Daily Archives: July 10, 2006

Who can call themselves autistic?


autistics.org has put out an editorial on the letter A Danger In Speaking that was sent out by Tom McKean to various leaders in the autism community, urging them to get formal diagnoses to prove that people are autistic before they speak at conferences.

Details can be read in that editorial called, Who can call themselves autistic?

To clear up a few misconceptions before they start: We’d have written this no matter who wrote that letter. This is not personal in that sense. But it’s certainly personal in the sense that it affects any autistic person who wants to speak publicly as autistic. We now have an autistic person encouraging people to demand private medical records and early histories from autistic people before we can be taken seriously, and that could be taken as the carte blanche conference organizers and such want.

The point in refusing to give out such credentials in that context, is that not everyone has them. It’s not right that, for instance, I could speak at an autism conference about being autistic, but someone just like me with no official diagnosis (or with a misdiagnosis) couldn’t. It’s not even right that a person be required to give out private information of that nature, that they could have a lot of good reasons for not divulging. In refusing to do so, we’re refusing to play that game of legitimizing people’s claim to being autistic, and therefore apparently our opinions, based on official medical labeling.

So, if you want to sign it (after you’ve read it), email whoisautistic@gmail.com.

Apparently the misconceptions were not cleared up by the paragraph above, so I’ll include the below response I gave elsewhere to the fact that McKean has taken this as an extension of an old personal conflict with a couple of us.  The summary, in case you don’t want to read the long version, is that failing to write something because someone could construe it as a personal attack is just as bad as writing something as a personal attack, and we wrote this as a response to the opinions, not the particular person holding them:

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