Don’t Call Me a Self-Advocate

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13 responses to this post.

  1. We are activists together. Yes.

  2. I’ve always been uneasy with the term and couldn’t really put my finger on why…this post captures some of it. There’s an implied condescension…indeed, like we aren’t the “real” advocates. And it creates an illusion wherein a lot of parents can think “My child can’t self-advocate because she can’t write like these people can, so these autistics are a fundamentally different group of people who have nothing to do with my child’s needs and I don’t have to listen to them.”

    And also I agree that I’m not primarily advocating for myself–I have an education, I have control over my own life, I’ve more or less successfully carved a little niche in the world for myself–I’m standing up for other autistic and neurodivergent people to be treated with respect and acceptance, and for other children today to be thought of as capable and having rights and as being future adults and not eternal children.

    What I think of as “self-advocacy,” when I was a kid was just called “standing up for yourself.” Funnily enough, no one liked it when I did it back then, either.

    • Exactly! You totally get it.

      In the medical field, self-advocacy is a patient getting involved in their own medical care and in autism, self-advocacy is an Autistic standing up for themselves and determining what they do and don’t want in their life — everything from using AAC or hand signs to ask for a glass of water to asking a teacher to repeat what they just said to negotiating the playground and the bullies there.

      Self-advocacy is very important! But it’s not what we’re doing when we’re trying to improve the conditions of all our people. It’s not what we’re doing when we’re speaking of social justice, respect, adult rights, etc. That’s advocacy. Or activism. But it’s not self-advocacy . . . unless it’s an autistic person doing it. Which is just wrong.

      Thanks, chavisory.

  3. I’m new to your writing, but I love it!

  4. Apparently,
    Autistic people are “self advocates”, Neurotypical people are “advocates”.
    Autistic people have “special interests”, Neurotypical people have “interests”.
    Autistic people have “special needs”, Neurotypical people have “needs”.
    Autistic people have “splinter skills”, Neurotypical people have “skills”.
    Regardless if it’s the same thing(s) in both cases.

  5. […] people are blogging. They are advocating for themselves. They are advocating for the autistic people who can’t yet speak for themselves. Or who have […]

  6. […] in February, I came across an interesting post by an autistic blogger called “Don’t Call Me a Self-Advocate.” I’ve linked to it, but the author has since password protected her posts. While I […]

  7. Posted by jess on June 27, 2013 at 9:40 am

    thank you for guiding me here, sparrow. i really appreciate the insight and will change my language accordingly. In part because I couldn’t agree more strongly with this ..

    “I believe everyone should have the autonomy to self-identify as they see best and the rest of us owe them the respect of calling them what they have identified themselves to be. It is a cornerstone of human dignity to be able to say, “I am this,” and have others respect you as such.”

    … but also because clearly this just makes sense.

    struggling to be part of the solution, indeed,



  8. […] in this post to “self-advocates” to autistic advocates / activists. Here’s why. Note: If that post is not unlocked, please check back. It will be soon. It’s […]

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