Autistic people have been excluded from advocacy conversations. Julia Bascom is changing that.

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Bascom has an outsized impact on the modern neurodiversity movement. Here’s why it matters that a woman is leading that charge.

April is Autism Acceptance Month, marked by hashtags, charity fundraising and celebrity parent interviews. Many articles will highlight autism hiring initiatives or, increasingly, famous people who are autistic themselves. You won’t see Julia Bascom in most Autism Acceptance Month coverage or any major ad campaigns. 

This is somewhat by design — she prefers not to be interviewed. Autism can make speaking difficult or draining for some, Bascom said. “In high school, I was a theater kid, but I primarily did stage managing. I like getting stuff done. I don’t like things being about me,” she told The 19th.  

Still, Bascom has had an outsized impact on the modern neurodiversity movement, responsible for leading autistic advocacy and political organizing at a national level. Bascom is the executive director of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), the largest nonprofit in the United States operated entirely by and for autistic people. Since she took the helm in 2017, she has made ASAN a vital part of progressive political coalitions. While not many policy priorities have passed, Bascom’s mere presence in the room is significant. For most of the diagnosis’s existence, autistic people have been largely excluded from autism advocacy. 

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