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Is Obama Nominee Ari Ne'eman Flip Flopping on Autism as a Disability? But Not on His Opposition to Curing Autism?

Posted Dec 18 2009 7:15pm
Several autism blogs, including mine, have stated that Obama nominee Ari Ne'eman does not view autism as a disability.  In response Mr. Ne'eman  has apparently sent emails to Neurodiversity bloggers like Astrid and Lisa Jo Rudy stating that he does in fact view autism as a disability.  He has not apparently distanced himself from his positions opposing the right of parents to seek to cure their own autistic children. 

If Mr. Ne'eman now sincerely believes that autism is not a disability great but that is not what he said in the past.  And just as importantly he should make it clear that he does not oppose curing autistic children and in fact has no right to oppose the efforts of parents to seek cures for their children.

Following is a commentary I left in response to Mr. Ne'eman's statements at a Neurodiversity autism site authored by Lisa Jo Rudy, edited to fit the context of this comment:

1. Mr. Ne'eman's comments about autism not being a disability.

Ari Ne'eman in 2006 wrote an essay which is posted on the ASAN web site in which he in fact states that Autism is JUST a difference not a disease and NOT a disability:

"Difference Is Not A Disease"

"We see the world in a different way than our neurotypical peers (neurotypical is a word in the autistic community meaning those of the majority neurology). This does not imply a defect, but merely a difference — one that we have just the same right to as those of a different race, nationality or religion. Due to that difference in perception, we interact socially in different ways. Yet our quirks and eccentricities should be just as legitimate as the social skills of the mainstream.


"We should recognize what diversity of neurology has contributed to the human race and what it can bring to the future. Difference is not, in itself, disability; it becomes disability when it is not properly understood and accommodated. Someday, I hope the world will recognize that those who think in different ways should be welcomed.""

Ari Ne'eman, Nov 24 2006, ASAN web site

Mr. Ne'eman now claims through messages sent to Neurodiversity bloggers that he does not claim that autism is not a disability. His past writings say otherwise. In the best light Mr. Ne'eman  is flip flopping on the issue of autism as a disability. 

2, Mr. Ne'eman is not a Doctor.

And he does not have Autistic Disorder diagnosis and yet he purports to speak on behalf of people with autism, which would include my son with Autistic Disorder whom he has not met and with whom he has ABSOLUTELY nothing in common.

A person with Aspergers, unlike the 30-51% of persons with autism does not, by definition in the DSM, have an intellectual deficit. The 30-51% of autistic persons having an ID figure is taken from the CDC report on autism prevelance released today.

Mr Ne'eman has no obvious communication difficulties judging by his writings, his video performances and his numerous Big Media interviews.

Mr. Ne'eman has no social deficits judging by his ability to interact extremely well with Washington politicians.

Mr. Ne'eman has no reported behavior challenges that are visible in any of his appearances.

I have a son with Autistic Disorder and Mr Ne'eman has no right to speak on his behalf or say that my son's autism is JUST a difference not a disability. I was visiting autistic persons in institutional care in my home province of NB Canada long before Mr Ne'eman's media skills and connections launched his career as an "autistic". I have seen the reality of autism for those who are in fact severely autistic. Many are living lives dependent on others visited only by parents who eventually die. That is an autism reality that Mr Ne'eman's pontificating about autism being JUST a difference does not touch on.

3. Mr. Ne'eman's Opposition to Curing Autism

I assume that Mr. Ne'eman has not flip flopped on his declaration that WE, referring to persons with autism, do not want to be cured. Mr Ne'eman has no experience as a person with Autistic Disorder to even begin to understand the realities of life for those who end up living in institutional care. or wander off to freeze to death in snow storms, or drown in local pools, or like my son wander into automobile traffic obivious to the dangers to his safety (he was rescued by a good Samaritan, a "Neurotypical").

Autism disorders are not JUST differences as Mr. Ne'eman says to this day on the ASAN web site. They are for those with severe Autistic Disorder exactly what they are called ... Disorders . They are severe disabilities.

 Mr. Ne'eman does not have  the right to tell OTHER parents that they should not seek to cure their children of their very serious disorders.

Mr Ne'eman is not the first person with Aspergers or High Functioning Autism to declare that people like my son do not want to be cured. NO ONE has the right  to tell parents of other people's children not to seek cures for their children's autism disorders.

President Obama has done a great disservice to the autism communicty and will only divide the autism community further by appointing this person who is wobbly at best on whether autism disorders are disabilities and who opposes the right of autistic children to be cured of their disorder should a cure ever be found .... should the research to find a cure ever be undertaken.

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