May 23, 2024

Foss Provides Remarks on Autism as Roundtable Participant

Chris Foss, professor of English, served as one of five panelists for a session entitled “Paid in Full: Autisms, Debts, Dissents” at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association on Nov. 22 in Washington, D.C.  Foss’s remarks focused on the ongoing efforts by both autistic self-advocacy groups and individual bloggers to counter the largely cure-based agenda of the most powerful autism organization today, Autism Speaks. For many autistics, and an increasing number of their allies, Autism Speaks engages in relentless stereotyping and fearmongering (while simultaneously co-opting and ultimately weakening self advocate-driven efforts geared instead toward acceptance and affirmation). Most frustratingly of all, this organization purporting to stand in for the voice of autism does not value autistic opinion or representation, still persisting as it does in not having any autistic membership on its Board of Directors or other important advisory boards. Groups like the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and bloggers like Paula Durbin-Westby are actively expressing their dissent and discontent not only through more traditional means such as physical protests and organized boycotts but also through Facebook movements and flash blogs. The extent to which the powers that be, and Autism Speaks itself along with them, might begin to listen to and actually heed these significant autistic voices remains to be seen.