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Autistic Adult and Non-Autistic Parent Advocates: Bridging the Divide

Disability Alliances and Allies

ISBN: 978-1-83909-322-7, eISBN: 978-1-83909-321-0

Publication date: 9 November 2020


Purpose: Due to the developmental nature of autism, which is often diagnosed in preschool or elementary school-aged children, non-autistic parents of autistic children typically play a prominent role in autism advocacy. However, as autistic children become adults and adult diagnoses of autism continue to rise, autistic adults have played a more prominent role in advocacy. The purpose of this chapter is to explore the histories of adult and non-autistic parent advocacy in the United States and to examine the points of divergence and convergence.

Approach: Because of their different perspectives and experiences, advocacy by autistic adults and non-autistic parents can have distinctive goals and conflicting priorities. Therefore, the approach we take in the current chapter is a collaboration between an autistic adult and a non-autistic parent, both of whom are research scholars.

Findings: The authors explore the divergence of goals and discourse between autistic self-advocates and non-autistic parent advocates and offer three principles for building future alliances to bridge the divide between autistic adults and non-autistic parents.

Implications: The chapter ends with optimism that US national priorities can bridge previous gulfs, creating space for autistic adult and non-autistic parent advocates to work together in establishing policies and practices that improve life for autistic people and their families and communities.



Rottier, H. and Gernsbacher, M.A. (2020), "Autistic Adult and Non-Autistic Parent Advocates: Bridging the Divide", Carey, A.C., Ostrove, J.M. and Fannon, T. (Ed.) Disability Alliances and Allies (Research in Social Science and Disability, Vol. 12), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 155-166.



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