Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Systemic Silencing Mechanisms in Autism/Autistic Advocacy in Ontario, Canada

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Abstract:  This article reveals how systemic ableism operates within grassroots organizations in Ontario, formulating a normative standard for being an autistic person. In‐depth interviews were conducted with 50 participants in the years 2021 and 2022, triangulated with document analysis from 2018 and 2022. The study participants consisted of autistic adults, parents, disability advocates, organizers of grassroots organizations, social workers, policy insiders, and academics. The findings show that most autistic adults are pressured to choose sides, either to join autism advocacy that is parent‐led or expert‐led or to become self‐advocates in autistic advocacy. This article offers an original finding that the value policy of pro/anti‐ABA of two grassroots organizations in the field of autism/autistic advocacy contributes to identity politics. Ableism operates through Pierre Bourdieu’s symbolic power, excluding autistic adults who do not fit into these two main categories of advocacy. Social oppression becomes multi‐directional as identity politics takes the stage and diverts from the original goals of social inclusion in advocacy. The concept of a grey area is introduced in theory building, to trouble the essentialist categories of autism/autistic advocacy and invite readers to commit to disability solidarity by moving beyond the dichotomy of sameness and difference.

Keywords:  ableism; autism; disability politics; grassroots advocacy; identity politics

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.7747


© Cheuk Ming Tsang. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.