Over $1 billion has been spent over the course of the last decade on autism research funding. During a time of constant budget cuts and increasing fiscal pressures on government, this is an astonishing sum. What have we purchased for this investment? How successful has the autism research agenda been in making the American dream a reality for Autistic people and our families? Has our society discussed the ethical, legal and social consequences of how autism research findings may be used? We think these questions are worth asking, and with your help, we think it is past time to get more people involved in the discussion.
Last December, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network joined with the Harvard Law Project on Disability and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics to hold a symposium on the Ethical, Legal and Social Implications (ELSI) of Autism Research. Supported by a grant from the Administration on Developmental Disabilities, the ASAN ELSI Symposium served as the launching point for a robust conversation about changing the way our society approaches autism research. From our partnership with federal research funders to get self-advocates on grant review panels to growing attention to ethical issues on topics like prenatal testing, self-determination in service-provision and more, the need to introduce values into our national autism research dialogue remains stronger than ever.
We have released all captioned videos of December’s ELSI Symposium on our YouTube channel. You can help us get the word out by watching it alone or with your friends and colleagues, sharing it on facebook and twitter, and starting to talk about these things in your own community. The time has come for our voices to be heard.