Division in the Autism Community - what next for us?
The autistic lawyer or engineer who can say "I am autistic and proud to be different" is likely exhibiting a very different set of feelings from a more disabled autistic person who has never been able to hold a job or form satisfying relationships. It's important to be mindful that both sets of feelings exist in the community.
In some discussions I see autistic advocates present the evolving social model of autism as "the correct understanding," when in fact it complements but does not replace the medical model that has existed since the 1930s. The same is true for the embrace of the idea of neurodiversity. We mustn't confuse the reality of disability for many of us with the fact that some of us have rare gifts too. Said another way, we should embrace our exceptionality but not deny that the suffering and challenges many of us feel are also very real.
John Elder Robison is an autistic adult and advocate for people with neurological differences. He's the author of Look Me in the Eye, Be Different, Raising Cubby, and Switched On. He serves on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee of the US Dept of Health and Human Services and many other autism-related boards. He's co-founder of the TCS Auto Program (A school for teens with developmental challenges) and he’s the Neurodiversity Scholar in Residence at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia and a visiting professor of practice at Bay Path University in Longmeadow, Massachusetts.