Chapter 5

Autism and disability

This chapter talks about:

  • What disability means
  • The disability rights movement
  • The neurodiversity movement

How can we think about disability?

Disability is a normal part of society. A society is a big group of communities. The United States is one example of a society.

Society is supposed to help everyone get what they need, but society doesn’t always do that. Our society hurts people with disabilities, and says that disability is a problem. It says that people should try to cure disability, and that people should try and be less disabled.

People with disabilities are not the problem. Instead, society is the problem. Society needs to help people with disabilities, not hurt us. Society shouldn’t try to change disabled people. We should work to make sure people with disabilities can get what we need.

Disability isn’t as big of a deal if things are accessible. Accessibility means disabled people can easily use something, get around somewhere, and feel like we belong there. For example:

Charlene is blind. She goes to a restaurant, but the restaurant does not have a menu in Braille. The restaurant is too crowded to get around easily. The waiter doesn’t try to help Charlene, and people nearby talk about her disability while she eats. The restaurant is not accessible to blind people.

Charlene goes to a different restaurant. The restaurant has bumps on the floor to help Charlene find a seat. They have a menu in Braille, and the waiter also says he can read the menu to Charlene. People nearby make friendly conversation with Charlene, and they don’t ask rude questions about her disability. This restaurant is accessible to blind people.

There are things about some disabilities that can be hard. For example, autism is a disability, and might make it harder for someone to talk or get dressed by themselves. Accessibility doesn’t make disability go away, but it still helps a lot.

Disability is a part of life, and disabled people will always be a part of the world. Many disabled people will always need help to live our daily lives, and that is okay! Disability makes us different and interesting people. We need to talk less about fixing people and more about fixing the world!

What is ableism?

Treating people badly because of who they are is called discrimination. Ableism is discrimination against disabled people. Ableism doesn’t always happen on purpose, but ableism happens all the time.

Some non-disabled people think it is bad to be disabled. They don’t always say that with their words, but instead with their actions. They don’t accept people with disabilities, and they don’t try and make things accessible. They keep us out of schools, neighborhoods, and jobs where non-disabled people are. They might abuse or hurt us. These things are all ableism.

Autistic people deal with certain kinds of ableism.
Here are some kinds of ableism we deal with:

  • It is ableism when people want to cure autism. It means that people want to get rid of us. They try and make us act less autistic, but they should accept us for who we are!
  • It is also ableism when people say we aren’t autistic. People might not give us help we need, or they might say we aren’t “autistic enough” to need help.
  • It is ableism to ignore non-speaking autistic people. People might say we can’t communicate, or take away things that help us communicate. They might hurt us because they know we can’t tell someone else about it.

Ableism means that some people don’t think about our needs. Because of this, they don’t help us live good lives.

Autistic people aren’t the only people who deal with ableism. All disabled people deal with ableism. Wheelchair users get told they aren’t “disabled enough” to need a wheelchair, and Deaf people may not get interpreters during job interviews. People might try and keep disabled people from getting health care we need.

Ableism has been around for a long time, and disabled people have been treated badly for a long time. If you have dealt with ableism, you are not alone.

We know that there is nothing wrong with being disabled. We can be proud of who we are. People with disabilities work together, and show others that we are proud. We have worked together for many years, and we made the disability rights movement. The disability rights movement is when disabled people fight back against ableism. We work to change society to be better for disabled people, and fight for our rights as people with disabilities.


Neurodiversity is the idea that humans have all kinds of brains. Every person has things they are good at and things they need help with, and there is no such thing as a “normal” brain. Some of us have brains that think differently because of a disability, and that’s okay!

People are different in all sorts of ways.

We have different:

  • Genders
  • Ages
  • Races
  • Cultures
  • Bodies
  • Religions
  • And more!

We also have different brains!

The Neurodiversity Movement

The neurodiversity movement says it is okay to be disabled, and it is okay if your brain is different from other people’s. The neurodiversity movement is part of the disability rights movement.

It says a few different things, such as:

  • People with all kinds of brains should be accepted in society.
  • People shouldn’t try to cure or get rid of disabilities like autism.
  • Autistic people should be allowed to be autistic.
  • We should work to make sure that everyone gets the help we need.

The neurodiversity movement is for more than just autistic people. It is for people with intellectual disabilities, mental health disabilities, and learning disabilities. It is for people who talk, and people who don’t. It is for people who only need a little bit of help, and people who need a lot of help all the time. The neurodiversity movement is for everyone.

Many autistic people have intellectual disabilities. People with intellectual disabilities made the self-advocacy movement, and the neurodiversity movement wouldn’t be here without their help.

Chapter 5 Resources