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.
Established in 2004 by Amy and Gareth Nelson, AFF received coverage 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 since 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 article 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 impact of autistic activism, 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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