Monday, January 11, 2016

Autism: Can other candidates match Hillary Clinton’s plan?

Very interesting article.

On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton released the most detailed policy document on autism in U.S.
presidential election history.
While other candidates have spoken about autism from time to time, both in this election cycle and in previous years, we’ve never seen anything so informed and friendly to the autistic community. Her “Plan to Support Children, Youth, and Adults Living with Autism and their Families” is notable for its focus on adults and for the complete absence of stigmatizing words such as “cure” or “epidemic.”

The rhetoric is good, the policy is better, and the problems with the document (and there are some) are relatively few.

As Sara Luterman, editor of NOS Magazine and an autistic activist told me, “If even half of the things on Hillary Clinton’s plan happen, I’d be extremely pleased.” The best of Clinton’s ideas would lead to tangible improvements in job opportunities, education and the inclusion of neurodiverse people living in a society that too often discriminates against them.

Moreover, the politics of this announcement ought to serve Clinton well. Millions of autistic people and their caregivers, not to mention allies in other branches of the disability community, are witnessing a sustained, thoughtful commitment to their rights, services and supports. That’s almost never happened before.

Candidates need to step up

Which begs the question: Where are the other candidates on these issues? So far, commitment to disability issues of any kind has been mostly an afterthought for the other major candidates.
Clinton developed her plan in consultation with major autistic rights groups.

I spoke to Ari Ne’eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, and C.J. Volpe, chief of media strategy for Autism Speaks. Both organizations, among others, were consulted by the campaign. These organizations often disagree, but both were relatively pleased with the plan. That’s impressive, as it’s a tricky needle to thread. Moreover, the organizations stand ready to consult with any other candidate needing advice on these issues.

The research that went into the plan shows in its sophisticated language. As Dr. Emily Willingham writes at Forbes, even a few years ago such a plan would have been packed with “cure” language, calling autism an epidemic, and focusing only on children and their parents.
Although the document released in 2008 by then-candidate Barack Obama’s disability policy committee, the only committee of its sort in presidential history, is excellent overall, its autism language reflects the norms at the time. It focuses on causes and treatments, not supports. When Clinton spoke about autism in ’08, Willingham notes, she talked about epidemics and cures. Clinton has come a long way. She’s listening to the community.

Read the whole story at

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