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Interactive video lesson plan for: Autism Is a Term for Behavior, Not Disease

Activity overview:

Since the autism diagnosis first appeared in 1943, the world has become a much more welcoming place for people with autism, but it's still not quite where it should be. John Donvan is co-author of "In a Different Key: The Story of Autism" (


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Transcript - The world we live in today in terms of autism was really created over the last 50 or 60-70 years from the time that the diagnosis was first recognized which goes back to 1943. And in those intervening years families had to fight so very hard to change the world to make a place in it for their loved ones because 50, 60 years ago the world didn’t want them. People with autism were sent away to institutions. They were hidden. They were not allowed into schools. They were discriminated against. They were isolated. And the fact that we live in a world now where things are so different is a result of very hard battles fought by their families, by their parents in particular. And the reason that the past matters, the reason that we want to revive the stories of what those parents did and those families did over half a century is because the job is really only half done.

We’re in a world now where there are more people with an autism diagnosis than ever before. In a decade 500,000 teenagers are going to turn into adults with autism and there really is no place for them. We’ve figured out what to do when people are kids with autism. We’ve made a lot of adjustments in terms of giving them education, bringing programs into schools, seeing kids in TV shows. But there’s not very much set up for adults. There isn’t a place for them to live. There aren’t employment opportunities. And with so much left to do we think we find in the past the inspiration for what to do that activism works, that it’s worth trying to battle. It’s worth trying to change society’s mind because society’s mind was changed in regard to the kids. But we really haven’t come that far in regard to adults. And so looking at the past first of all just revives stories of people whose stories deserve to be revived. They did so much their stories are unsung. But they serve as an inspiration for the job that has to be done in the future, particularly when it comes to adults with autism.
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Tagged under: John Donvan,autism,diagnosis,institutions,schools,discrimination,isolation,parents,adults autism,school programs,employment,opportunities,society,vaccines,scientific studies,psychiatrics,treatment,psychoanalysis,biology,DNA,inherited,language,Big Think,BigThink,BigThink.,Education,Educational,Lifelong Learning,EDU

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