Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Equality Demands Responsibility Revisited

As regular readers of autism's gadfly know, a few years ago neurodiversity activist Ari Ne'eman wrote an essay entitled Equality Demands Responsibility in which the gist of the essay was that persons on the spectrum should not use insanity pleas or diminished capacity defenses when charged with crimes. That if we were to state a cure was not necessary then an autistic person was expected to obey the law. If not, they should be prosecuted and suffer the same consequences as the neurotypical law breaker.

A few years later, Ne'eman, and his organization, the autistic self-advocacy network, digressed from the tenets of this essay, when a young special education student was charged with assaulting his teachers. I wrote about this elsewhere. This youngster should not be prosecuted for his crime because of his autism ASAN said. The Midnight in Chicago blog in a recent post has suggested if I am not misunderstanding them is that those who engage in autism advocacy may have ulterior motives for doing so. They write:

Again, I say to you that it is important that you carefully evaluate the motives and intentions of people and organizations in the advocacy field. Often times they are advocating for personal or selfish reasons, rather than advocating in the interest of seeing that true justice is served to those on the autism spectrum

This could serve as an explanation for the inconsistencies between Ne'eman's essay and their advocacy efforts on behalf of the young special education student from Arkansas. However, I am not sure what ulterior motive ASAN would have for their actions, but perhaps there is one.

Retired neurodiversity blogger "The autistic bitch from hell" has suggested that the reason certain autistic persons crusade against the neurodiversity movement and efforts of autistic self-advocates is because they are on welfare or social security and refuse to take responsibility for their lives and are worried that these efforts will jeopardize their welfare benefits.

I find this assertion interesting as a crusader against neurodiversity and a critic of the autistic self advocacy network, who for more than 27 years tried his ass off to make a living, applied for hundreds of jobs, worked sporadically with some success, endured multiple firings and all the headaches of having to avoid going on the dole or being completely supported by my parents just to avoid the fate that ABFH claimed that I covet so much. Yet, two of the highest (at the time) profile spokespersons for the autistic civil rights and neurodiversity movement, Frank Klein and Amanda Baggs were both on welfare and/or social security and as far as I know never worked a day in their lives. It is also interesting in light of the fact that Ari Ne'eman stated that he supported money being spent from the Obama administration's economic stimulus package to expedite processing of social security disability claims and hearings at the administrative law level and in federal district courts and circuit courts of appeal. The fact that ASAN has lobbied for Medicaide waivers for persons with autism in various states as well.

All of these facts has just gotten me to thinking. Should the equality demands responsibility ploy just be restricted to criminal behavior as well as those of us unemployed autistics whom ABFH asserts are just lazy loafers who won't work and take responsibility for our lives? What about in special education? What about the state regional center services in California? What about behavior in school and in the workplace?

The IDEA law, which ASAN has lobbied for funding for costs the taxpayers tens of billions of dollars. If equality demands responsibility and autism is to be considered a legitimate way of being rather than a disease shouldn't ASAN be lobbying to abolish it and claiming that autistics should be educated in the same manner as their NT peers for the same amount of money and no extra money be spent on special education for these children, after all, equality demands responsibility?

The state of California where I live is billions of dollars in the hole. Jerry Brown, our new governor has created a hornet's nest by proposing drastic cuts in the state budget. According to the equality demands responsibility mantra the families of children with developmental disabilities should not be lobbying for state services at taxpayer expense. They should be lobbying for Brown and the state legislature to close down the state regional centers and responsible parents of autistic children should no longer avail themselves of these services if they are to assert their children are equal to NT children and don't need a cure.

What about inappropriate behavior and social skills among persons with autism. Shouldn't we expect them to always behave in an appropriate manner in spite of their autism? After all, equality demands responsibility. This is in spite of the fact that Ari Ne'eman stated social pleasantry should be eliminated as a criteria for hiring people for jobs and evaluating their work performance.

According to the equality demands responsibility mantra, autistics should not be allowed diminished capacity defenses in criminal proceedings under any circumstance,they should not be allowed social security benefits and should work for a living. They should take responsibility for their own behavior and should not be allowed services by government if we are to state that no cure should be sought for autism and to do so is morally reprehensible.

I don't see ASAN and other advocacy organizations lobbying for any of these things. All I see is one inconsistency and digression from the Equality Demands Responsibility tenet after another. Or perhaps the midnight in Chicago blog is indeed correct. That the autistic advocacy organizations have an ulterior motive for all of their activities and perhaps don't really give a flying fuck about autistics' rights. I wonder what this ulterior motive could be.


SM69 said...

People with autism or Asperger present for the most part, with a disability. This is because, one way or another, their condition will interfere with their functioning. It can be subtle and essentially fine, or it can be very severe.

This means, that these people present with differences from the more common NT presentation. It therefore means that they are not equal with regard to their presentations and needs. However, they are equal in terms of their rights. Equality of rights should not be mistaken for equality of presentation.

To fail to respond to someone’s needs, is to be either ignorant, in denial or simply cruel. And this will have the consequences to impinge on the person’s rights.

Therefore, if ASAN was a true advocate for autism, it should fully recognise the disability aspect of the condition, in order to provide a consistent and effective support. We don’t see any of this happening.

Your question regarding the motives is fair, however, the stance, attitude, and inconsistencies you referring to, are to me, a lot more related to what AS actually is, than a true motive. Motives come with logic, a systematic approach, with thoughts. The chaos we see, is none of this, it is just chaos,… an innate inability to achieve something though constructive thoughts, especially if achieving implies concerted efforts wit other people. That’s autism for you.

I don’t see effective autism advocating taking place without the help of NT people. Another realisation Ari has not yet made.

Anonymous said...

I think ASAN is indeed inconsistent when defending this autistics'rights yet claiming autistics in general should not claim an insanity defense. My opinion is that, if the autism significantly contributes to the crime, then an insanity defense is warranted (which I know in the U.S. there are stricter rules for than in the Netherlands). I believe that autistics are equal to neurotypicals, but that this does not mean their disabilities cannot impair their judgment. "Equality demands responsibility", in my view, is an ableist phrase.

Maria X said...

I wish advocates (as a group) had been clearer about the Zakhary Price case:

1. He was charged with *felony assault*. He simply didn't commit it (common assault maybe - but that is a much less serious crime). The felony assault charge was unsound and unfair, and would have been *even if Zakh was not autistic*.

2. He wasn't a special ed student, he was in a mainstream classroom. He didn't have an IEP. He didn't have a 504 Plan. His family had been trying to get a plan in place for him for some time. In the absence of an IEP or 504, developing meltdowns responded to as similar behavior would be in a NT child (potentially escalating). And, in the absence of an IEP, no support for Zakh to develop different ways to deal with stressful/overwhelming/whatever situations (clearly needed - and with it, might have avoided the assault in the first place!)

I wish advocates (as a group) had been clear about those things. Not guilty of the actual crime he was charged with. Not getting the support he needs. Two separate issues.

jonathan said...

Maria X: You miss the point of the post entirely. It is not the merits or lack of the case against Zakq price, it is not the supports, lacking or otherwise.

The point is that autism advocacy organizations are saying that if autism is not to be considered a disorder or disability (if you read my blog you know Ne'eman has stated in the past he did not believe autism and asperger's were disabilities) then an autistic is expected to behave and perform in the same manner as a non-handicapped person.

An NT child would not have a meltdown and run amok in a classroom and start ranscacking the classroom and hitting teachers just because a few extra credit spelling words were erased. Therefore the essential points of my post still stand.