Volume 1. No. 6



June 21, 2019

By Laurence Arnold



Introduction to the sixth issue of Autonomy




By Laurence Arnold

Never say that the field of Autism Studies does not need controversy. Indeed to be critical one must be prepared to tolerate controversy in order to increase the opportunities to examine what appear to be long established certainties from new perspectives.

The first article is certainly controversial and in part stems from the book which William Arnold critically reviewed in the last edition (Arnold, 2017), and in what seems to be the interminable interval, there has been something of upheaval in Critical Autism Studies, with claim and counter claim coming as to who is in the leadership of the production of knowledge (Woods, Milton, Arnold, & Graby, 2018) with the Autonomy Journal central to that process. Autonomy also features in a new publication; “Autistic Community and the Neurodiversity Movement: Stories from the Frontline” (Kapp, 2019)

The second article features a somewhat older controversy and one which Damian Milton has made progress in addressing with the “Double Empathy Problem” (Milton, 2012), an idea which at last seems to have found its time. It is another piece of classic writing, very difficult to find on the internet now, which dates back to 2000 and should stand alongside the other classic articles reproduced in Autonomy. Unfortunately due to the age of the piece I have not been able to contact all of the authors for permission to reproduce, however I believe it is in the public interest to do so as through this article we can see the long history of challenge to the one time archetypal metatheory of Autism, “Theory of Mind”. We can see that it has been challenged from the inside perspective by Autistic writers who have hitherto been somewhat sidelined in the mainstream of the production of academic knowledge.

Whilst these articles may seem controversial to the orthodox community of academics researching Autism from the outside, I am going to step even further into controversy by publishing an article whose approach to the subject I do not personally agree with but which I do feel addresses some interesting questions with regard to the experience of autism within communities out with the privilege and cultural advantages of European heritage.  I am prepared in this case to make allowances for the fact that the article fails to observe the usual shibboleth by speculating about a possible causation of autism whilst taking the increase of recording autism diagnoses in the USA as a fact rather than an artefact. However the article has passed peer review and seems to meet with the proper research protocols bearing in mind the usual cautions about study sizes. What does interest me about the article is that it deals with an ethnically separate and disadvantaged population who appear to be experiencing higher rates of autism. The article says as much about the situation of this population and the mainstream focus on mainly white urban populations in research such that I believe it warrants publishing, and will perhaps encourage further research or constructive criticism.

Further articles may be added to this edition in the coming months.


Arnold, W. (2017). Review of Rethinking Autism. Autonomy, 1(5). Retrieved from http://www.larry-arnold.net/Autonomy/index.php/autonomy/article/view/RE7/html

Kapp, S. (2019). Autistic Community and the Neurodiversity Movement: Stories from the Frontline. Singapore: Springer.

Milton, D. E. (2012). On the Ontological Status of Autism: the ‘Double Empathy Problem’. Disability and Society, 883-887.

Woods, R., Milton, D., Arnold, L., & Graby, S. (2018). Redefining Critical Autism Studies: a more inclusive interpretation. Disability and Society, 33(6), 974-979.




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