Alex Lowery speaks about autism

Is autism a disability or a different way of being?

Written on 20th Jul 2018 by Alex Lowery

There is a lot of debate as to whether autism should be seen as a disability or simply a different way of being. There are a number of autistic adults who go out of their way to promote this idea that it’s not a disability at all, but is simply a difference. Today I’m going to be typing what I’d say about this topic.

I will answer this question by saying that I think it depends both on the autistic person and on how you look at it. I can understand this viewpoint because a lot of people on the autistic spectrum makeup for their difficulties with the things that they can do extremely well. It has been described as a combination of ability and disability in the sense that there are both significant deficits and positives that come from this difference in wiring of the brain. However, I still say that there is a problem with viewing autism as simply a difference. If everyone starts seeing it as a different way of thinking instead of a disability: it could become even harder to get the support (those on the autistic spectrum so desperately need) than it already is. It’s hard enough for autistics to find support already and if everyone starts seeing it as simply ‘a difference’ it would become even harder.

I also know that just how disabled by the condition someone is depends greatly on the individual. And someone who’s diagnosed as autistic in adulthood, has some social social and communication differences but has managed to live a fully successful life with no support, may well find it doesn’t really impact their life that much. For those people: I can understand calling it a difference. However, I don’t really believe these people can speak on behalf of all people on the autistic spectrum out there. Just because one person isn’t disabled by it; that doesn’t mean that nobody is or that it shouldn’t be seen as a disability at all. Some autistic people are so severely affected that they require 24 hour care throughout all their lives and to say these people don’t have a disability really minimizes the support they need. Now, I suppose one could argue that people on that end of the spectrum often have a co-occuring intellectual disability as well so that still doesn’t disprove that autism itself isn’t a disability. But all the same: autism without an intellectual disability can still be disabling in one way or another. Even when someone has impaired social skills or has anxiety that’s so severe they can’t leave the house without support: this can affect their ability to function in day to day life. And to say that the whole spectrum of autism is simply a difference is inaccurate. There are even non verbal autistics that clearly don’t have an intellectual disability so to even to say that all severely affected people are intellectually disabled is a stereotype. Don’t get me wrong: I am 100% supportive of being positive about autism, but we do also have to be realistic. There’s a fine line between positivity and what’s simply not realistic.

However, I still do say (to a certain extent) that it is a difference because the autistic way of viewing the world isn’t necessarily the wrong way just because it’s different. And if the whole world understood autism: maybe it would be easier for a lot more autistic people to live in it but at the end of the day: we all still live in the world that doesn’t really understand us. And I do know that I do have a lot of significant difficulties that affect my day to day life and as much I’d like to believe it’s not a disability… It’s simply not a realistic view point.

Thank you all for reading. I hope you enjoyed this article.






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Organisations Alex has worked with

  • Autism Cymru
  • Chester University
  • Glyndwr University
  • National Autistic Society
  • St John's Ambulance
  • Welsh Government

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