Fight for Your Rights: Advocacy and the Autism Rights Movement


Every autistic child has the right to receive an education, but it isn't always easy to get the education they deserve. Many school systems and educators are unprepared and untrained about how to teach autistic children. Sometimes, we need to stand up for ourselves and advocate for our rights.

Advocate for Your Rights Under the Law

Within the law, there are specific procedural safeguards to protect your child’s rights. If you and your school system disagree on placement, educational programming or another area related to your child’s education, The Autism Society offers suggestions about a variety of methods you can use to address the situation, and support agencies parents can turn to for assistance from education or disability advocates.

To help you better understand your child’s rights under federal law and communicate more effectively with professionals regarding your child’s education, the Autism Society also discusses federally funded Parent Training Information Centers (PTI) and Protection and Advocacy Agencies in each state that provides information and assistance to parents facing the educational process.

The Autism Rights Movement: When Self-Advocacy Just Isn't Enough

The rainbow-colored infinity symbol represents the diversity of the autism spectrum as well as the greater neurodiversity movement.

The rainbow-colored infinity symbol represents the diversity of the autism spectrum as well as the greater neurodiversity movement.

Sometimes, no matter how hard we fight for our children's rights to an education, it isn't enough to overcome the existing prejudices of some school administrators and educators. But as the Autism Awareness/Acceptance movement has grown over the last decade or so, so has the fight to gain those rights.

According to a Wikipedia article, "The Autism Rights Movement (ARM), also known as the autistic culture movement, is a social movement within the neurodiversity and disability rights movements that encourages autistic people, their caregivers and society to adopt a position of neurodiversity, accepting autism as a variation in functioning rather than a disorder to be cured. The ARM advocates a variety of goals including a greater acceptance of autistic behaviors; therapies that teach autistic individuals coping skills rather than therapies focused on imitating behaviors of neurotypical peers; the creation of social networks and events that allow autistic people to socialize on their own terms; and the recognition of the autistic community as a minority group."

The article goes on to state, "Autism rights or neurodiversity advocates believe that the autism spectrum is genetic and should be accepted as a natural expression of the human genome. This perspective is distinct from two other likewise distinct views: the mainstream perspective, that autism is caused by a genetic defect and should be addressed by targeting the autism gene(s), and the fringe theory that autism is caused by environmental factors like vaccines and pollution and could be cured by addressing environmental causes."

For more information, read the Wikipedia article, "Autism Rights Movement".

Autism Rights Groups

There are several organizations in the autism rights movement. Some like the Autistic Self Advocacy Network are led exclusively by Autistic people, while others such as Autism National Committee encourage cooperation between Autistic people and their non-autistic allies.

Year founded
Nonprofit status
1962 National Autistic Society (NAS) Charity supporting advocacy and education. NAS manages a number of schools throughout the United Kingdom. Registered charity
1986 Vlaamse Vereniging Autisme (VVA) Flanders based social network consisting of both Autistic individuals and family members. Autistic individuals and couples where one partner has Autism are frequent speakers or hosts at events intended to improve the understanding and collaboration between Autistic individuals and non-Autistic individuals and eliminate misconceptions about Autism. vzw (equivalent to 501(c))
1990 Autism National Committee (AutCom) Advocacy organization with a specific focus on civil rights, dedicated to "Social Justice for All Citizens with Autism." 501(c)3
1992 Autism Network International (ANI) Self-advocacy organization founded by Autistic individuals. ANI is the host of the annual Autreat conference. None
2004 Aspies For Freedom (AFF) Web-based organization for the Autistic community that had more than 20,000 members. Aspies For Freedom has disbanded, but some of its former members have reorganized at the online communities of Autism Friends Network and ASDCommunity.
2005 The Autism Acceptance Project (TAAProject) Organization founded by mother to autistic son Estee Klar with a group of autistic advisory and board members. An arts-based organization with an online presence that conducts online and offline events to support autism acceptance and critical thinking about autism and disability. Based in Canada. Canadian Registered Charity
2006 Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) Self-advocacy organization founded by Ari Ne'eman to represent the Autistic community and further the autism rights movement. 501(c)3
2009 Don't Play Me, Pay Me UK campaign focusing on Asperger syndrome, encouraging and supporting disabled actors. None
2009 Autism Women's Network (AWN) Self-advocacy organization founded by several Autistic women, focused on the intersection of the autism rights movement with feminism. 501(c)3
2010 Thinking Person's Guide To Autism (TPGA) Collaborative online information resource and publisher of the book by the same name. 501(c)3
2013 The I Can Network The I Can Network is a movement dedicated to driving a rethink of the Autism Spectrum among young people and the community, away from ‘I Can’t’ to ‘I Can’.
2016 Alternative Baseball Organization (ABO) Adaptive baseball/softball organization formed by Taylor Duncan in 2016 to raise awareness and acceptance for teens and adults with autism through sport.

SRC: Wikipedia, Autism Rights Movement

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