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Overcoming Stigma, Not Autism: Why Being Autistic Makes Me a Good Legislator

Join the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development for a free, virtual presentation by Rep. Jessica Benham (D-PA) on April 14, 2022 at 4:00 PM.

When 30-year-old disability activist Jessica Benham was sworn into the Pennsylvania House of Representatives last year, she became one of only a handful of politicians who self-disclose as autistic, and as a bisexual woman, one of the few LGBTQ women in politics. Before her election, Rep. Benham founded the Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy, a grassroots self-advocacy project run by autistic people. She is an advocate for the rights of autistic people, especially for increased access to individual education and 504 Plans for public school students, addressing healthcare access barriers, and opening doors for employment for neurodiverse individuals.

I’m not disabled because I’m autistic. I’m disabled because of the way the world treats autistic people. I often have to overcome people’s preconceptions before I can do other things. That’s my life. And I’m good at it. I didn’t run to be the first of anything. I ran to make a difference.

- Rep. Jessica Benham (D-PA), one of the few openly autistic people to serve in any legislature in the US.