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No Accountability without the Ability to Account and No Responsibility without the Ability to Respond

Across autism communities, there are crises of social justice around issues of accountability from individuals, families, agencies and stakeholders. Accountability is a framework of responsibility and relative to principles, roles, actions, decisions, processes and outcomes. Minimally, there are two key aspects to accountability.

First, for accountability to be in place there must be a clear definition of the principles to which individuals and agencies and institutions can be held accountable, or responsible. This is the basis or orientation of accountability. These are ‘WHAT’ and ‘WHO’ questions asking: ‘WHAT’ or ‘WHO’ has the orientation of accountability?’ and ‘WHAT’ or ‘WHO’ is so important that it should be the anchor of our attention, work, and responsibility?’

Examples of Questions about the Orientation of Accountability:

  1. To what master is accountability chained (oriented)?
  2. Is the orientation of accountability clear, appropriate, and supported?
  3. Does the orientation of accountability conflict with another orientation of accountability (e.g. legislation, policy, clinical, medical, parental authority, a person's needs, social justice)? 
  4. If so, can or should this be altered?
  5. Is there a different, more precise, or more general orientation of accountability that is superior?

Second, accountability requires the ability to account. That is, there must be processes, procedures and roles in place, which create the framework of responsibility. In this sense, ‘responsibility’ requires both ‘the ability to respond’, and the obligation to do so. This is a ‘HOW’ question addressing: ‘HOW’ can it be ensured that responsibility was taken?’ and ‘HOW’ is accountability organized?’

Examples of Questions about the Relations of Responsibility

  1. How are the relations of responsibility chained to or organized for accountability?
  2. Do the relations of responsibility ('HOW') adequately put into practice the orientation of accountability ('WHAT' and 'WHO')?
  3. What are the relevant legislative, policy, clinical, and professional frameworks?
  4. Are there sufficient and appropriate procedures in place for their operation?
  5. What are the roles and lines of authority, decision-making, supervision, and implementation, and are they sufficient and appropriate?
  6. Do the individuals responsible have the ability to respond (with sufficient authority, information, expertise, and opportunity)?
  7. Are there alternative relations of responsibility that are superior?

Both the orientation of accountability (WHAT and WHO) and the relations of responsibility (HOW) are required for effective accountability to be successful. Effective accountability occurs when effective relations of responsibility are oriented and chained sufficiently to appropriate masters.

Using approaches like this can be used to resolve accountability crises and conflicts and can offer important tools for generating insights. It is of critical importance to address each of these questions separately and sufficiently because addressing only one (or the wrong one) will only further exacerbate the crisis or conflict and will result in a decrease in accountability.

Across BC, Alberta, Canada, North America and the globe, stakeholders are rightly calling the crisis of intervention and accountability for individuals with ASD. These calls for accountability are widespread and diverse. Individuals across the breadth of the Spectrum with a diversity of circumstances, needs and values are all suffering crises of accountability to their needs. These individuals, families and professionals deserve more from our institutions than they have received. This is indeed a crisis of accountability of critical importance. 

The way forward is clear. The orientation of accountability must address the diverse, complex and changing needs of ALL individuals with ASD, and clear and corresponding relations of responsibility must be implemented in ways that reflect this diversity, complexity and flexibility. There can be no accountability to individuals with ASD otherwise. It is clear that it is high time that we come together as parents, professionals, clinicians, stakeholders, and institutions and call for the accountability in doing what is right and best, not just for some, but for ALL individuals with ASD. 

Cheers, Kierstin