Autism in the US: Social Movement and Legal Change

88 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2010 Last revised: 11 Mar 2011

See all articles by Daniela Caruso

Daniela Caruso

Boston University School of Law

Date Written: May 20, 2010


The social movement surrounding autism in the US has been rightly defined a ray of light in the history of social progress. The movement is inspired by a true understanding of neuro-diversity and is capable of bringing about desirable change in political discourse. At several points along the way, however, the legal reforms prompted by the autism movement have been grafted onto preexisting patterns of inequality in the allocation of welfare, education, and medical services. In a context most recently complicated by economic recession, autism-driven change bears the mark of political contingency and legal fragmentation. Distributively, it yields ambivalent results that have not yet received systemic attention. This article aims to fill this analytical vacuum by offering, first, a synoptic view of the several legal transformations brought about or advocated for by the autism movement and, second, a framework for investigating their distributive consequences.

Keywords: autism, discrimination, health, education, neuro-diversity, culpability, Daubert, disability, vouchers, waivers, special education, social movement, activism

JEL Classification: K30, K39

Suggested Citation

Caruso, Daniela, Autism in the US: Social Movement and Legal Change (May 20, 2010). American Journal of Law and Medicine, Vol. 36, 2010, Boston Univ. School of Law Working Paper No. 10-07, Available at SSRN:

Daniela Caruso (Contact Author)

Boston University School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States
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617-353-3077 (Fax)

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