Monday, September 25, 2023



“I don't like using the terms ‘invisible’ or ‘hidden’ disability. You absolutely see my autism—you just don't code it correctly and instead you see everything about me as a character flaw.”
          - Kelly Bron Johnson

For years I’ve been thinking about using Mary Wollstonecraft’s brilliant feminist arguments about equality to make a parallel case for not only Autistic rights but also to contend, in line with her philosophical process, that the ways of thinking and “character flaws” that Autistic people are typically criticized for may actually be both correct and valuable. 

In Part I below, I echo Wollstonecraft’s archaic, academic language to make my case. In Part II, I state my case very briefly and simply, in plain language. Part III quotes the most relevant part of Wollstonecraft’s work for our purposes here. 

(with apologies/gratitude to Mary Wollstonecraft, c. 1792)

I. The 1792-Style Version
In our present state of geopolitical chaos and unrest, it seems useful to look at what human qualities and behaviors might actually further the progress and peace we so desperately seek. To do so, we may well need to question the social-ethical status quo that has brought us here. 

As we will see, I’ll build my argument logically, disregarding justification based on the claim that ‘that is just how humans are.’ Like Wollstonecraft, I’ll ask straightforward questions to get to fundamental truths. 

As always, I cannot speak for all Autistics by any means, but I can quarrel with stereotypes and misperceptions, and reason from my own experience and observations to “dispute with some prevailing prejudice” (MW).

What makes humans special? 

Wollstonecraft argues that they are so because they can reason, possess virtue, and develop knowledge born of experience, i.e., wisdom

Yet we can all agree that it is common to see contradictions between 

what is known to be true and right via reason, wisdom, and virtue, on the one hand,

and what is conveniently (however subconsciously) believed or desired, and then borne out in action, on the other.

The former may be seen in rare shining examples, and exemplifies what is best in human beings; the latter, what is common in their actions. 

Are Autistic people typically as likely as the average Neurotypical person to deploy the “use of reason to justify” (MW) their self-centered behaviors in this way?  

My personal experience indicates that they are not. To wit, again and again I’ve been told things like “You don’t get complexity” or “This is a grey area,” when to my mind it’s more like I’m not willing to excuse myself or anyone else for building their thinking around rationalizing what they want. Almost invariably the gray area argued for by the gray-area advocate falls in favor of said advocate, e.g., such and such a clearly moral yet inconvenient choice is something that would be a good thing to do, but isn't actually necessary

Or someone will tell me I "don't get" something. Occasionally, that's true. Usually, though, I understand, but I don't accept the status quo. Think Greta Thunberg.  

Our generally shared quality of being literal tends to prevent these common types of reasoning and behavior. This is but one of many ways in which a Neurodivergent mind may differ from a Neurotypical one. 

Are Autistic people likely, then, likely to think in iconoclastic and/or highly innovative ways? 

But of course. 

Thus, I contend:

that whereas both in their disregard for convention and the taken-for-granted, and in their lack of self-justification in conducting themselves as they wish (as is most convenient, easy, desirable, and so on) because they see the inherent contradictions in doing so, Autistic people indeed tend to be more ethical and more original;  

that the very things they are lampooned for are in fact precious traits that not only further human progress, they further human goodness; 


that their failed efforts to fit in fail because the structures of Neurotypical culture are inherently harmful—not just to we Autistic people, but to all people and to the planet;

the prevailing prejudice that Autistic people are lacking or less-than is patently false. 

Given the current ubiquity of horrible prejudices (in the face of reason), environmental-corporate devastation (against all wisdom), and spurious societal-political-personal phenomena (versus virtue), rational, logical, incontrovertible reasoning combined with original thinking may be our only recourse. 

In Wollstonecraft’s immortal words, “The mind must be strong that resolutely forms its own principles.” Such minds, such worthy human beings, must be cherished and nurtured for the good of all humanity.

Wollstonecraft holds that the apex of our rights and duties involves the “perfection of our nature and capability of happiness.” Autistic people must have opportunities to be their whole selves, and to be happy, if we are to contribute desperately needed new perspectives and ideas. 

Only with genuine equity and equality enabling full participation and self-realization will honoring the rights of Autistics bring these vital contributions to the world.

II. The Plain Version

We can use lots of completely solid philosophical arguments to come to the conclusion that not only are different ways of thinking valuable and often more logically and ethically correct than mainstream ways of thinking, but they may also be the only thing that can save this crazy world right about now. 

As likely Autistic person Albert Einstein said, ““You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it.”

This means basic goodness, civil rights, and social justice are not the sole reasons for furthering the human rights and improving the lives of Autistic people. We might even help save the world. 

III. The Original [from Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft, 1792]

In the present state of society, it appears necessary to go back to first principles in search of the most simple truths, and to dispute with some prevailing prejudice every inch of ground. To clear my way, I must be allowed to ask some plain questions, and the answers will probably appear as unequivocal as the axioms on which reasoning is built; though, when entangled with various motives of action, they are formally contradicted, either by the words or conduct of men.
In what does man's pre-eminence over the brute creation consist? The answer is as clear as that a half is less than the whole; in Reason.
What acquirement exalts one being above another? Virtue; we spontaneously reply.
For what purpose were the passions implanted? That man by struggling with them might attain a degree of knowledge denied to the brutes: whispers Experience.
Consequently the perfection of our nature and capability of happiness, must be estimated by the degree of reason, virtue, and knowledge, that distinguish the individual, and direct the laws which bind society: and that from the exercise of reason, knowledge and virtue naturally flow, is equally undeniable, if mankind be viewed collectively.
The rights and duties of man thus simplified, it seems almost impertinent to attempt to illustrate truths that appear so incontrovertible: yet such deeply rooted prejudices have clouded reason, and such spurious qualities have assumed the name of virtues, that it is necessary to pursue the course of reason as it has been perplexed and involved in error, by various adventitious circumstances, comparing the simple axiom with casual deviations.
Men, in general, seem to employ their reason to justify prejudices, which they have imbibed, they cannot trace how, rather than to root them out. The mind must be strong that resolutely forms its own principles; for a kind of intellectual cowardice prevails which makes many men shrink from the task, or only do it by halves. Yet the imperfect conclusions thus drawn, are frequently very plausible, because they are built on partial experience, on just, though narrow, views.


Thanks and love,
Full Spectrum Mama

P.S. Here's a video of a recent talk I gave on The #ActuallyAutistic Guide to Advocacy!


  1. Hey it was so good to hear had see you in that video!!! Your voice is so gentle and kind!!! Love it and am going to watch more

    1. Thank you so much, dear Kmarie. Public speaking is rather agonizing for me (esepcially beforehand!), but I feel that it's important to get our message out in as many ways as I can.


Dear Readers, Full Spectrum Mama seeks to honor and represent a Full Spectrum of opinions. All reasonably coherent comments will be published. If you are having trouble posting a comment (for reasons I cannot figure out, most people do??!!) , please email FSM @: