Autonomy of people on the autism-spectrum has only been very rarely conceptually explored. Autism spectrum is commonly considered a hetereogenous disorder, and typically described as a behaviorally-defined neurodevelopmental disorder associated with the presence of social-communication deficits and restricted and repetitive behaviors. Autism research mainly focuses on the behavior of autistic people and ways to teach them skills that are in line with social norms. Interventions such as therapies are being justified with the assumption that autists lack the capacity to be self-reflective and to be “author of their lives”. We question this assumption, as some empirical research shows that autists are aware of their strengths and are critical about social norms, we take this as a starting point to reconsider the beliefs about autistic people’s capacities. As a theoretical framework, we draw on Berlin’s idea of positive and negative liberty as he clearly distinguishes between one’s own developed preferences and the simple absence of interference. By drawing on the concept of positive liberty, we illustrate that a lot of autists are aware of their own needs, and usually do not deny their own needs, values and interests. This makes them less prone than non-autistic people to adapt their preferences to external influences, which might be seen as sticking to an authentic way of living. Our analysis shows that many autists are hindered to be autonomous due to unjustified interference, unreflected assumptions about their self-determination, or by paternalistic actions. These observations contribute to a better understanding when help and interference are justified and a more differentiated understanding of autonomy of autistic people.
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DOI 10.1007/s11019-019-09909-3
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Conceptualising Well-Being for Autistic Persons.Ingrid Robeyns - 2016 - Journal of Medical Ethics 42 (6):383-390.

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