The DSM V and Services

Filed Under (DSM V, What is Disability?) by Estee on 03-06-2013

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My copy of the DSM V is here. Ari Ne’eman made this address regarding the how the DSM V may effect autism services.

I wrote this response this morning on the Facebook link:

I agree with his point that suggests the hierarchy of disability and how we must work to build support and acceptance for all persons regardless of (dis) ability. Now not living in the US, and completely understanding that funding is presently coming from Medicaid, how can we call attention to inclusion issues and specifically education – that this is not a medicaid issue. Education is a right for all people. My concern here in Canada, and this was cited in Moore Vs. British Columbia (2012), that the notion of remediation before the right to be mainstreamed risks adverse effect discrimination. I would be interested in discussing with you strategies that discuss this issue and how the public might only view autism as in need of services under Medicaid (which presumably means remediation before the right to be educated). Can you offer your input and can we work together?

Considering the empiricist history of creating normate culture, and an education system that supports that culture, Medicaid does not is the only issue we have facing us. Services need to be multifarious to answer a variety of needs for a diverse and complex autistic population. Looking at inclusion in a variety of ways, attitudes, changing the way we do autism research, participation by autistic people who will help reduce stigma and discrimination and policy and legal levels for all autistic people, and mostly inclusion in programs, education and a deep look into the types of accommodations that autistic people need are among some of the very urgent topics that require dialogue. We need to work together to look at every aspect of the way autistic people are currently treated in society to move forward, and acknowledge that a medical approach to autism will never be panacea. While Medicaid is a system in place to help in some areas, such as habilitative services, and autistic people have the right to access these services as much as anyone else, we do have a lingering and problematic issue of medicalizing every aspect of human existence and now, framing everything under the persistent mental health (or illness) umbrella. When does acceptance of human difference begin and when does pathologization stop? What is an illness and what is not an illness? The way we measure physical properties and the way we observe autistic people for “maladaptive behaviour” are different disciplines, the latter being subjective. And so, we have ever-changing humanly-made, observed definitions of what autism is supposed to be.

I have been thinking of cognitive prosthetics a lot lately and our penchant for (perfect) ability, and how utterly disabling our quest for perfection has become (think performance enhancement drugs, cosmetic surgery, technology and so forth). And now I speculate – once we all want to put a chip in our own brains because we admire autistic strengths, or to be more specific, implant ourselves to obtain these “magnified abilities,” as neuroscientists sometimes call them, then what aspects of our brain today (that we consider “natural” and morally more correct) might be disabled in order to make room for these “enhanced abilities?” After all, as theory presently dictates in binary terms, autistic people have strengths because of their disabilities. So, as we admire the abilities and are connected with technologies to achieve them, it’s only a matter of time that other aspects of our brains will become “dis”functioned. Now let us ask again, what is a disability? Let us continue to work to include everyone and to end the exclusion of human difference.


About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (, and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.