Position Statement – ‘Severe’ or ‘profound’ autism.

We are aware of the current discussion on the concept of ‘severe’ or ‘profound’ autism. AT-Autism does not recognise this concept or use this terminology for the following reasons: 

  • We consider such terms to be misleading and unhelpful in that they do not provide a description of the person or the nature of any difficulties they, their families, or others may experience. This can result in erroneous and harmful assumptions about who the person is and what they need.
  • Such a concept and terminology can also be stigmatising. The effect of framing the person through this lens risks diminishing their human status and we believe, increases the likelihood of a violation of their rights and entitlements leading to a reduction in appropriate support.
  • We prefer a nuanced, considered, and accurate description of all autistic people which portrays their individuality and character, and highlights their strengths and interests, as well as the nature of any difficulties, and how to assist them. We must also consider the broader context and impact of intersectionality, including culture as we believe this is likely to be helpful in developing a deeper understanding that is essential in informing any programme of help.
  • This is not to dismiss or diminish the level of need or difficulty of some autistic people, quite the reverse. We acknowledge that individual circumstances and the context in which these occur can result in seriously adverse experiences and outcomes for the person and those around them. These are many and varied and should be explored in detail- not dealt with by way of simplistic concepts and labels.

    AT-Autism board
    April 2024

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