Writings of Michelle Dawson on Discrimination Against Autistic Persons, the Social and Human Rights Implications of the Catastrophic View of Autism, and Applied Behavioral Analysis as an Early Intervention Technique

The widespread dissemination of the "fact" that autistic people are, each and every one of us, inherently a burden on Canadian taxpayers, because we are autistic, is harmful to us. So is the information, reported as fact in this poll, that we "suffer" from autism. Spreading the information that there is a "scientifically proven" "effective" treatment which can in effect get rid of this autism problem (from which children suffer) also inevitably spreads information about the vast majority of autistics who have not had this treatment, never mind those many who fail in it.
Michelle Dawson
I am asking you to recognize that Canadaís real autism problem is not located within autistic people. Canadian society is moving inexorably towards embracing the worst kind of intolerance, with the worst consequences available. This is intolerance of human difference as government policy: intolerance approved of, paid for, and mandated by the state.
Michelle Dawson
Here's a summary of what the Star chose to publish: autistic people can't learn or communicate "even the most basic things" and are prone to aggression; autistics belong in institutions or group homes; autistics are sick and need medical treatment or we're doomed; autism is the equivalent of a tumour, which must be attacked and removed; an autistic child is a terrible, devastating, and disordered torment; only an autistic who is "fixed" enough to have a "normal" life belongs in society; only an autistic who is "fixed" can contribute to society, and all other autistics are costly millstones; there is nothing good about autistic people; and finally it would be much better if autistics did not exist at all.
Michelle Dawson
ASC has taken as its mandate to make autism and autistic people very, very scary. ASC has portrayed us as endangering ourselves, our families, and the economy, and as contributing nothing at all to society unless we expensively are fixed.
Michelle Dawson
Ms Dawson's ideas are surprising in that they throw into question everything we have become accustomed to thinking about autism. She questions the legal, scientific, and institutional foundations which determine the place of autistics in our society.
Michelle Dawson
I agree that the voices of those with ASD should be included in this discussion about the directions for research in ASD, and I encourage you to communicate your comments to both the ASC and the CIHR.
Pierre Pettigrew, Michelle Dawson
The one qualification for participating and voting was being normal, which means non-X-disabled.
Michelle Dawson
After a year of Autism Society Canada (ASC) refusing to communicate with me, ASC's Executive Director, Louise Fleming, phoned out of the blue. The ensuing interchange has not been encouraging, and ASC's true motive for wanting to meet with me remains mysterious.
Michelle Dawson
We know that autistics who believe we have integrity and dignity have been ostracized. We have been demeaned, banished, and segregated by the Canadian "autism community" -- by those claiming to represent us. Our requests that we be treated as equals have been rejected as outrageous. But in Auton, a case involving crucial decisions about the future of autistics in Canada, the "autism community" was forced to watch while an autistic was treated as fully human, and as an equal. This had not happened to this community before, not when anything important was at stake.
Michelle Dawson
(T)he only approach advocated in these proceedings to deal with autism is to... measure the progress and achievement of an autistic person by the standard of to what extent the autistic resembles a non-autistic; .
Michelle Dawson
Implicit in these proceedings is the notion that autistics are inhuman, and must be therefore made human. It is only then that their rights will have been respected.
Michelle Dawson
I need to be told why it is wrong to be autistic. And don't avoid the question. Because if there were nothing wrong about being autistic, this whole business--diagnosis, disclosure, whatever--would be a piece of cake.
Michelle Dawson
Once accused by Bettelheim of being the cause of autism, parents are now seen as its heroic and tragic victims. A catastrophic view of autism means that any scrutiny of the parents' claims is not only unlikely, it is assumed to be reprehensible.
Michelle Dawson
You are responsible for holding Ms Tunis severely accountable for denying the very existence of the voices of those she is charged with assisting.
Michelle Dawson
We are not a plague. We are people who have a culture: a large published literature, art, music, architecture, design, technology, science, and engineering.
Michelle Dawson
If it is government policy to work towards the prevention of the existence of people like ourselves, we believe it would be important for us to know.
Ralph Smith
I know, sir, I am not allowed to speak in your world. Either the autistic speaks, and therefore is not autistic, or the autistic doesn't speak, and is autistic, but has no voice.
Michelle Dawson
Your decision to dismiss all evidence against ASC also argues that you, your government, and HRDC share ASC's view that autistics are a fiscal and social catastrophe, in effect a plague, and so have no place or worth in society.
Michelle Dawson, Jane Stewart
ASC has prevented autistics from interfering with the important agendas of the non-autistics deemed able to understand the "impact" of autism.
Michelle Dawson
(Y)ou have expressed prejudices that would cause you grief were they expressed about any other group. You are asking autistics to accept government-funded exclusion and denigration you would never accept for yourself or your family or any non-autistic.
Michelle Dawson, Liza Frulla
Counsel for the intervener FEAT of Ontario, speaking in support of the Respondents, claimed that without Lovaas-type early intensive behaviour interventions, autistics will be less than half living.
Michelle Dawson
You and your government have thoughtlessly fallen into the convenient trap set by various government assisted organizations that autistics have nothing worthwhile to say and, indeed, should not be heard at all.
W.K. Dawson
Where ABA needs scrutiny is when its power is used to remove odd behaviours which may be useful and necessary to the autistic... and when typical, expected behaviours which may be stressful, painful, or useless to the autistic... are imposed.
Michelle Dawson
Michelle Dawson, Laurent Mottron, et al
A collection of articles and letters pertaining to discrimination against and abuse of autistic persons in Canada and throughout the world.
Michelle Dawson
ASC remains steadfastly at the forefront of the battle to turn autism into cancer, behaviour interventions into "medically necessary" treatment, and autistics into pariahs. In Canada, this battle has practically been won.
Michelle Dawson
Making a point of excluding autistics from autism research decisions, as the CIHR has done, is neither ethical nor productive. Autistics have unique abilities and insights which can enhance the quality and usefulness of research projects.
Michelle Dawson
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is notorious for having the Notwithstanding clause, a loophole whereby guaranteed rights and freedoms can be unguaranteed.
Michelle Dawson
ASC denigrates its consumers in order to fulfil the emotional and perceived financial needs of non-consumers. ASC excludes consumers from governance, contends that its members are the provincial autism societies, and ASC has no control over its membership
Parliament as a whole has a responsibility to counter intolerant and hateful views of autistics now common in the media and in judicial proceedings, which views have the purpose of scaring the public and legislators into funding programs that will ensure autistic differences -- our traits and abilities -- are pathologized and presumed to require eradication.
Michelle Dawson, jypsy (janet norman-bain), Ralph Smith
Assessment of intelligence in PDDs results in dramatically different levels according to the test given. A significant proportion of low-functioning autistics move into the high-functioning range when tested with two specific instruments. These results have important consequences for matching strategies in empirical design, and in understanding autistic intelligence.
M. Dawson, L. Mottron, P. Jelenic, I. Soulières
(L)ike many autistic Canadians, I have lost a great deal, including my freedom, to now widely-distributed pejorative views of autism. To you, and to Ipsos-Reid, intolerance and ostracism may be matters of "opinion". To me, and to many autistic Canadians, they are a daily reality, harming, marginalizing, and endangering us.
Michelle Dawson
Please post your comments on The Misbehaviour of Behaviourists here.
Autism Society Canada (ASC) has recently posted an open letter. This letter contains many misrepresentations of ASCís documented past and present statements and actions. It also seriously and dangerously misrepresents autistics. For these reasons, comparisons between ASCís assertions and reality are necessary.
Michelle Dawson
The legal situation of autistics in Canada is unique. For no other group have the rights guaranteed for all other Canadians been so thoroughly obliterated. This situation is the direct consequence of the ongoing era of autism advocacy. Finding a jurisdiction which is still able to consider us as human beings with human rights verges on the impossible. You have rights imbuing you with worth and dignity and protecting you from being demeaned and coerced, but autistic Canadians do not.
Michelle Dawson

Attacks on Michelle Dawson

A "hate site," established anonymously, targeting Michelle Dawson in retaliation for her contribution to the Auton case.
Lexi Bridges, Barbara Anello
A website established by parties to the Auton litigation, intended to defame intervener Michelle Dawson.
Lexi Bridges, Andrew Kavchak, Sabrina Freeman
Although we live in a free society where everyone, including frauds, have the right to express themselves, every opinion expressed in public, especially if presented as a fact, should be subjected to critical analysis. The misguided and misleading arguments of the "autism is a culture" fringe are most deserving of such analysis.
Alexi Bridges
The fact that my children have an abnormality of development does not mean that I do not love my children for who they are... I love my children, but I do not love autism.
Kit Weintraub
There is no end to my love for my son, but there also is no end to my belief that autism is a serious and devastating disorder that will continue to destroy lives and families if not remediated to some meaningful level.
Schafer Autism Report
Why autism should not be left to fester untreated as some opponents argue.
Yahoo Groups: AuTeach
Negative leadership responds to criticism with derision and outrage. This criticism is then quelled by taunting, threatening, demonizing, and defaming the critics. Negative leadership strategies, while often immediately successful and certainly plentiful in history, come to be recognized as reprehensible in retrospect, and by those who have to endure and clean up after their destructive consequences.
Michelle Dawson
It is time for some people with apparent Asperger's to stop dishonestly misrepresenting themselves as typical examples of people with autism.
Lenny Schafer et al
Those with autism and aspergers who are anti-behavioral intervention are those who are already capable of functioning independently without intense behavioral intervention strategies. They are the lucky ones.
Schafer Autism Report, Sunday, May 3, 2004
ASC is also hoping to serve adults with ASD better by providing more resources for adults in our new website which is currently under construction. The site will feature expanded resources for university and college students as well as an on-line community forum.
Autism Society of Canada
If anything defines autism, it is NOT being high functioning anything. This is not to say that Asperger Syndrome is not a serious matter, but that it is more different than the rest of autism than it is similar.
Lenny Schafer

In Support of Michelle Dawson

Every person that disagrees with an autistic perspective invariably disputes that we are autistic.
Frank Klein
In every field of study (at least in mental health) the role of the consumer is considered paramount in fine-tuning programs, methods of delivery and methods of program evaluation, but not in the field of neurology apparently as it applies to autism.
...the drive towards 'indistinguishability' as a goal bespeaks an inner conviction that society cannot be made to accommodate even harmless eccentricities in individual behavior, preferences, and social style. I think we need to challenge that assumption.
Phil Schwarz
Overall, Iím left with an overwhelming feeling that the pro-cure camp are getting increasingly desperate. Just about every statement on that site is incorrect either factually or by omission. Its in fact so bad that I started to wonder if it was indeed misinformation as I originally thought Ė maybe it was just simple ignorance? Iím still undecided but I hope that if youíve found this site (I doubt Iíll get a link back somehow!) that your eyes are open to the dangers of such wilful misleading of people in such a shabby, grubby and underhand way.
Kevin Leitch
It seems sadly ironic that those fighting so hard for the welfare of people with autism would oppose the participation of an autistic woman in this process. Kudos to Michelle for standing up for her right to be heard.
Dick Sobsey, Editor, ICAD Listerv
Ms. Dawson presents a compelling case that the ABA industry, as it relates to autism treatment, has long been involved in misconduct, scientific dishonesty, civil rights abuses, and outright fraud.
David Andrews
Because I do not fit the publicly and strategically declared definition of autism, my views are excluded from organisations which claim to represent me.
Ralph Smith
When it comes to autism it is abundantly evident that only the voices of the parents of autistic people are heard. Those of the autistics themselves are shut out. Perhaps, since I am the proud parent of an autistic daughter, you will listen to me.
W.K. Dawson
Also catch the ridiculously overblown appeal to sensory imagery in order to gain the reader's sympathy. Autism can't fester; it's a configuration, not a disease. The DSM doesn't include "person is covered in pus-filled sores" in its diagnostic criteria.
Denise DeGraf
There are and have always been individuals with very severe autism. There are people who do need serious help, however the help offered seems quite questionable.
Larry Foard
Even if you don't agree with some or all of what she says, the public attacks on Michelle Dawson are becoming disturbing. (Newsgroup thread.)
Taken as a whole, 'A Mother's Perspective' is primarily ad hominem and strawman arguments against not only Dawson but everyone who uses 'autistic' as a noun.
Here is our real message to parents: Please work with us, respect us, and listen to us, so our past doesn't become your children's present or future.
Amanda Baggs
I see no reason or need for any of you to change who you are, except to leave parents of more severely affected kids to make decisions about their treatment.
Kit Weintraub
The attitude that all differences should be wiped out is harmful, at the very least to your child who cannot help but be 'quirky' and feel that the blame is on him instead of those who would torment him.
Connie Baker

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This page was last updated on 12 August 2005, 8:18 am
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