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Autism and social movements: French parents' associations and international autistic individuals' organisations

Abstract : The aim of this empirical investigation is to analyse the social movements brought about by autism-related issues. It is suggested that both the autism-category changes in the late 1980s, and the development of educational and behavioural methods in the United States, have given rise to a large-scale mobilisation around the changes in the definition of autism and interventions in many countries. The present paper highlights the historical dynamics of the mobilisation of French parents' associations and the engagement of autistic persons' organisations. The role of the French parents' associations has been studied over the last 40 years to show how they have contributed to shaping public policy in France and how they have favoured the American model of autism despite the French professionals' resistance. At the international level, the newly-born associations of autistic individuals have introduced new actors who sometimes reproach the parents' associations for speaking on their behalf. These new associations, such as self-help groups, have a political identity problem. Their members no longer want to be considered as patients but as individuals with a different cognitive mode of functioning. Their actions can be analysed in the broader context of the disability movement. If the disability movement is considered as the latest generation of social movements, the action of autistic persons can be viewed as the latest generation of the disability movements.
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Contributor : Brigitte Chamak <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, February 6, 2008 - 3:08:49 PM
Last modification on : Sunday, October 25, 2020 - 7:05:00 AM

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Brigitte Chamak. Autism and social movements: French parents' associations and international autistic individuals' organisations. Sociology of Health and Illness, Wiley, 2008, 30 (1), pp.76-96. ⟨10.1111/j.1467-9566.2007.01053.x⟩. ⟨halshs-00242769⟩



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