People still debate about how much is actually known about autism. There are always stories in the news about what may cause autism, and how exactly it is defined. And even recently things such as the female profile have revolutionised autism, and autistic people. But what really makes an expert on autism? Some people claim that professionals know best, while others say that to be an expert on autism you have to be autistic. So which view point makes more sense? Or are they both equally valid?
Neuro-typical people may study autism and autistic people for years, and gather a multitude of qualifications, so it is impossible to completely disregard their views and opinions. Especially if they have a lot of experience working with, and alongside autistic people. Because autism takes so many different forms, and affects so many people in completely different ways, hopefully professionals would admit that autism will often throw-up things that confuse them, and seem to challenge what they already know. But, when it comes to things such as reasons for autism, and some of the more scientific issues they can come more in to their own. It seems hard to try to expect somebody to be able to shed light on a mind-set that they have never experienced, and this is one of the reasons professionals need to listen to autistic people.
Autistic people do struggle to understand their emotions at times, and to put how they feel in to words. But, when autistic people can express how they feel, or how things are for them, this knowledge is infinitely more useful than any amount of guesses from neuro-typical experts. There is definitely a place for professionals, and for expertise gained by studying, but without the input of people with autism this is useless. This isn’t to suggest that every neuro-typical expert, and professional should be replaced by an autistic one. But care does have to be taken to make sure that neuro-typical people don`t become the go-to authority for matters relating to autism.
In conclusion people with autism can definitely be considered the true experts on autism; it is impossible to learn more about a condition from studying it than by living with it. Any knowledge gained on autism is done so by observing how autistic people think, feel and behave. When it comes to the reasons behind autism, and the science then of course that is best left up to people who are experts in that field, but should always include input from autistic people. But when it comes to day to day living with autism, autistic people are the best experts. Because of how autistic people can struggle with expressing their thoughts and feelings, and also because of the amount of non-verbal autistic people – some of who may need support to express themselves – there is definitely a place for neuro-typical people who act as intermediaries between autistic people, and the world at large. Not that all autistic people will need this, but it means that the views of a wider section of people with autism can be heard. So despite autistic people being the best experts on autism, neuro-typical professionals still have an important role to play.