Autistics come out to play

For far too long, the hope for a cure of autism has meant that people living with autism now have been regarded as something to be eradicated, a disorder, or freak of nature. This is no longer tenable at a time when millions of children diagnosed with autism come of age and many more get diagnosed as adults.

In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2 April World Autism Awareness Day. On that day in 2013, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote: "This international attention is essential to address stigma, lack of awareness and inadequate support structures. Now is the time to work for a more inclusive society, highlight the talents of affected people and ensure opportunities for them to realize their potential."

We autistics have always been expected to hide our condition and pretend to be "normal". We are told that we lack "social skills" and subjected to behaviour modification. The world over, the more severe of us still get institutionalized. Many others end up homeless or in prison. An over-reliance on teamwork means that an ever increasing number of autistics are forced out of a job and into disability. Far from being able to realize our potential, society seems to have stopped valuing the unique contributions made by persons on the autism spectrum throughout human history. Autistic children continue to be killed by their families, and soon prenatal genetic screening may allow for the abortion of foetuses at risk of autism.

It is our conviction that autism awareness must lead to acceptance, recognition, and respect for autistics. Rather than teaching us how to appear less different, we should be taught self-esteem, self-confidence, and how to advocate for ourselves.

Autistic Minority International is the first and only autism self-advocacy organization active at the global political level. The NGO, founded as a non-profit association under Swiss law in 2013 and headquartered in Geneva, aims to advance the interests of autistics worldwide at and through the United Nations, World Health Organization, human rights treaty bodies, and other international organizations.

We believe that autistic self-advocacy is about more than disability rights. Estimated at one percent of the world's population, or seventy million people, autistics deserve the same protection and rights the international community affords to ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities as well as indigenous peoples. There is an autistic minority in every country on Earth. Only minority status will put an end to discrimination and marginalization and permit all of us to be open about our condition without fear of repercussions. Autism is a distinct culture and identity. The only one we know.

For that reason, we seek to network autism self-advocacy organizations worldwide and act as a focal point for capacity building and the exchange of best practice on how to engage governments at the national, regional, and local level. We promote and assist in the participation of national and local self-advocacy groups at UN conferences and in UN processes and mechanisms.  Where no effective national self-advocacy organizations exist, we will establish such. We are open to collaboration with UN member states, the UN system, the wider NGO community, autism charities run by non-autistics, researchers particularly in the social sciences and international law, the private sector, and individuals with a view to shaping global priorities and lifting our concerns onto the UN's agenda.