Aspies For Freedom
|Autism rights movement|
Aspies For Freedom (AFF) was a solidarity and campaigning group that aimed at raising public awareness of the autism rights movement. The term "Aspies" refers to people who have been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, but the group also welcomed anyone on the autism spectrum.
The aim of Aspies For Freedom was putatively to educate the public that the autism spectrum is not always a disability, and that there are advantages as well as disadvantages. For this purpose, the group organized an annual Autistic Pride Day. The group also campaigned against abusive forms of therapy, and against the idea of a cure for autism. AFF hoped to have autistic people recognized as a minority status group.
Established in 2004 by Amy and Gareth Nelson, AFF allegedly received supportive letters from such autism experts as Simon Baron-Cohen, Tony Attwood and Donna Williams, as well as press from publications such as New Scientist magazine. As of August, 2007, The Guardian estimated the group's membership at 20,000. Rob Crossan, writing for the BBC, confirms this 20,000 member figure and also mentions their "radical" belief that Asperger's should not be considered a disability. Crossan mentions that, in part, this is due to the speculation by some historians that Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, James Joyce, Andy Warhol, and Thomas Jefferson were 'Aspies', though there was no knowledge of the condition during the eras when Jefferson, Newton, and Joyce lived.
The protest against National Alliance for Autism Research, by then-AFF member Joe Mele, was the first anti-cure protest by an autistic person. The protest received international media coverage. Seen as a pivotal moment in the history of the autistic community, Mele's protest was followed shortly by a protest against NBC's Autism Speaks campaign. There was also a protest against Cure Autism Now in 2005, and there is a current protest against the Judge Rotenberg Center for its use of electric shocks on autistic children.
Aspies For Freedom has an ongoing aim to have members of the autistic community recognised as a minority status group. This started in November 2004 after discussion and debate with members, after which a statement was released called 'Declaration of the autism community'. This detailed reasons for seeking such official recognition from the United Nations and the work continues towards achieving this. AFF was cited by The Guardian as a resource for autism employment assistance.
The usage of the infinity symbol as a representation of autism, started by Aspies For Freedom in June 2004, was a reaction to the negative connotations associated with the jigsaw symbol commonly used by parents to represent autism. The jigsaw symbol is seen by much of the autistic community as an insulting reference to the fact that autistics can appear puzzling, in need of "fitting in" with society, or as having "a bit missing".
The website is currently down. According to founder Gareth Nelson the forum is closed and will not be going back up, nobody will be taking over, and it is not for sale. Several forums have been set up by former members of Aspies for Freedom, with varying degrees of success. The most notable is Autism Friends Network, which has similar aims to AFF.
The impact of the neurodiversity movement, including Aspies for Freedom, in particular, has stimulated scholarly discourse on the subject and has been covered in depth by multiple peer-reviewed journals.
Aspies for Freedom has stimulated commentary from the bioethics community on whether or not prenatal genetic testing for autism spectrum disorders is ethical, moral, or if such prenatal testing could have the unwanted effect of a reduction in the number of geniuses in society, due to selective abortion. This concern has been raised because Asperger syndrome and Asperger like traits have been associated with achievement in mathematics, engineering and computer science.
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- Aspies For Freedom website
- Autism Friends Network website
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