Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Are autistics lazy loafers who refuse to work when they can?

As regular readers of my blog know, I've been unemployed for ten years now.  Though I don't know the exact statistics for autistic unemployment I've seen figures bandied about as high as 85-90%.  As the flurry of autistics who were diagnosed in the nineties have become adults, the problem of unemployment among autistics in recent years has become widely publicized.  Parents of these children have become so desperate to find them jobs, that they've influenced major media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, New York times and others to state that autism is such a great gift to humanity that employers should be begging autistic people to work for them.

This is in part due to autistics supposed superiority in attention to details based on the urban legend that autistics have a superior aptitude for finding embedded figures.  This is despite the fact that the majority of published literature shows no superior facility in this, particularly in those at the higher end of the spectrum.

There is one instance in which retired blogger "the autistic bitch from hell" alleged that autistics who don't work are basically welfare bums who fight efforts by social justice warriors to end job discrimination because they fear losing their government benefits.

Therefore I was interested to read a poorly written article filled with grammatical and spelling errors  by someone named Ron Sandison who states that he's on the autism spectrum even though he has two jobs, including being a professor of Theology and is married and has a child.  He talks about having met Temple Grandin and quotes her as saying that autistics should get off their butts and get a job.  She agreed to attend Mr. Sandison's presentation after he told her about his two jobs.  She stated that there were too many autistics who would not get out of the house and get a job.  She spoke of a 16 year old boy who had never done his own shopping and stated that she was glad Sandison's mother had not babied him the way this boy's mother had.  It seems that Grandin, along with some of other more unsavory members of the ND movement are still trying to bring us back to the Bettelheim era which my parents and I actually lived through.  I was intrigued by this passage in Sandison's piece:

also loved her quote, “Young adults with autism—need to get their butts out of the house and get a job! Work experience can start small walking dogs in the neighborhood or mowing lawns.” When I was fifteen-years-old my dad helped me get a job as a dishwasher at Bell Knapps. I developed social skills and manors (sic) by working in the hospitality industry.

I was recently in a facebook interaction with one individual who commented on this article and stated he admired Temple Grandin and extolled her virtues stating that he supported himself and autistics should work.  I commented that it was easier said than done and another told me I should try.  I pointed out to this individual that I did try like hell for 28 years but was fired from so many jobs and had so many problems I ended up retiring ten years ago at age fifty-one.  He called me a quitter and an enabler and I blocked him.

I'm not a bum and a slacker, I worked in many jobs, had serious problems in most of them before I gave up.  I went to college and could not do well enough to go to graduate school and get a career in psychology or brain research.  I tried to study computer programming and computer repair, but was too disabled to become proficient enough to earn money from them.  I later learned medical transcription.  Though I was good enough at it to work sporadically in clinical transcription (which was easier than hospital work) I had a very hard time on jobs and got fired for making errors and having difficulty getting along with management and sometimes co-workers.  I was able to do one job where I transcribed discharge summaries and history and physicals and consultations, but not usually operative reports, which makes up the bulk of hospital transcription for more than nine years.  I only retired when I got fired from two jobs after this one ended. To imply that I did not try my best is an outrage.

One other man with autism I know tried to work and was fired from a variety of jobs.  He finally had a job at a Home Depot where he had to transport shopping carts back and forth and was fired for doing this with a water bottle in his hand.  They probably did not like his loud voice and hyperactive movements.  Another individual with a math degree I know tried to become an insurance actuary and failed the exam twice.  He later enrolled in a masters degree program hoping to get a job teaching math in a community college.  He was so stressed by the workload he had to drop out after half a semester.

One of the most interesting stories is someone I know worked at Mindspark, one of those companies that you hear so much about in the media that teaches autistic people to be software testers because of their alleged attention to detail.  After working there for a year as an apprentice tester, he was not promoted to an analyst tester and was fired because he had not learned the job fast enough.

I just want to say I believe Grandin should not be so arrogant and insensitive to the fact that very few autistics function at her level and most of them are not going to be able to go out and work very easily.

Since Sandison is extolling her virtues in his article, I can come to the conclusion that he echoes her sentiments and believes that I and other autistic people are lazy loafers who are not trying our best.This is interesting given the fact that Sandison did such a lackadaisical job of proofreading his own writing by spelling manners as manors, omitting commas where they are supposed to go and writing In her message she continually stressed that (in)individuals with autism, academic skills will be uneven.where he omits the word 'in' where it is supposed to go that I pointed out in the paranthesis

Mr. Sandison if you happen to read this I want to say that you should not be implying that I and others on the spectrum who can't be professors or work with psychiatric patients and get married and have a child are lazy because we are much more severely autistic than you are.  I also don't think you should be implying that I and others are lazy loafers when you are too lazy to even proofread your own writing and take pride in it.  Since you're a theologian, I'll remind you of the words of Christ: Only those without sin should cast the first stone.

Addendum: I see since I wrote this blog post that Autism Speaks has has gotten into the act and published Sandison's post as a guest blog. So all the things I've said in this post about Grandin and Sandison go for them too.


Mariano Almudevar, said...

Work is made uo of at least three things: activity, productions of goods and services and benefits or salary. I do think that on the first two aspects you Johnathan are working as hard as anybody. Why is there a problem on the third? It is possible that the issue is not "to work" but "to work for" or "to work with"
My non verbal son wakes up at 6 - 30 but does not go to his centre till 9. He tears pieces of paper to very thin ribbons, ties knots in material he has previusly torns making colourfull pompoms, opens and closes water taps which he attentively observes etc. He is working I think. The problem is that he lacks a pragmatic approach so that what he does can be put to market and that he cannot work semñanticalyy that is he does not have a net of signifiers so that he can don mental work. And of course there is no capacity for turn taking, for following what we say, so that he can shape and articulate that need for activity more usefully. Regardless of other intellectual limitations which might exist, I think one problem with autism is the difficulties with reciprocity, which make the "work for" and the "work with" difficult propositions and that is certainly true with him and with somo broad autisc phenotypes in families of severely affected I met, who have problems with work mates, employers, employees (a couple have business) or work alone freelance. A few very able people on engineering type subjets are unemployed because that reason.

As for Temple Grandin I never have understood why has she become a guru of autism. She is somewhat exceptional but with all the respects I think what one can learn on autism and its management from her is rather limited. I fear tha interests other than those of autistic people themselves, have enlarged her ego beyond the useful, except for those that are in the blue business and its associates.

Mariano Almudevar.

jonathan said...

well not sure that is the same type of work i was talking about. Grandin has been at it a long time since the eighties, in a time when very few if anyone else with the exception of David Miedzianik was even writing about being on the autism spectrum. She was successful which people wanted to promote. David did very poorly and it took her years. For years when Emergence labelled autistic was out it was not even available in bookstores and you had to send away for it and nobody knew about it and that is how I first obtained it in 1989. She also was able to hook up with Rimland and have oliver sacks write about her. That all helped and the rise took years

Seeing Clearly said...

Autism has been a great at breaking down society and shredding it into pieces more on this later.

Normal people don't always get their preferred job yet they have to work so stop saying people with autism should be allowed to be on welfare because they don't have a job they like and they "can't" work unless it's patting kittens on the back.

If you really can't work then get a cure damn it we don't need to accommodate your disease. Autism is not a skin color autism is a brain that can't function smoothly it's not a different brain wiring it's a broken brain that's the bitter truth brain wiring is a lie our brains are always rewiring it's called learning. Autistic brains can't do that so well apparently. Yes autism is a label that is not real and is made by big pharma but assuming it was real that's what I would say.

Autism is an observatory diagnosis , a stigma meaning a permanent label for a negative thing for temporary behavior.

Mariano Almudevar, said...

I aggree over much of what you say Seeing Clearly. You could call it a syndrome or a condition it is certainoly not a definable illness. The question of broken or wrongly hard wired brain, and I use both words somewhat analogically, is an important one. It is well known that children with limited brain mass however, like hydroenkephalic children, do develop substantially above what might be expected of them. And people with brain traumas can restore much of their functions. Well at least so0me of them. Hence the analogy of "wrong wiring" is a good one till we get nearer the actual facts o we get a better analogy. Brain plasticity is not alloways positive and what was a solution in terms of adaptation of the whole organism at one point might be a block at another moment.


Anonymous said...

Gotta love these people. I have a feeling that these people are just mad because people like you, me, and a bunch of others challenge the notion of autism being a gift when we talk about struggles with keeping a job due to ASD. I have a job but I almost lost it several times and I hardly ever get promotions while a lot of junior people get ahead of me and are more efficient than me.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! We seem to agree on a lot of things. I was diagnosed with something similar to Autism at 25, thrown out of graduate school due to the effects of it three months later, and was just determined by vocational rehab to be severely disabled after trying and failing for years to find a job. My options now are vocational rehab to get a fighting chance at minimum wage or applying for SSI. If I can't work, then so be it, it sure as hell won't be due to a lack of effort. I would much rather work than not work, but there's a difference between lack of effort, lack of ability, and lack of opportunity. And yes, I'm willing to work a job I don't like, the difference between an ASD person and a "typical" person is that we will be permanently stuck in the crappy jobs (if we can even get and keep them), whereas a "typical" person can eventually move up or move on to other things. I am not lazy I am incapable. If I end up on benefits it won't be because I want to be on them or believe I'm "entitled" it'll be because I need them to survive.

jonathan said...

Yep that's the sentiment of most people, even if Ran Sandison, Temple Grandin, and Autism Speaks are too ignorant to know this.

Anonymous said...

"Work is made uo of at least three things: activity, productions of goods and services and benefits or salary. I do think that on the first two aspects you Johnathan are working as hard as anybody. Why is there a problem on the third? It is possible that the issue is not "to work" but "to work for" or "to work with""

That's right!

Who's going to *pay* the worker for the goods and services the worker produces?

If the worker works very hard producing a service that only the worker himself or herself wants and no one else wants, the worker can't earn a living (unless that work is subsistence farming on land the worker owns himself or herself).

If the worker doesn't care what other people think so much that he or she doesn't produce any good or service that other people want, if the worker is so anti-social that he or she drives other people away and they pay someone else for goods and services instead, how is that worker's hard work supposed to get that worker any money from other people?

Seeing Clearly said...

I would wish to hear what you may not agree with me.

About the ethical concerns with the autism diagnosis and the entire DSM here is a good website to visit (

While there are people who can recover after a brain injury, they are rarely the same as they were before while complete recovery can happen to fortunate people it doesn't happen to everyone and at a young age if you get a brain injury and you regress you don't get concussion syndrome you get labeled autistic and told its who you are and you should embrace that. I am not going to tolerate a medical and "educational" system that tells us to embrace our brain damage.

Paresh Doshi said...

Nice blog, would like to know more.


Seeing Clearly said...

The thought that autism is a gift is acutely the stigma of autism, we look like smart people that spend all day in a lavatory experimenting with technology and very good and smart and special like if we were angels or something like that. Stop the stigma against autism means to end the false notion that autism is a gift and something that makes us special when it really just makes us unfortunate in many ways.