What’s this really all about?
The Autistic Empire was founded in the belief that autistic people are a distinct people united by our neurology with common lived experiences, both positive and negative. Due to historical misunderstandings about what it means to be autistic, we have been medicalised by wider society and treated as if there is something wrong with us. We do not believe this to be the case. Autistic people will always be a minority within the societies in which we live, and this means that we will always be subject to othering, even where we are not marginalised, mistreated, or discriminated against. The Autistic Empire is therefore an attempt to create a community dominated by autistic people where minority stress does not exist, where people can have a safe and supportive environment to engage in self-development and express their most authentic selves, and where we can develop solutions to the very real issues we have as a people, such as sensory sensitivities, associated medical conditions such as epilepsy and allergies, and underdeveloped social and empathetic skills, which can then be exported to the wider world.
How are you organised?
The Autistic Empire is currently incorporated as a company limited by shares in the United Kingdom. Sarah McCulloch is the sole director and shareholder of Imperial Trading and Services Limited. She is advised and supported by the Imperial Council, organised by our Secretariat, who meet monthly in London to advise Sarah and make key strategic decisions and set the direction of the Empire. We have two part-time paid staff, who manage our communications and e-commerce needs. In addition to this, we are being supported by other volunteers who are supplying skilled and unskilled help to cover our current deficits.
We have an incredibly small budget which covers essential expenses such as our company registration, business insurance, website costs, and other unavoidable costs without which the institution would collapse immediately. We are therefore reliant on the huge amounts of labour and time currently being voluntarily given by autistic people and allies who believe in our imperial vision to build our capacity to expand the empire and liberate our people.
Do you still need help?
Who is Sarah McCulloch?
Sarah McCulloch is an mental health occupational therapist living in London, UK. Sarah’s school once sent a letter to her local MP stating she had Asperger’s when she was sixteen, but they never bothered to inform her or her parents of this. She was 19 when she finally clocked she was autistic, and immediately set about trying to obtain a diagnosis. After four years of dealing with baffled NHS professionals who did not know what to do with an articulate autistic adult, at the age of 23 she had a private assessment and was immediately given a diagnosis of autism by Professor Digby Tantum. This highly negative experience set her down the road to changing the way autistic adults are regarded and treated in our society. She graduated from London South Bank University in 2015 with an MSc in Occupational Therapy with a view to working with autistic adults.
Since then, she has been working for a variety of in-patient and community mental health services while developing the ideas that has culminated in the launch of the Autistic Empire.
Can children join?
Citizenship is available to adults over the age of 18 only. Children and young people are not legally able to give informed consent and thus cannot take advantage of all of the freedoms, obligations and expectations that Citizenship represents. We are also bound by UK law, and do not have capacity to put in place all of the safeguarding processes necessary to welcome under-18s into the Empire. We will be waiting for you from your 18th birthday.
I am a parent of an autistic person. Can I join?
Ciizenship is available to autistic people only. As autism is partly genetic, there is a strong possibility that you are also autistic and we invite you to be screened for autism yourself. Our autism test is here.
What does it cost?
We ask for a £9 a year recurring fee. If you stop paying this fee after enrolment, you won’t stop being a Citizen, because you can’t lose your Citizenship except by gross violation of our terms of service or the Citizen Rules of Conduct, but your account on the website will be suspended and you will be unable to access Citizen-only services until you pay the fee. You can of course revoke your Citizenship by application any time in accordance with our data protection policy.
Do I have to have an official diagnosis?
No. However, you do have to demonstrate your autism on enrolment (because being a Citizen is awesome and amazing and everyone would want to join otherwise) and the diagnostic system, while problematic and imperfect, is a quick and simple means of proving that you are autistic. If you do not have a diagnosis, or are opposed to getting one, just be yourself in the box and we’ll know. There are more pointers on the enrolment form as to what this could look like. All “evidence” is destroyed after your application is approved.
What is your position on Asperger’s, HFA, “Classical autism”, PDD-NOS etc. etc.
Autism is autism. We have commonality with each other and, as the saying goes, “we know it when we see it”. We’re not interested in discussions between health professionals about shifting diagnostic criteria. The precise edges of where autism stops and some other neurodiversity starts is not something we are concerned with at this juncture.
If you think you may be autistic but are not sure, go hang out with some autistic people. Attend an event for autistic people, or set up a temporary account and lurk around on our Forum. If you feel like you’ve found somewhere you belong, we’ll enrol you regardless of your label.
I’m not sure I “identify” as autistic as such.
This question is aimed at people who are having trouble with the Year They Started Identifying As Autistic on the enrolment form. The Autistic Empire is loosely based on a republican ideal of citizenship originating in the Roman Empire where Citizens are free individuals with rights that cannot be dominated and civic duties to participate in public affairs to fashion a civil society for the benefit of all Citizens. You cannot participate fully in public affairs if you feel ambivalent about your autistic identity and it was something that was imposed on you by others. Citizenship is therefore available only to autistic people who embrace their identity and are want to participate in the project. None of the existing models of citizenship are perfect because of course all previous empires have fallen under the weight of a model of citizenship that could not handle changing circumstances and we will have to develop our model over time, but this is our starting point.