Culture of Coercion
I am a diagnosed and 'untreated'
autistic adult. In spite of not receiving ABA/IBI, I am able to speak for
myself and have functioned in a number of very demanding environments.
Because I do not fit the publicly and strategicially declared definition
of autism, my views are excluded from organisations which claim to represent
One solution to the 'problem' presented
by articulate autistic adults is to change their diagnosis. Or to deny
us altogether. Through nine years in the Ontario 'autism community' I've
noticed varying degrees of both. The autism industry has shaped
a widespread and popular culture of coercion.
My first experience of this was diagnosis
by Dr Mary Konstantareas, University of Guelph. Dr Konstantareas claimed
to have "diagnosed" (her word) that I am not autistic based on my "comportment"
on her answering machine. I've since learned that autistic adults have
received not only 'diagnosis by answering machine', but also diagnosis
by internet and diagnosis at first glance.
Autism Society Ontario publicly changed
my diagnosis to "Asperger's" (Newslink, April 1998). I wondered
about this change, but naively I did not object. The significance of it
would become clear only after I'd joined the international autistic community
(2000). Here I began to understand that coercion and denial of autistic
spectrum adults is nearly universal, not only in the autism community but
in every corner of society.
I have worked two consecutive summers
supporting homeless autistic youth (one by request from Autism Society
Ontario). When I suggested to the program director of Covenant House that
an unknown percentage of those he serves are autistic, he responded by
ending the conversation. In Waterloo Region the program director of Reaching
Our Outdoor Friends (a United Way member agency) made clear to me that
discussion of autism is restricted.
Addressing the Ontario government,
I wrote to NDP Health Critic, Shelly Martel. I asked why autistic adults
are not welcome to comment in public discussion about ABA/IBI. Ms Martel
did not reply. Like many other government officials, Ms Martel had previously
been educated about autism by organisations such as Autism Society Ontario
and Autism Society Canada. In both ASO and ASC meaningful participation
by autistic adults is not allowed.
I received a different kind of non-response
from my local representative, Kitchener Centre MP and Liberal Party Whip,
the Honourable Karen Redman. In spite of repeated objections to her error,
Ms Redman refused to acknowledge that I am an autistic adult rather than
the parent of an autistic child. In her mistaken service to me as a parent
(I have no children), Ms Redman chose the subject of my inquiry for me
and presented this on my behalf to the Minister of Health.
The methods detailed above have become
internationally commonplace in what is generally referred to as the "autism
community". Possibly the most agressive examples have been directed against
autistic researcher Michelle Dawson. Rather than respond to Ms Dawson's
exacting review of the science, representatives of the autism community
have shown their preference for denial, emotionalism and defamation (see
A further example is shown in the
recent Canadian 'switchback' between ABA/IBI as "medically necessary" (Auton)
and ABA/IBI as not medically necessary (Wynberg).
In the culture of coercion, the autism community would have its
own way, both ways, all ways. And everywhere.
Reject Disrespect and Defamation
Support of Michelle Dawson and Her Work
Autistics Allowed, Canada
Autism Project, Ontario
May 16, 2004 | November