Get access

From Cure to Community: Transforming Notions of Autism



Abstract For many decades, autism has been viewed as a biomedical condition, highlighting deficits in social interaction and communication. Based on ethnographic data from a study of adults with High Functioning Autism, this article explores the emergence of the autistic community, a group composed of people with autism, who are challenging these notions. First, I suggest that three historical trends can be linked to the emergence of this community: the widening of the autism spectrum, the strengthening of the self-advocacy movement, and the explosion of technology. Drawing from ethnographic data, I describe the community, including its discourse, occupations or activities, and lexicon. Although the autistic community has grown over the past decade, it has also faced resistance from both inside and outside the group. I investigate this tension, arising in a debate regarding whether autism is a condition in need of a cure or a way of life and suggest that the autistic community has the power to transform notions of autism. Implications of this research for psychological anthropology's notions of sociality are introduced. [autism, community, social model of disability, occupation]

Get access to the full text of this article