Disclosure: I’m neurotypical and allistic.
Several months ago, a resource came across my desk: “Safeguarding autistic girls” by Carly Jones. In determining its classification I landed where almost all books on autistic people have been classed: RC553.A88 this is a medical number, the full hierarchy being: Internal medicine—Neurosciences. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry—Psychiatry—Specific pathological states, A-Z—Autism. Asperger’s syndrome
The problem is that this isn’t a medical book including brain scans, and psychological tests, pathologies and treatment protocols, etc. — it’s a social sciences book discussing the unique challenges that autistic girls may face as they navigate society.
Doing further investigating of the RC553.A88 shelflist, I quickly found that many books classed there were non-medical, including:
- The Asperger love guide : ‡b a practical guide for adults with Asperger’s syndrome to seeking, establishing and maintaining successful relationships 
- Something different about dad : ‡b how to live with your amazing Asperger parent 
- The journal of best practices : ‡b a memoir of marriage, Asperger syndrome, and one man’s quest to be a better husband 
- A field guide to earthlings : ‡b an autistic/asperger view of neurotypical behavior ; covers nuances of friendship, dating, small talk, interpersonal conflicts, image learning styles, social communication, common sense, white lies, and much more! 
- The complete guide to becoming an autism friendly professional : ‡b working with individuals, groups, and organizations 
I approached my liaison in the policy office to discuss the possibility of adding an entire range in H [the social sciences class] for works which discuss autism and autistic people from a social perspective: biographies, problems they face, working lives, relationship lives, social assistance, communities, etc. — akin to how you can find numbers in R [medicine] on blindness and deafness as medical conditions, but also in H for their social treatment.
My liaison was on board and worked with me to help construct the range, and where to place it: we settled on placing it within HV1570 whose hierarchy is: Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology—Protection, assistance and relief—Special classes—People with disabilities—Developmentally disabled
This is what I want to acknowledge. I know that placing all social-science work on autism and autistic people inherently under a category of “special classes of people who need protection, assistance, relief”, and furthermore calling all of them “developmentally disabled” isn’t the ideal solution, it may not even be a good solution! Unfortunately this is how works on disabled people from a social perspective are classed in LC classification — and the current medical literature describes autistic people as “developmentally disabled” which is what LC classification relies on when making decisions about hierarchies.
Much digital and physical ink has been spilled on LC classification’s biases. I haven’t done anything to correct that, but I certainly hope I haven’t made things worse. In my mind it’s better to develop a range for the non-medical treatment of autism and autistic people, even if its still a pathologizing area of the classification system. One day when the classification system can acknowledge classes of persons less pejoratively — It’ll be easier to move things if the range is already created and in use. This is my hope anyway!
3 thoughts on “On Adding Autistic People to HV”
This does sound like an improvement. Thanks for your work. Any idea when we will see your new range in Classweb?
I’ve been an independent researcher in Disability Studies since the mid 1980s. This finally explains why finding resources has been such a challenge!
as an autistic and chronically ill disability activist, this can be a complex question but it is important not to separate neurodiversity/neurodivergency from disability. Because it is a disability, and like most disabilites, accommodations are needed due to an inaccessible world.
autism is a developmental disability, a label which wouldn’t be bad if it wasn’t used as a medical model that seeks to cure disability! it is still frustrating that
1)people with disabilities is the official heading (it was created by nondisabled people and a large amount of the disability community do not prefer person first language)
2)it’s under social pathology instead of disability being a stand alone LCSH.
all that said, given the current limitations, this is likely the best available solution. it keeps autism connected to disability, which is not only important from a disability rights perspective but it is also a likely place for autistics to look for authors. (otherwise we tend to search under things like “disabled ___” wherever it exists. like disabled musician) As of now, there is no easy way to look for books about the disabled experience by disabled people. even though there are finally so many books available.
disability=bad is an idea created by abled society, disability is not a bad thing nor is it a bad word. (I recommend looking into the human rights model of disability for more details)
some autistics will want to not be labeled as disabled, however this is almost always due to viewing disability as something that needs to be cured (which is not true for a lot of disabilities.) and instead of autism activism it is simply separatism due to internalized ableism.
however, reclassifying autism requires the work of reclassifying disability in general. it means not prioritizing medical models and instead using the human rights model of disability (a combination of social and medical models)
it requires LC to actually understand that things like disability rights movements should be under civil rights movements and other things. I’m doing a final project about this right now, and there is so much work to be done for how disability is categorized.
Ideally, disability would be the broadest term and then other diagnoses and combinations could fall below it
as a rough example
Disability–mental disability–neurodiversity (or neurodiversity)–autism–autistic authors–social sciences
(this is just an example, partially because I’m currently searching to better understand what LCSH even has as options for disabilities and not finding many that are remotely decent)
Basically, I know more about the disability activism work and community consensus through an intersectional lens vs cataloging systems (still in my first year of MLIS grad school) so figuring out what would be usable headings that somehow mirror some of LC style is something I need to practice still.