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Citizen Autistic Inspires Reflection, Discussion

posted Sep 27, 2016, 4:03 PM by Jessica Benham
The Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy, in coalition with Students for Disability Advocacy at the University of Pittsburgh, held a screening of the Citizen Autistic documentary this past Sunday. The film, which overviews the autistic civil rights movement, inspired reflection and discussion from attendees about our history and goals for the future. Delaine Swearman, a member of PCAA's steering committee, called Citizen Autistic, "eye-opening," and continued, "
It's sad to see how many parents are working so hard to raise money that they think will help their children, yet really they are just giving it away to an enormous entity that doesn't do much of anything to actually help their children." The Pittsburgh Center firmly believes in keeping money for Autism supports, services, and advocacy in our local community.

Dr. Bethany Ziss of the Children's Institute commented, "I thought Citizen Autistic did well contrasting the tragedy and medical model portrayal of autism with the aims of the neurodiversity rights movement to place it within the greater disability rights and civil rights perspective."  The Autistic rights movement exists within a long history of disability and civil rights movements across the United States and internationally. Medical models of disability place impairment entirely in the individual person, as a problem to be cured. The neurodiversity perspective, by contrast, emphasizes that social structures and physical obstacles may prove the most disabling factors of all. 

Discussion after the film focused on different ways to self-advocate, spanning from individuals standing up for themselves to mass protests. Dir. Jess Benham of PCAA quipped that the discussion had created an "advocacy spectrum." Dr. Ziss further noted, "Advocacy really is the story of specific people doing specific things, and the movie highlighted so many people across the 'advocacy spectrum.'"

Image description: A photo of the first few rows of the audience for the documentary screening with people sitting in the rows. The screen shows the sign for the Judge Rotenberg Center, an institution which the documentary critiques for its use of aversives in attempts to stop certain behaviors.