Autism Politico

Discussing the politics of autism.

Editorial #3: Do we really need the AWN?

You may be a part of society, but depending on whether you are “cool” or not, you are either “in”, or “out”.  Despite the fact that autism is fast becoming a popular diagnosis these days, when the chips are down, autistics are still “out.”  They are ignored. They are deliberately avoided. They are pariahs.

No one knows what to say to an autistic man who rocks back and forth and mutters to himself. No one knows what to say to a grown woman with Asperger Syndrome whose perseverative interest is unicorns. People on the spectrum are the life of the party when they are doing their circus performances (like Rainman is when he is counting cards in Las Vegas) but apart from these eccentricities, what people feel in the presence of autistic people is unease, and what they feel away from autistic people is relief.

Now comes the Neurodiversity movement.

Autism Politico thinks it’s terrific that autistics seek to help people to view autism in a good light.

But coming out of this movement are two organizations which paint neurodiversity in a bad light. The first is the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, or ASAN. The second is the Autism Women’s Network.

As Autism Politico touched briefly upon ASAN in its first post, it will refrain from speaking too much about ASAN for the present, exept to say that while ASAN does do some good, Autism Politico believes ASAN to be self-serving. 

Read this transcript for an example. Here we see Ari Ne’eman, President of ASAN, butting heads with Dr. Tony Attwood.  Ne’eman asks some good questions, but when he does not get the answers he seeks, and when he cannot get Attwood to change his way of looking things, he proceeds to pester Attwood like mosquitos around a bleeding baby. Ne’eman has since been nominated by President Obama for a position on the National Council on Disabilities, but this nomination can hardly be based on the blowhardiness we see in this transcript, because to be blunt, Autism Politico believes Ne’eman’s behavior to be rude and embarrassing. Arguably, autistics with low self-esteem secretly cheer Ne’eman on when he badgers Attwood.  “Sock it to ‘im, Ari!” they think, as Ne’eman weighs in to Attwood, who is perhaps the most recognized authority on Asperger Syndrome, albeit he is perhaps not as knowledgeable as lesser known authorities.

But the focus of this editorial is the Autism Women’s Network, which is run by the female equivalent to Ari Ne’eman, Sharon daVanport,who is Executive Director & Radio Show Host. We read on this page,

Greetings and welcome to the Autism Women’s Network.   AWN is dedicated to building a community of autistic females, their families, friends, and supporters who have a place where they can share their experiences amongst a diverse, inclusive, and supportive environment.

How quaint.

Nothing says to the world “We autistics want inclusion!” better than a portion of the autistic community that deliberately chooses to segregate itself (Autism Politico says sarcastically).

Predictably, AWN has its own twist on autism: You’re either with us or you don’t exist.

They have this view because they have political aims. This is not just a bunch of women gathering for an internet tea party.

This is both a good think and a bad thing. While Autism Politico is thankful that AWN pretty much slams the door shut in the faces of people who believe in quack treatments and cures (and unscientific explanations for the cause of autism), the fact is, if you do not support AWN’s cause, you might find your blog, or your forum, or your Facebook page swarmed with angry women who don’t like your point of view.

As with ASAN, AWN has a history of picking causes that will raise themselves in the estimations of those who idolize them. Both organizations will piggy-back on one another or co-operate with one another (depending on who is leading the charge) to get the results they’re looking for in campaigns that they agree on.

But some of those causes are questionable to their fellow autistics, the reason being that not all autistics are blind followers. Some autistics actually think about things, and delve into the pros and cons of what the cause-of-the-week is going to do for or against the autism community, or whether or not the cause of the week is legitimate at all. Sometimes things that look good on the surface really are not.

Autism Politico believes that it would be better for the autism community at large to become more vocal rather than have autistic political organizations speak on their behalf. Autistic political organizations tend to be self-serving, and they do not speak for ALL autistics. Further, when they make mistakes, they embarrass the autistic community and worsen things for them.

Replies to this editorial are welcome.


January 23, 2010 - Posted by | Autism Community & Its Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. When I first came across the AWN I thought: “This is just a female version of ASAN.”

    I do think that something for autistic females needs to be set up because we do have unique issues separate from autistic males. I see nothing wrong with having a place for autistic females to turn to for support, for role models, etc. (although at the moment the “role models” concept is fuzzy.)

    I see nothing wrong with the concept of the AWN, just the fact that it *is* just a female version of ASAN.

    Comment by stephanielynnkeil | January 30, 2010

  2. Thanks for your comment. Many people are going to have many different views on this issue. Yours is appreciated.

    Comment by autismpolitico | January 30, 2010

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