DRF News, Events and Conferences

Critical Autism Seminar Day makes an impact

The first Critical Autism Seminar Day was held yesterday (18th January 2011) at Sheffield Hallam University.  The event was co-hosted by the Disability Research Forum, the Autism Centre (Sheffield Hallam University) and Critical Disability Studies @ MMU (Manchester Metropolitan University).  In stark contrast to ‘traditional’ seminars, often led by professionals, which promote autism awareness or intervention strategies, the Critical Autism day offered as a space for people who identify with the label of autism, parents/carers, activists and academics not only to challenge ‘deficit’ understandings of autism but also to challenge the category itself.  An audience of 40 people attended the event, and delegates from Canada joined in the sessions via Skype.

The keynote was given via Skype by Anne McGuire from the University of Toronto.  Anne’s presentation was entitled ‘We have your son…:  Frames of Terror in Advocacy’s ‘War on Autism’ and was warmly received by the trans-Atlantic audience.  There were seven other presentations on the day including: Mitzi Waltz (University of Birmingham) who spoke on ‘Negotiating the autism spectrum diagnosis of celebrities in popular music’; Anat Greenstein (MMU) and Steve Graby (Disabled People’s Direct Action Network and Autism Rights Movement) on ‘Social dis-order: autistic experiences of/in radical political activism’; and Katherine Runswick-Cole (MMU) and Rebecca Mallett (Sheffield Hallam University) presented a paper based on a recently completed book chapter entitled ‘Buying (into) Autism: The Commodification of ‘Disability’ in the Academy’.   At the end of the day Dan Goodley presented ‘Autism: a post-structuralist analysis’ which was followed by a wine reception to launch his new text, Disability Studies: An Interdisciplinary Introduction.

One of the organisers, Katherine Runswick-Cole, said: “This was a fascinating and enjoyable event which brought together a range of perspectives on the cultural production of autism.  The participation of people who identify with the label of autism, parents/carers, activists, academics and professionals was key to the success of the day. The results of the questionnaires completed by delegates at the end of the session suggest that we can be confident that the day had impact.  Indeed, one professional told us that the day had given him new ways of thinking and talking about autism to share with the families he works with.”

For more information about the day or to add your name to a contact list to receive information about future Critical Autism events please contact Katherine Runswick-Cole

The next DRF seminar is on Tuesday 15th February 2011 (1pm-3pm) – details here  

…and remember information on the Debates in Disability Studies Symposium I (26th January 2011) at MMU in Manchester, UK can be found on our Other Events page.

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