Autistic Perspective Series
Most of the conversations about autism, particularly in academic or professional spaces, are not led or created by Autistic people, and are instead led by allistic (non-autistic) people working in the field of autism.
These conversations shape the way people view, understand, and think about autism. They also impact the way people interact with, perceive, and treat Autistic people. Those beliefs drive policies and procedures around support for Autistic individuals and their loved ones. Without input from actual Autistic people, a wealth of information gained from lived experience is missed, risking the perpetuation of ableist systems.
We believe lived experiences of Autistic people should be heard, validated, and legitimized, and must be centered in these conversations. This series is designed and facilitated by Autistic people.
Our Autistic Perspectives Series aims to provide an accessible platform for community members to engage with an Autistic panel, who bring their lived experiences to varying topics that intersect with autism. Discussing lived experiences in a mostly neurotypical space, within a society not designed for Autistic people, is a place of vulnerability and requires labor. Panelists are compensated for the time, energy, and expertise they bring to this conversation.
See our events page for upcoming dates for this series.
ON BEING AUTISTIC
GENDER IDENTITY Watch this discussion HERE
People who do not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth are three to six times as likely to be Autistic as cisgender people are, according to the largest study yet to examine the connection. In this study, about 5 percent of the cisgender people have autism, whereas 24 percent of the gender-diverse are Autistic. The findings also suggest that researchers should investigate how autism presents in gender-diverse people. Researchers have often missed autism in cisgender girls because they tend to show different traits than cisgender boys do, and the same may be true for gender-diverse people.
RACE AND CULTURE Watch this discussion HERE
Data shows that structural racism is the driver of inequity for individuals with autism. The long-standing, complex system of oppression and exclusion that has allocated and concentrated unfair advantage to white communities and disadvantages to multiracial communities has created the racial disparities in diagnosis, as well as access to supports, education, healthcare, community resources, and, ultimately, outcomes. Autism occurs across all demographics, yet the diagnosis and perception of autism in an individual differs, depending on their intersecting racial and gender identities. BIPOC Autistics have been excluded from the conversations and research about autism and are often misdiagnosed or missed altogether. Additionally, the way autism is understood and perceived across cultures also has implications on diagnosis and perception. The decisions families make about autism diagnosis and treatment are directly influenced by the family’s cultural background. It is culture that shapes individual and familial beliefs about disability in general, and autism in particular.
SEX AND SEXUALITY **Explicit Content, video available upon request**
The common stereotype for people on the spectrum is that they are uninterested in social and romantic relationships, that they are asexual. Statistically, Autistic individuals do identify as asexual more often than neurotypical people do, however, this is not something that can be applied or assumed of the entire Autistic community. Individuals with autism seek sexual and romantic relationships similar to the non-Autistic population, and have the entire spectrum of sexual experiences and behaviors. In fact, over 70% of Autistic adults engage in sexual activity and experience a wider diversity of sexual orientation than allistic people do. Despite interest and activity, individuals on the spectrum are more likely to be excluded from conversations about sexual health and sexuality or given accessible options for obtaining a robust understanding of sexual health and sexuality. As a result, Autistic individuals are more at-risk for misinformation, identity confusion, abuse, exploitation, and impacts on their mental health that come from these experiences.
MENTAL HEALTH Watch this discussion HERE
Current evidence reports that around 50–70% of autistic people are actually multiply neurodivergent or have a co-occuring mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety. Recent research has applied the Minority Stress Model to the experiences of Autistic individuals and found that the chronic experience of victimization, discrimination, expectation of rejection, physical concealment or masking, and internalized stigma could provide insight into the higher prevalence rate of mental health concerns of people with autism. There are many barriers that make it harder for autistic people to get the right mental health care. These can include low autism awareness and understanding by mental health practitioners, communication difficulties (particularly for non-speakers), sensory sensitivities, and a lack of coordination and collaboration between supporting professionals.
Autistic people face significant barriers to finding employment and thriving in the workplace, even as "Neurodiversity" hiring initiatives grow. In fact, research shows that Autistic people have the lowest employment rates among all disability groups and experience a high rate of underemployment. Biased expectations and neuro-normative beliefs are the primary reason so many Autistic people face barriers in acquiring and maintaining employment. They are also the reason why Autistic people are less likely to be considered for decision-making or leadership positions. The neurotypical constructs that have been ingrained in society prevent many employers from seeing the benefits of a neurodiverse workforce or the shifts they could make to not only improve the access, inclusion, and experience of neurodivergent employees, but for their entire company. In this panel discussion, autistic individuals will share their own perspectives related to employment.
COMMUNICATION: An AAC User's Perspective
This series was done in partnership with ImpAACt Voices
Over the last decade or so, there has been a rise in the visibility and reach of Autistic advocates and they have played a crucial role in challenging stereotypes and promoting acceptance. These powerful Autistic voices have brought lived experience perspectives to discussions that have typically been dominated by allistic (non-Autistic) professionals. However, there is a great scarcity of voices from the subset of the Autistic community that is nonspeaking, despite them being an estimated 33% of the Autistic population. In this panel discussion we will hear directly from Autistic individuals who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). Our panelists will share their thoughts about communicating as AAC users in a speaking world.