Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Is autism speaks suggesting affirmative action to help employ autistics?

I have read an interesting post by a young man named Kerry Magro, who is described as a college senior who is a "staffer"with autism speaks. One wonders what the term staffer means as Magro's post deals with the problems of finding employment for autistic people and suggesting affirmative action as a means for achieving that goal and he states that he is interviewing for job placement now as a college senior. So, it seems likely he is not a paid employee of autism speaks. Since they published his post on their blog, I also wonder if autism speaks is suggesting affirmative action as a remedy for helping autistic persons find jobs.

This is interesting in light of the fact that autism speaks put on a dog and pony show suggesting how great it is that there are certain employers who hire persons with autism. I have written about this in a previous post. A notable fact is that autism speaks has suggested that employing autistic persons is a good idea, yet, as far as I know, they have never had a single paid autistic employee in their organization-not even as a minimum wage position with a job coach. I have to wonder, why autism speaks would be publishing Mr. Magro's post on such a subject in light of these circumstances. I also wonder why Mr. Magro would be writing about the virtues of affirmative action, yet not asking autism speaks to employ himself or some other deserving person with autism.

I wonder if Mr. Magro is a believer in the concept of neurodiversity. This might help him get a job with autism speaks or perhaps encourage autism speaks to engage in some affirmative action and hire persons with autism in paid positions in their organization.

Perhaps this sockpuppet of the ND movement should change their name from Autism Speaks to Autism Listens as this is what they seem to do 120% of the time that the ND behemoth speaks.

When they found the "I am autism" video offensive, it was removed from the home page of their site.

When neurodiversity wanted them to cough up cash to help them finance research that was aligned with their philosophy. Laurent Mottron, Isabelle Souleries and Michelle Dawson were given a half million dollar grant.

When many adherents to the ND movement complained that there were no autistics on the board of directors or were placed in positions of power within the organization, they responded by appointing, John Robison to their science board. (Robison received an AS diagnosis at age 40). Robison, a high school dropout with no training or expertise in science or autism sits in a room with M.D. and Ph.D. scientists and decides what research AS will fund. It would seem the idea is that Robison can better represent the community of autistic persons in that he has experienced first hand what life is like for a person on the spectrum. I wonder how many persons with autism have been able to marry twice, father a son, get a $100,000 a year engineering job with no degree or formal training and write a best selling memoir. I know that I am not one of them. What have Robison's contributions to the field of autism research been so far? To date, he has seriously suggested studying geek success as a legitimate scientific endeavor. He has lobbied and received funds for his own personal use when his son and his son's friend Alex Plank needed money to make films for their autism talk TV series, partially reimbursing Robison, the cash he laid out.

Interestingly enough, the ND movement has offered solutions of their own to the problems of autistic persons in the workplace. Ari Ne'eman a 21-year-old (at the time) who has never had paid employment of any kind has suggested eliminating social pleasantry as a criteria for hiring and receiving a good job evaluation. Joseph of the natural variation blog has stated that in the near future, there would be a 70% rate of employment among persons with autism. He projected that based on a supposed 30% rate of employment that currently exists but neglected to cite any reference for this figure or where it came from (assuming it came from someplace other than Joseph's imagination). When I asked him, he was unable to produce a source for this figure. Joseph then went even further claiming that unemployment was not a problem for autistic persons at all and they made in a living in the same manner as persons who were not handicapped. He based this on a survey involving only 19 people with questionable methodology.

I can be reasonably certain that Mr. Magro is a 22-year-old with virtually no experience and probably limited qualifications for anything seeking employment in the worst economic times since the great depression. This is certainly an arduous undertaking for someone without a disability let alone someone who has autism. There are no easy solutions or quick fixes for an autistic person to make a living, other than trying very hard to amass qualifications, spending a lot of time applying for jobs. It takes a great deal of work. I know as I am an individual who spent more years than he or Ari Ne'eman have been alive doing just that. I am proud that at least at one time I was able to work sporadically in spite of this horrific handicap. I never looked for work in economic times like these though.

If autism speaks does not want to practice what they preach and won't help Mr. Magro, I wish him the best of luck in finding employment. Of course one solution for him, other than suggested in the previous paragraph might be for him to consult the ND movement and ask them to have a little chat with autism speaks. Given AS's track with ND they'll probably listen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Affirmative action involves hiring someone based on one's race, color, sex and religious background- those within the minority in the U.S.- in order to reassure that each and every individual gets an equal opportunity to be hired.

Hiring someone based on his/her disability doesn't relate to affirmative action because there is no conception of an NT being in the majority and an autistic being in the minority since being disabled doesn't define a person, but action CAN be taken to accomodate and prevent discrimination towards the person who has a disability at work through the affirmative action process. In other words, a disabled individual is entitled to be integrated within the majority within the workforce not because of his/her disability, but to help integrate him/her if he/she needs and is entitled to the support based on his/her limitations.

Of course the online neurodiversity and some people from other neurodiversity organizations wouldn't believe what I'm saying and probably find this concept in political science confusing.