UC Davis Autism Awareness Association (AAA): Please have more self-advocates on the board.
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The AAA was started by an autistic student Jay Lytton in 2007. His goals were to educate the students about autism, and create a safe environment for both autistics and others who have connections with autism.
But ever since he has graduated, the club has allowed non-autistic students to dominate the discussion of autism. Along with that, the club supports an organization which autistics have universally disagreed with for years: Autism Speaks.
As well-intentioned as these non-autistic students may be, how will autistic students feel welcomed into Davis when very few of their leaders are also autistic? Going to college is especially challenging for someone on the spectrum, so the best advice will always come from someone who has been through a similar experience. And those trying to understand their autistic family members can also benefit from listening to autistic adults.
I advise the AAA to start calling for autistic applicants, use materials funded by the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (such as the Navigating College handbook), and invite autistic guest speakers.
This can be done without invading the privacy of autistics who do not wish to disclose. Encouraging autistics, as a whole, to speak up about their rights, is not the same as pressuring certain individuals to talk about their diagnosis.
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