Since last Friday I see that the favorite organization of a lot of people, everyone from the neurodiversitites to the mercury militants to the biomed treatment advocates has once again engaged in superficial showmanship with their new program autism in the workplace. AS starts off stating how dire the problem of lack of even semi-gainful employment is for autists:
Unemployment and underemployment remain challenges for people with autism and other disabilities. A 2004 Louis Harris Poll found that only 38% of individuals with a disability were employed, as compared to 78% of those who did not have a disability. It is estimated that more than a quarter of adults with a disability live in poverty, and more than seventy-five percent earn less than $20,000 per year (Bowe, 2006).
Then we see some interesting videos of persons with autism in the workforce, trying to show autistic employees in a positive light. Of interest is that I am acquainted with one of the participants, Stephen Wise. Steve lives in Los Angeles and we would run into each other from time to time at AGUA (Adult Gathering United Autistic) meetings. This is an organization that I helped create along with Jerry Newport and I am one of the charter members. AGUA has now been in existence for 16 years. A movie, Mozart, and the Whale was made that was inspired by some events that happened at AGUA. The character, Gregory in the movie was inspired by your humble blogger.
It is my belief that these videos and this new crusade by AS is nothing but a horse and pony show. Steve's job was obtained for him through the Jay Nolan center not AS. I am pretty certain autism speaks had nothing to do with securing employment for any of the other people in these videos. If anyone can provide me with evidence to the contrary I stand corrected. This would seem like exploitation on the part of AS.
I should be somewhat surprised that the angry neurodiversitites who detest AS so much have not written about this on any of their blogs. But what is so typical of them is that they miss the forest for the trees. Somehow it gets under their skin that there is no person on the autism spectrum on the board of directors. They seem to go even further implying that one of their own should be appointed to that coveted position, someone completely hostile to the goals of prevention and cure that AS has. But what is really more important, one person who would have an unpaid position of influence helping to run the show behind autism or perhaps the organization actually doing something to help people find jobs or even employing them in their own organization for paid jobs? I believe that the latter is a far more important priority than the former.
Does AS itself have anything to say in the manner? We see here the following statement on the part of the autism in the workplace webpage:
Autism Speaks provides internships to adults with autism in its offices, and also outsources work to companies that employ people with autism. The organization is currently exploring the creation of employment opportunities, as well.
Well in the opinion of this blogger that does not cut it at all. Internships mean an unpaid position. At the very least they could employ someone with autism to be a file clerk in their office and give them extra help in doing the job so that they would not be fired. In fact, one of those persons could even be me. I do not believe that it is ethical for AS to have started this program until they finished actually exploring the creation of those employment opportunities for people on the spectrum but actually created them as well and then had the person(s) complete a 3 to 6 month probationary period on the job and then put a video about these people and not ready made autism workers for their own exploitive ends. At the risk of repeating myself, I believe that autism speaks should just be an organization that funds scientific research with the intent of curing and preventing autism. Engaging in lobbying, advocacy and awareness as well means that too many cooks spoil the broth. The organization tries to do too much at once does not get enough done and it won't hasten a cure and/or prevention for autism being found. Of course, something like this autism in the workplace campaign had it been done in a proper and ethical manner as I stated above would be an exception to that rule the way I see it.
I find it interesting that in spite of all of these activities autism speaks is basically a charitable organization. I believe that they should actively recruit persons with autism to work directly for their organization as paid employees, not interns, not contractors. Being that they are a charitable organization perhaps autism speaks should remember the old saying: "Charity begins at home"