Accommodation or Cure: A synthesis of neurodiverse and cure theory recommendations for autism action

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As a result of vocal autism activists pushing against traditional views of autism, there is a bilateral debate that reflects a deeper philosophical divide between medical and social definitions of disability. Both sides seek to determine the manner in which autistics and their communities view autism, and thus influence the manner in which cures or treatments are sought, dispensed and taken up. Through an investigation of this debate, this project will explore the practical benefits and ethical obligations of accommodating autistic differences. One side of this debate, which we will call the cure theory approach, seeks treatments that will eradicate or at least minimize autistic symptoms. The philosophical assertion that lies behind this objective is that autistic differences, particularly disruptive autistic differences, ought to be removed. The other side of the debate, which we will call the neurodiverse perspective, seeks to define autism as neurological difference, that is relationally determined, rather than a disorder or a syndrome. The neurodiversity movement recommends educating autistics and their communities regarding how to fully accommodate autistic differences. The underlying philosophical commitment of the neurodiverse perspective is that it is in the best interests of autistics and their communities to accommodate differences, rather than seek treatments that encourage conformity. I will argue that these two sides are not mutually exclusive. Through a synthesis of the neurodiverse and cure theory points of view I will enable the development of a method, which facilitates justice for autistics and their communities. This synthesis garners the maximum capabilities that the expression of autistic differences can offer, and maintains the freedom for all community members to actualize their capabilities.
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