Neurodiversity and Government Advocacy
- Conduct research to find solutions to problems,
- Study and develop medical treatments,
- Institute protections from discrimination or marginalization,
- Encourage employment of disadvantaged groups,
- Provide protections, legal, physical, environmental, and other,
- Directly employ members of a group in government service,
- Provide housing, sustenance, and support to needy groups
No government agency I know of recognizes neurodiversity as a movement or group with which they would engage in dialogue, or support. Rather, the government recognizes and supports the constituent groups who make up the neurodivergent community. This includes autistic people and their families, the ADHD community, folks with dyslexia, and the cognitive disability community more generally.
We may think of neurological diversity as conferring a mix of disability and exceptionality but in general the government only provides support and services to people with disabilities.
The original neurodiversity advocates were the parents who advocated for educational, living, and employment supports for their neurodivergent children.
- When we talk about advocacy for, say, autistic people . . . should parents be recognized as part of the community?
- In this example, should teachers, doctors, and others who help and support autistics be part of the community?
- How might the pre and post 90s’ generations of neurodivergent people differ in views and advocacy?
- How and why might the opinions or goals of parents and children diverge?
- When parents and children have divergent opinions, whose should be primary?
- What are some examples of government supporting the development of medications?
- What are some examples of government protecting corporations who develop medications or treatments?
- Should government take a role supporting or protecting corporations? Why or why not?
- Should the armed forces ban people with autism and ADHD?
- Should the rules that govern six college students renting rooms in a house differ from the rules for six cognitively disabled people living in a similar house?
- If, as some have suggested, corporations are people in a legal sense, how do we balance their vastly greater lobbying resources against the concerns of individuals?
- The Citizens United case is often cited in the context of corporate influence over elections. Are elections a unique situation or is there actually a broader issue of corporate versus individual influence over government policy making?
- A corporation and an individual are clearly different, right? Merck pharmaceuticals is different from John Smith who takes Merck-made drugs. He and Merck may advocate for different things, or the same thing. If we distinguish between corporate and individual advocacy, on which side should we place advocacy from groups like autism societies, or educator’s associations?
When a person decides to engage in government advocacy on behalf of a group, like the population of neurodivergent people . . .
- Should there be a qualification process for a potential advocate? Is there a process?
- When an advocate speaks for a community, what is the moral imperative to advocate for the best of all, as opposed to what's best for the advocate?
- Assuming an advocate is a qualified member of a community (a diagnosed autistic person on an autism committee, or a recognized member of a tribe on an Indian affairs committee) does the advocate have a duty to gain a special understanding of issues, or is general life experience enough?
How does neurodiversity advocacy differ from advocacy for other issues in the news today, such as gun control, women's reproductive rights, or gay marriage? Does it differ?
- Careers in government,
- Working for political consulting, public relations, or law firms that engage in lobbying,
- Working for think tanks that generate research to inform lobbying (such firms share the building housing the W&M Washington DC campus),
- Volunteering as an individual representative of a community to government,
- Working as a group representative for community before government,
- Expressing ideas which shape public policy through mass media
Interested in getting involved yourself?
Thoughts on advocacy from Britains National Autistic Society
Here are policy advocacy toolkits from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network
This blog talks about research at the Dept. of Defense and how you could get involved
The IACC (the federal autism committee) welcomes the public to its meetings by webcast or in person, and makes all records available online
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. He's co-founder of the TCS Auto Program (A school for teens with developmental challenges) and he’s the Neurodiversity Scholar at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. He's also a visiting professor of practice at Bay Path University in Longmeadow, Massachusetts and advisor to the Neurodiversity Institute at Landmark College in Putney, Vermont.