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.