Meet the First Autistic Presidential Appointee

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Ari Ne'eman, the first autistic Presidential appointee, sat down with one of our favorite science writers, Steve Silberman, to talk about his political role and his brain. It's not your average interview as Silberman and Ne'eman explore how to deal with the reality of "neurodiversity." It makes great companion reading with our October magazine story, "Autism's First Child."

Ne'eman's deliberate use of the phrase "the autistic community" was more subversive than it sounds. The notion that autistic people -- often portrayed in the media as pitiable loners -- would not only wear their diagnosis proudly, but want to make common cause with other autistic people, is still a radical one. Imagine a world in which most public discussion of homosexuality was devoted to finding a cure for it, rather than on the need to address the social injustices that prevent gay people from living happier lives. Though the metaphor is far from exact (for example, gay people obviously don't face the impairments that many autistic people do), that's the kind of world that autistic people live in.

Now, as the first openly autistic White House appointee in history -- and one of the youngest at age 22 -- Ne'eman is determined to change that. In December, he was nominated by President Obama to the National Council on Disability (NCD), a panel that advises the President and Congress on ways of reforming health care, schools, support services and employment policy to make society more equitable for people with all forms of disability.

Ne'eman spoke to Wired.com in July in his first interview with the media since his appointment.

Read the full story at Wired Science at Wired.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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