autistic speaker to leaders in the autism community, urging that conferences receive proof of diagnosis, as well as possibly information about the person’s educational history, and other private, confidential information, before allowing people to represent themselves as autistic.  The letter also expressed skepticism about people’s diagnosis the later in life the diagnosis was.  Given that even those diagnosed in childhood may have their early records destroyed, given that even blatantly autistic people over a certain age were commonly missed for a whole number of reasons, and given that not everyone has the money or resources to seek a diagnosis, many in the autistic community view this as unfair.  The autistic man who asked the question of the NT on the panel had an early childhood diagnosis where the records were destroyed and does not want to be forced to produce an adult re-diagnosis in order to have his views listened to.  But this is a wider issue that affects the credibility and privacy of all autistic people.