Autism as Gradual Sensorimotor Difference: From Enactivism to Ethical Inclusion

Topoi 41 (2):395-407 (2022)


Autism research is increasingly moving to a view centred around sensorimotor atypicalities instead of traditional, ethically problematical, views predicated on social-cognitive deficits. We explore how an enactivist approach to autism illuminates how social differences, stereotypically associated with autism, arise from such sensorimotor atypicalities. Indeed, in a state space description, this can be taken as a skewing of sensorimotor variables that influences social interaction and so also enculturation and habituation. We argue that this construal leads to autism being treated on a par with other sensorimotor atypicalities such as blindness or atypical height. This leads to our conclusion that, insofar there is an ethical call to inclusion in our public sphere regardless of contingent bodily difference, an enactivist take on autism naturally leads to extending such inclusion to autism. Moreover, our analysis suggests a concrete way forward to achieve inclusion of autistics: by being more attentive to autistic sensorimotor specifics.

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