California’s Autism Advisory Task Force Needs Autistic Representation!

Sarah Pripas

“Nothing about us without us” is the unofficial motto of the disability rights movement, yet discussions of disability continue to occur without people with disabilities at the table. One of the latest occurrences of this is in California, where the Department of Managed Healthcare recently announced the formation of an Autism Advisory Task Force. Of the eighteen people appointed to the task force, not a single one is autistic.

While it is, unfortunately, commonplace for autistic people to be absent from government-appointed task forces related to autism, that doesn’t make it acceptable. The California chapters of the Autistic-Self Advocacy Network (Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Jose) are asking that the Department of Managed Healthcare rectify this omission by appointing at least one autistic person to the task force. If you would like to tell the Department that autistic people should be represented on this panel, please sign our petition and pass it on to others. The Department needs to know that an autism task force must necessarily include autistic adults. We are here in California, and we deserve representations on critical matters which will affect our healthcare.

We find it doubly disappointing that while the task force has excluded autistic adults, it has made several dubious choices in membership. One appointee, Rick Rollens, has a long history of anti-vaccination activism. Another, Dr. Bryna Siegel, has made multiple public statements dehumanizing autistic people. Two members of the panel are from Autism Speaks, an organization with a history of excluding autistic adults from its decision-making. Is this task force truly suited for deciding the future of autistic people’s healthcare?

It is, however, not too late for the Department to remedy these unfortunate decisions through autistic representation. Sign the petition and tell the Department, “Nothing about us without us!”