The Autism National Committee
AUTCOM is the only autism advocacy organization dedicated to "Social Justice for All Citizens with Autism" through a shared vision and a commitment to positive approaches. Our organization was founded in 1990 to protect and advance the human rights and civil rights of all persons with autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and related differences of communication and behavior. In the face of social policies of devaluation, which are expressed in the practices of segregation, medicalization, and aversive conditioning, we assert that all individuals are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The Committee further believes that the principles of social justice can only be upheld through organizational methods which reflect those principles. Just as we envision communities based on the cultivation and support rather than the control of their members, the Committee encourages its individual members and organizational partners toward self-direction and self-empowerment. We welcome the participation of all family members, people with autism/PDD, caring professionals, and other friends who wish to implement, not debate, the right to self-determination by hearing and heeding the voices of people with autism. We have joined together to provide information, support, networking, advocacy, a strong voice in federal legislation and policy, a newsletter, conferences and trainings, a bookstore, a variety of unique publications, and an ongoing reappraisal of fundamental research and treatment issues in the light of what people with autism themselves find meaningful and respectful.
On this web site you will find the most recent issue of our newsletter (requires free Adobe Acrobat Reader software); updates on politics and judicial decisions; commentary by people with autism; information about developmental and relationship-based approaches to early intervention and education; coverage of issues affecting community living, home-owning, and consumer choice; advocacy for access to augmentative, assistive, and facilitated communication; plus in-depth book reviews and information on how to order important works through our Book Store.
When using any source of information about autism, it is vital to enquire what that source considers autism to be. Many ideas about autism are outdated and have been disproven. Many sources demonstrate a condescending attitude that rules out any possibility of learning from and with the real experts: people who have autism. The following definition of autism has been adopted by the Autism National Committee:
Autism is the common term for a range of disabilities medically classified as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). Autism/PDD is characterized by qualitative differences in the development of cognitive, language, social or motor skills, and these are usually apparent before age three. Research evidence suggests that autism may result from an underlying difficulty with expressive movement and its regulation, severely challenging the individual to keep body movements, including sensory responses, in control. These sensorimotor problems can make it difficult to respond consistently and productively to other individuals and to the environment.
Autism/PDD occurs in approximately one out of every 166 births and is four times more common among males than females. It is found throughout the world in families of all racial, ethnic and social backgrounds. Please refer to "Three Reasons Not To Believe in an Autism Epidemic," by Gernsbacher et al. for a broader perspective on the current figures on the prevalence of autism in the population. While autism was once erroneously believed to arise from stresses in a child's psychological environment, modern medical evidence suggests that irregularities in the development of the brain and central nervous system give rise to the syndrome of autism. Causes of this development are diverse and may include chemical exposure, viral and genetic factors.
Autism/PDD is not an illness or a "thing" a person "has." It is a collection of responses which must be viewed in context, and observation is always more productive than labeling. Across the wide spectrum of the autism/PDD syndrome, individual variations on several key features can be recognized. Reciprocal social interactions, both verbal and nonverbal, are unusual in quality and generally difficult to synchronize and to carry out. Impairments of the central nervous system typically result in over-reactions, under-reactions, or inconsistent responses to various sensory stimuli. Because sensory input is difficult to organize and control, the individual's activities and interests may appear restricted in their nature and repertoire, frequently involving significant repetition and a need for predictability rather than change. It is important to view the behavior of people with autism/PDD as meaningful adaptations and to take a positive, respectful approach to them, forgoing the common tendency to judge their competence and capacity on the basis of their sensorimotor challenges.
Contact us for more information and referral to other resources.