Politics of Autism: Social Intuition, Stigma, and Diversity

Gordon Alan Gates



While controversy lingers over the assimilation of Asperger’s into autism spectrum disorder, this paper looks at diagnosis from the perspective of ASHFA (individuals previously diagnosed with Asperger’s AS and identifying with “high functioning” autism HFS). Based on a qualitative insider study exploring diagnosis and autistic stigma, this paper explores the phenomenology of autistic stigma, how it relates to diversity of human social intuition, and addresses a paradox between the powerful validating discourse provided by diagnosis and the inherently disempowering effects of medicalization. Sociophenomenal diversity resulting from fundamental differences in social intuition fills the resulting gap as a validating discourse that provides an alternate framework for autistic identity construction consistent with the integrity of ASHFA as described by participants. This framework avoids the pathologization of diagnosis as a validating discourse and addresses the fundamental human difference that leads to much of the stigma experienced by this marginalized population


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