...is being autistic like being gay, in that it’s a self-designation?
Or is it like being black: in that other people tell you that you are?
Until quite recently, that question could have had only one answer—society, and more specifically the psychological profession, defined autism any way it felt like it. The idea that autistic people, like other minorities, might be entitled to take the lead in defining their own identity would have been dismissed out of hand. Psychologists were seen as demigods with absolute authority who waved magic diagnostic wands and proclaimed the Truth as set forth in the Holy Book: "thou art autistic."
And in the beginning was the Word...
There's still far too much of that attitude out there, but it finally has started to crumble. Neurodiversity is becoming a mainstream concept, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Autism Hub in spreading the message. And it should be noted, while we're talking about self-designation in the gay community, that gays had to go through the same sort of struggle to gain the right to define their own culture and identity. Until 1973, homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder and was seen as needing a cure. Gay activists and their allies fought successfully to get that diagnostic category removed.
We're only just now getting to the point where it is within the realm of possibility for the autistic community to be culturally defined by autistic people. And what have some of us decided to do with this newfound sense of empowerment? Throw a hissy fit complaining that the parents and professionals on the Autism Hub, who have consistently spoken out against society's abuse of autistics and have taken significant personal risks in doing so, somehow are unfairly preventing autistics from being in control.
This is what I have to say to anyone who has that attitude:
While you're getting so gung-ho about autistic self-determination, why don't you go have a nice friendly chat with Mark Geier and persuade him to stop injecting autistic children with chemical castration drugs. After that, pay a visit to the Judge Rotenberg Center and convince Matthew Israel to be a nice guy and take the electric shock devices off the kiddies. Go talk to the Wrights, Alison Tepper Singer, and Hillary Clinton about their jolly plans for a world with no autistic people in it, and convert them to our cause. After that, you can come back and complain that the Autism Hub parents are interfering with your efforts to define the autistic community.
But until then, just shut the fuck up.