Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dick Durbin's quick fix for autistic unemployment

I see from reading the latest entry in the the whose planet is it anyway blog that the autism bitch from hell is giving a shout out to an article written by Senator Dick Durbin, extolling the virtues of employing people with disabilities. Durbin,one of the senators who introduced the autism treatment acceleration act bill, also touches in large part on the employment problems of persons on the autism spectrum. He discusses an internship program for autistic persons that the McClean autism society started. While this effort may be laudable, I will await whether or not it results in fruition, i.e. enables the interns to obtain paid jobs anywhere. This may be equivalent to the lip service that autism speaks gives in their recent dog and pony show.

Durbin, as is typical, rattles off the grim statistics of the high unemployment rate of persons with disabilities and how we typically will end up living in poverty. He seems to think the Americans with disabilities act will automatically solve the unemployment problems of those with disabilities. He then gives some statistics on how disabled people who did work did not have costly accommodations and took less sick leave off. He neglects to mention what jobs they were and what the disabilities of these people were.

Most interestingly of all, Durbin delves into the problems specifically of autistics in the work place. He starts off by citing Pulitzer prize winner Tim Page who found out he had Asperger's syndrome well into adulthood. He then goes on to cite Nobel prize winner Vernon Smith as an example of someone with autism and how his autism enables him to think outside the box. There is no evidence whatsoever that Smith has an ASD of any kind. He has never been diagnosed by any clinician. He only decided well into his 60s, based on a self-administered test that he was on spectrum and diagnosed himself on this basis. No one it seems but your humble blogger has the temerity to question Smith's self- diagnosis.

Durbin goes on to state that psychologists have noticed a high cluster of persons with Asperger's wherever there are high tech companies. He provides no evidence of this. Statistics from the California department of developmental services may in part dispute this. In the state's 21 regional centers, the San Andreas regional center, which serves the highly technical silicone valley to be 9th out of 21 in prevalence. Concentrations in Los Angeles are much higher than in the area of San Jose California or Sunnyvale California.

Durbin then goes on to steal Michelle Dawson's and Tyler Cowen's thunder by posthumously diagnosing Alan Turing with autism.

He then goes on to quote some statements that Vernon Smith has about the struggle for disability rights. As I am skeptical (to say the least) of Smith having a true disability of any kind, I don't believe he has the right to speak for me. Someone who was never able to get a ph.d., never went to a mainstream school until age 14 (excepting one private school from which I was expelled after a half a semester at age 12), who has struggled to work in medical transcription and other even more menial jobs, let alone become a college professor who can win a Nobel prize, I resent Smith talking about what it is like for people with disabilities and struggles for "civil rights" He has no idea what someone who is truly developmentally disabled (even relatively mildly like myself) has to go through.

Durbin can pontificate until doomsday about the importance of hiring autistic people for jobs. But it is not helpful to imply that the only reason autistics can't make a living as well as nondisabled persons is due to discrimination, not giving them accommodations or lack of equal opportunity. While I don't deny that discrimination and some prejudice are a factor, a large part of the problem is that most (though I admit not all) persons on the spectrum are too disabled to learn highly skilled jobs that are in high demand. To become, doctors, lawyers, plumbers, etc. Though there are some computer programmers on the spectrum, it is a myth to claim that some sort of autism gene is responsible for great IT skills and that it is a given that most autistics could become highly paid computer specialists.

As far as more menial jobs are concerned, a number of autistics may have trouble at those as well. Even if they did not have trouble at them, discrimination is an issue. If they don't like someone's behavior, it is not hard to find a replacement for them in the menial jobs in which there is a huge supply of a worker's pool and relatively low demand. This may suck, but it is certainly a reality and claiming that discrimination can just be wiped out easily is not a reality.

This comes from someone who has an ASD with nearly 28 years of on and off experience in the workplace, having applied for hundreds of jobs, having a variety of different jobs, some for less than a week, a few for a couple of years or more. I have seen first hand from my own experiences how autism has impeded my ability to learn things and to acquire good skills for the job market. I have seen first hand how behavioral quirks I have had have lead to discrimination from employers and caused me to be fired.

What are Durbin's true experiences with autism and other disabilities? One thing I wonder is the neglect of Senator Durbin to comment on how many disabled interns work in his office or how many paid staff members with disabilities he has working for him. As a United States Senator Mr. Durbin most likely not only has interns who work for him but also paid staff members. The fact that he neglects to mention even one example of a disabled person in general or a person with autism in particular in his essay who is in his employ makes me believe that he is just like autism speaks in giving lip service to employing persons with autism. As is the case with autism speaks, Mr. Durbin seems to forget that charity begins at home.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Orac and his neurodiversity followers get it wrong

I have been reading the latest blog entry of "Orac", a cancer surgeon who occasionally writes about autism and the anti-vaccination movement and seems to have a neurodiversity following. I could not resist making a comment there when I felt that he was trivializing the hardships that persons with mild autism like myself have endured in their life. I won't post my comment here but I guess anyone interested can read it on the respectful insolence blog.

Orac writes: it is disturbing that she views autism as so frightening. The main reason it's frightening is because that's the message in the media and the anti-vaccine movement: that autism is terrifying, that it "steals the child's soul" (that's what Jenny McCarthy's co-author has said); that it is beyond hope. While there's no doubt that raising a child with severe autism is an incredible challenge, the image of autism many parents have is that it is all like the most severe cases, when it is not. As the term "autism spectrum disorders" implies, it's a spectrum, from the very mild to the very severe.

So, it would appear that Orac would believe that a mild case of autism such as I have is nothing to be frightened of. He does not understand what it is like not to have romantic relationships, not to be able to make a living, having had to attend special education schools, having been fired from multiple jobs, having phobias, having an uncontrollable addiction to self-stimulatory behaviors and having a perceptual motor impairment that prevents people from being able to handwrite very well or do other activities. He seems to believe that the prognosis for those with autism, particularly the mild cases, is not hopeless, but I must disagree. Aside from the severe cases, people are afraid of autism because it is a problem, it makes lives of those and their loved ones quite difficult. I agree that it is a noble goal that he disputes the anti-vaccine crowd and speaks out against the biomed quackery and I commend him for it. As far as I can tell, Orac has no personal experience with autism whatsoever. He seems to have some unrealistic ideas about autism that come from having listened to the mistruths of so many members of the ND movement who read and comment on his blog. But there is another side to this story and I believe that Orac should listen to persons on the spectrum who are not neurodiverse. I hope that he will read my comments and at least think about them.

Of course, various neurodiversity spinmeisters who read his blog tried to refute what I said. One person named Pablo did not understand how I would complain about ND on one hand and also complain about being in special ed on the other. He has the false belief that ND is in favor of equal rights for persons with autism and want them to be educated with mainstream students. Pablo obviously does not know about Ari Ne'eman's and ASAN's activities in lobbying for full federal funding of the horrible IDEA law. This law helps parents pay for special education schools. So exactly the opposite is true. ND tries to lobby for special ed, at least some of them.

Another response from someone called Clare:

Ummm... since many of the self-same advocates are themselves mildly autistic, I think they are very well aware of the hardships... That said, I think you misinterpret Orac's point, which is that blanket characterizations of autism as a "frightening" condition are likely to dissuade parents from seeking realistic and effective medical advice (and interventions as and where appropriate), and instead drive them towards "therapies" that are ineffective and frankly dangerous

My dear Clare: I am very skeptical of the autism of many of those in the ND movement. Most of them allegedly have Asperger's and did not have the speech delay I had as a toddler. Even the one's claiming Asperger's I question whether they really are on the spectrum and I know many of them never went to special ed schools, were able to get married and in some cases make a good living. I don't believe most of them have had experiences like mine. If research could go ahead unimpeded then perhaps we could find real effective treatments or even a cure. But the ND's that Clare defends don't want this. They want to stop science research that will find the genetic and neurologic etiologies of autism that will lead to real treatments. Unless it is Laurent Mottron's research just done on high functioning autistics that just tries to prove how smart or how great autistics are. Until real answers are found many parents will become desperate and try quick fixes that might be dangerous and are of dubious value. The ND movement just helps propagate this by preventing legitimate treatments and cures from being found.

One person calling themselves Calli Arcale challenged me to tell Temple Grandin what I said, even though my problems are more severe than Grandin's. She (or he) also goes on to state that if certain people engage in fear mongering against autism, then people will spend money on chelation and other ineffective biomed treatments. They state that autism is manageable so, they can just do these manageable treatments rather than the biomed/DAN type treatments. I do not agree that autism is manageable. I do not believe there are any effective treatments and the prognosis for most persons with autism, even mild autism, is poor.

She goes on to state:

People get the idea that autistic people are monsters, and then they don't want to spend money to help them. They want to lock them away where they will not hurt the general public. That's what was done with autistic people a century ago. People were so afraid that they decided that these people were not really people, and that it would be okay to take away their rights to life, liberty, property, and self-determination.

jonathan, I think making "neurodiversity" a movement a la feminism has some of the same dangers that feminism itself has -- that is, it runs the risk of becoming a parody of its goal. That doesn't mean it's always wrong, nor does it mean that the basic idea isn't sound. Feminists are definitely known to go overboard; but women do deserve equal rights to men. Neurodiversity could eventually go too far as well; but that doesn't mean autistic people (and depressed people, and addicted people, and so on) aren't every bit as worthy as "normal" people.

You say that neurodiversity has had the opposite effect, that it has increased stigma -- could you elaborate, please? I'm not aware of any instances of this happening, especially since very people in the general public are even aware of the movement. (They're more aware of Age of Autism and such.)

Needless to say there are persons with autism who hit babies and commit crimes and even kill people as a direct result of their autism. That is not to say the majority of persons with autism are like that. But autism being a dangerous condition in at least some cases is certainly a reality. If anyone makes autistics look like absolute monsters it is those in the neurodiversity movement. From being sweared at by David Andrews, from having Clay Adams and Phil Gluyas insult my mother and write insulting name calling comments which I never post on here, and going to other blogs and ridiculing me and from the abusive and condescending remarks I had to endure from Alyric before she passed away. Not to mention the fact they teach teenage kids like sadder but wiser girl that people like me are like Jews who help Nazis murder other Jews and Ari Ne'eman claiming autism speaks is morally complicit with murder and the autism bitch from hell saying that persons like myself should be strangled to death and turned into cat food. This is the stigma that is created towards autistic people. This is one reason why I blog critical posts of neurodiversity. I feel they make us all look like monsters when most of us are not like that at all. With increased media coverage, particularly of Ari Ne'eman, there has been much greater awareness of neurodiversity and this will probably continue.

Comparing the woman's lib movement to ND is absurd. ND is not about equal rights. It is about denying persons the right to treatment and cures that might exist. It is about spreading propaganda like the autism no myths video staring Ari Ne'eman who claims that the prognosis for persons with autism is just fine when nothing is further from the truth.

So Orac and his ND followers get it wrong.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A quick resolution, but now what?

I see that the neurodiversity movement is once again patting themselves on the back for a victory in their latest cause celebre'. A blogger known as Club 166 has written about it
Apparently, there was a billboard on a sign in Pennsylvania put out by one of the chapters of the autism society there that read: If 1/150 children were kidnapped, we would have an emergency, we do autism. Predictably, club 166, and other members of ND took umbrage to this sign and wrote a letter protesting the sign to the autism chapter's president. Other members of the ND movement lead by no less than the August Ari Ne'eman, president of the autistic self-advocacy network, followed suit and also wrote protesting the sign. Previously about two years ago (or maybe a year and a half ago) Ne'eman and others lead a protest to have the famous ransom notes campaign ended. They were successful in this end. Interestingly, well-known ND blogger autism bitch from hell joined in the fray. This is a woman who apparently finds humor in saying that autistic persons such as myself who desire a cure should be strangled to death and turned into cat food, yet somehow finds a sign saying that autism is as bad as being kidnapped offensive, go figure.

The issue was quickly resolved, as Amy Wallace, the president of the chapter, wrote an apology letter to club 166 and the sign was removed. ND rejoiced in this great victory.

This sign was not even exactly like the ransom notes campaign which stated that autistic children were being held hostage. The sign just said if children were kidnapped it would be an emergency but did not say the autistic children were being kidnapped.

A victory for ND? Yes, I agree, it was. However, more importantly was this a victory for autistic persons and their families? I do not believe it was. If I remember correctly club 166's son is 9 years old-still not old enough to have faced all of the challenges that autism will impose when the person on the spectrum reaches adolescence and adulthood. What does club 166 really know about the adolescence angst of rejection? What does he know of being fired from multiple jobs and not being able to make a living. These scenarios for his son "buddy boy" when he is older are certainly not implausible. How will having get rid of this billboard help "buddy boy" to have a decent life, with friends, a decent education, a job. How will it make a difference in his life. Will he be able to function in society properly? Will he be able to have hobbies and do the things he wants?

I will admit, I don't know anything about buddy boy's clinical picture, so I will talk about something more generic. What of even relatively high functioning (mildly) autistic children, who can't even get through kindergarten and get in trouble for breaking crayons and not being able to pay attention to the teacher, only to have to repeat kindergarten? I know of one case of this, as the mother of a boy who had this recently happen to her son had written me and my mother about this. I met this boy. He is 6, has mild problems compared to many autistic children. I wonder though about his self-esteem at having to repeat kindergarten. How will this help high functioning people who have trouble managing their affairs, paying their bills, having independent living skills. How will it help them behaviorally if they can't keep quiet in a movie theatre and disturb other patrons? I know of one autistic child who did this. How will it help one person who was kicked out of our autism group because he could not control untoward sexual advances towards persons who came to the meeting?

These are all relatively mild cases of autism that I have talked about above. What of the severely autistic persons, those who can't speak, and pound their heads into cement. How will removing this billboard help them?

If neurodiversity is really about human rights and dignity, if it is about helping autistics achieve their full potential and this is the best they can do I believe it is rather pathetic.

Is this a victory for autistic people. I believe not. We have had a quick resolution to the problem of the sign, but now what?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Neurodiversity refuted once more

One of the arguments that the neurodiversity movement makes against curing autism or against spending money on research with the intent of curing autism rather than curing AIDS or cancer is that AIDS and cancer and other normally fatal diseases kill people. They state that autism is okay because autism does not kill people it would seem once again neurodiversity gets it wrong.

Many members of the neurodiversity movement expressed outrage when Katie McCarron was sensely murdered by her mother and I agree with them rightfully so. However, they basically blamed autism speaks and indirectly blamed people (myself included) who wanted a cure for autism for Katie's horrible murder. I wonder if any tears will be shed by ND for Ryan Barrett who will not live to see his 15th birthday because of autism. Somehow I don't think so. I will admit one exception to this general rule was Ari Ne'eman expressing condolences at Ashley Brock's drowning in a comment on Ginger Taylor's Adventures in autism blog. Other than that, I don't know of a single example where a member of the ND community was not outraged by the senseless death of an autistic child who was killed by their autism per se, rather than being murdered by a disturbed parent or caretaker.

Though a tragedy like this makes me guffaw even more at the ND movement, I will resist the temptation to blame neurodiversity for Ryan Barrett's untimely demise. I don't want to lower myself to their level.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Yet another adult Asperger's memoir

In what would seem to be a rather weary if not cliched genre, I see that yet another person with Asperger's, not diagnosed until very late in life has joined the August company of John Elder Robison, Liane Wiley, Michael John Carley in penning a memoir describing what it is like to have Asperger's. As is the case with his three predecessors, Tim Page is also someone atypical of someone with an autism spectrum disorder in that he has been a hugely successful music critic and a pulitzer prize winning writer. Though I concede one can't judge a book by its cover (another cliche I admit) I don't think I will be reading this book, as I don't think he is someone I can resonate with, whom if he can be a pulitzer prize winning writer, most likely does not have problems of the magnitude of mine. I can still remember in the pre-Asperger's days when Temple Grandin and David Miedzianik were the only two persons in the world with ASD's who had written autobiographical books. Robison has spoken for all persons with Asperger's saying a cure is not needed under any circumstance. Michael Carley has gone a bit further than Robison stating the old neurodiversity piece of propaganda that most persons on the autism spectrum don't wish a cure. Most troublesome of all, at least at one time, Wiley stated that autism should be celebrated on her web page, though I think she may have changed that. Tragically, her book was given a shameless plug in the movie Adam. I still wonder if there will ever be a person on the spectrum who will write a memoir about how adverse their life is. How they went to special ed schools, and were unable to work or find a romantic relationship. I know this sounds familiar, but personally I probably would not have an interest in writing a complete memoir. I did write a short (nonpublished) nonfiction book about some of my takes in autism which consisted of 10 chapters. One of the chapters is my essay in which I attempt to refute the diagnosis of various persons claimed to be autistic, so I suppose I could claim my book is one-tenth self-published. The rest of the book would need major overhaul to be of publishable quality and I sort of crashed and burned on the project. Even if I had a book ready for submission anyplace, I don't think I would have much of a chance of having it published.

A few years ago Page wrote an essay of his own about his Asperger's and childhood which was published in the New Yorker. In this essay he describes a rather tumultuous childhood with discipline problems in school, poor grades and having some children bully him. This was apparently a regular mainstream school. Page then describes his ascension to adulthood becoming a successful writer and editor of various periodicals. He is vague in the essay as to how he so easily made the transition from troubled child to successful adult. He is told by someone in the year 2000 (well in his 40s) that he has Asperger's syndrome. He is vague as to whether he was actually diagnosed by a clinician.

To Page's credit, he admits that others with AS are not as fortunate as he is and some of them end up institutionalized or were transients near where he lived in New York.

Though he does not state an opinion about the neurodiversity movement, he does mention its existence as well as discuss Aspies for Freedom as one example of some people who regard AS as a difference not needing a cure.

I do not know if Mr. Page is married as are his three predecessor memoirists in this fast growing genre.

Well, I think I will pass on Page's book, but I suppose not everyone will feel the way I do. I don't know how successful Carley's and Wiley's books were, but I know Robison's was a best seller. I suppose there must be people who want to read about successful persons with Asperger's since the genre seems to keep growing exponentially.

Monday, August 10, 2009

a new interesting petition from neurodiversity

I have just come across a new interesting online petition from some people who apparently don't like autism speaks. The petition is entitled. Autism Speaks is a Joke.

You might realize the code to eventually be able to abort autistic births for the sake of health care costs but i say it's still barbaric. We are not puzzle
peices nor a reason to be cured. Cureing should be reserved for bad things. There is nothing bad about Autism it makes us special, smarter, proof of great things... etc. How dare anyone would assume different. How normal do you have to be to live in this world? Such a company will unleash murder of anyone who isn't functioning like a person should and that died out with Hitler years ago. Do we want to be the next abu dhabi injustice?!
Be careful how you put things across or it could backfire!!

On another part of the site the petition is explained.

We the undersigned beg you to reconsider your idea of how to deal with or talk about Autism/economy. Please make abortion illigal just in case and keep an eye on how word spreads.

Interestingly enough these people say that cures should only be for bad things. They claim that not being able to make a living, meeting your significant other, not being able to speak, not being able to get a decent education in a regular school setting, behaving in disruptive fashion, having self-injurious behaviors that can permanently cripple a person, being at risk for being run over by a car or killed, having phobias, having uncontrollable self-stimulations, not being able to engage in goal directed activities, having motor impairments that prevent you from being able to handwrite properly, not having friends and in some cases being violent, in some cases committing crimes is not a bad thing.

They also state the old cliche about autism making someone superior instead of handicapped.It would seem that in this person's case autism did not make them smarter. Check out the rhetoric, particularly the spelling of 'illegal'. If this is an example of of someone who was made smarter or superior by autism, I would hate to see someone for whom autism was not a gift from God. I would think in addition to wanting a cure for autism whoever wrote this petition would want a cure for illiteracy as well since they do not seem terribly literate from what they wrote on the petition.

It is old propaganda, the abortion shtick and the equating those of us who wish a cure to being nazis. And the old reaction-formation induced assertion that autism is great, a gift that makes people superior instead of handicapped. So far, they have 5 signatures, they want 1,000, so only 995 to go until they reach their goal.

Though I do not agree with the body of the petition, I do agree with the title. Autism speaks is a joke. They have given a grant of half a million dollars recently to the infamous Laurent Mottron, a medical doctor who doubles as a researcher and states that autism is not harmful, it is not a dysfunction but merely a difference and states that curing autism is nonsensical and instead of trying to find ways to help persons with autism uses the huge amount of research funding he receives to prove how smart and how great autistic people are. Though his research subjects are most likely made up of mostly very high functioning persons with autism. Given that this man and his sidekicks, Morton Gernsbacher and Michelle Dawson, are the darlings of the ND movement, I would think they would be delighted with AS rather than rebuking them. I think AS has $20 million in assets designated for scientific funding. So, 2.5% of their funding goes to a neurodiversity concern. Autism speaks also funds research into thimerosal in spite of all the evidence against it causing autism, has Sally Bernard on their board of directors, spends tons of money on advertising claiming that if insurance reform is implemented this will enable autistic children to have playdates and friends, has a campaign encouraging people to hire autistics as employees in the workplace, yet not employing a single person with autism in their organization, not even as a minimum wage file clerk, and apparently has collaborated with William Stillman in their school package, a self-diagnosed Asperger's person, who claims that autism was created by divine providence and without any formal qualifications and credentials, charges $100 an hour for a phone consultation for an autistic child. Stillman also states that in 5-10 years the autism prevalence will be 1/10. Their president, Mark Rothmeier, not long ago stated that autism affected 1.5 million children. After Michelle Dawson pointed out this error using data culled from the epidemiological literature on autism as well as recent U.S. population statistics, the word children was edited out of the article. To borrow from Richard Nixon, AS gave Dawson the sword and she stuck it in and twisted it with relish.

Indeed a great title for a petition! So sad that the body of the petition was such cliched nonsense written by someone not terribly literate who would have the actual audacity to claim that autism makes people superior and/or gifted. Of course this might have been someone quite young who wrote this, as we see from one post I recently wrote that for certain reasons, neurodiversity attempts to proselytize those who are as young and naive as possible.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Will neurodiversity diagnose George Sodini with autism?

Last night, Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern daylight savings time, a man entered a gym in the vicinity of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. He walked into a room where a "Latin impact" aerobics class was being held. He turned out the lights and drew a gun out of his gym bag. He started shooting, killing three women and then killing himself. This story is already getting media attention. Apparently, the man was frustrated by the fact that he was 48 years old and had not had a girlfriend for a long time. In fact he kept a detailed online diary describing his frustrations and his plan to go out and kill some women at some point; apparently revenge for being rejected so much. Looking at the diary we see his occupation was a software designer, a job that Simon Baron-Cohen, Temple Grandin and others have claimed requires autistic traits. The same thing that Bill Gates who has been diagnosed with autism by some members of the ND community has done. Sodini had written:

The biggest problem of all is not having relationships or friends, but not being able to achieve and acquire what I desire in those or many other areas," said an entry dated Sunday. "Everthing stays the same regardless of the effert I put in. If I had control over my life then I would be happier. But for about the past 30 years, I have not."

Sound familiar? Well, this is someone with computer skills and social impairments who was frustrated by celibacy. Perhaps neurodiversity could diagnose him with autism as they have diagnosed Bill Gates. I know, I've been there as have many others including David Miedzianik who has written about it. Of course, most persons who suffer from loneliness regardless of whether or not they are autistic will not go out on a shooting spree, but it is frustrating. This man was clearly deranged. He may or may not have had an autism spectrum disorder, but I feel in order to be fair neurodiversity should take the bad with the good. If they are going to preach about what a gift autism is and say that Bill Gates, Stephen Spielberg, Einstein, Jefferson, etc. prove that autism is such a gift because these individuals have or had it, why not say that Sodini may have been autistic also.

Neurodiversity in fact has done the opposite. While I concede that in general persons with autism and/or Asperger's are for the most part law abiding citizens who are more likely to be victims of crimes rather than criminals themselves, there are a small subset of persons with autism spectrum disorders who do commit sometimes violent crimes as part of their disorder. This has been written about in the studies of Murrie and Barry-Walsh who wrote about some case studies of persons with Asperger's who had committed various crimes, such as sexual assault, arson, etc. and talked about the feasibility of an insanity defense of these people based on their diagnosis of Asperger's. Ari Ne'eman has used these studies to try to show that persons with autism do not commit crimes. We can see from his statements that Ne'eman has either never read the studies he quotes from or is deliberately misrepresenting them. I have written about this in a previous post.

Neurodiversity claims to be about human rights. Apparently the main right that they fight for and feel people are violating, is their right not to hear autism being described as a bad thing, autistics being described as flawed or bad employees or being any sort of an affliction. They are abusive to me and other autistics who dare to publicly say they hate autism and wish there were a cure. But what about my right, to lead my life the way I want, to think and feel the way I want and my first amendment rights of free speech on the internet or elsewhere? It seems that ND wants to deprive me and others who feel as I do of those rights. Assuming that armchair diagnoses can be made of Bill Gates and others why not of George Sodini? Whose rights will ND violate next? The family members of those killed by Sodini who want to feel that autism is a bad thing because it may have indirectly killed their loved ones?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Should autistics wear a sign around their necks?

I have read an interesting story about some persons with an autistic child who were given a hard time by their neighbors. They filed complaints claiming that the child may have been a menace of some sort and he might come out with his father's firearm. The father, a commercial airline pilot, is required to have a firearm as part of his work due to 9/11 and part of the homeland security act. They tried to get a court injunction to get these neighbors to stay on their driveway. They called 911 on the people when the man stepped out to talk to another father about his autistic son being picked on by another boy in the neighborhood. They have reported these parents to child protective services. They called the airline where the father worked and complained about him. All of these complaints were unsubstantiated and dropped.

The solution to this problem was to post a sign on the street warning people that there was an autistic child in the neighborhood. I am not sure what this is supposed to accomplish. Apparently, there was a lot of notoriety revolving around the case and all the people in the neighborhood know that he is autistic. It seems that having the sign in the neighborhood would be bad for the child and the family as there would be a certain stigma attached to it. How having a sign there would benefit the child, the neighbors or anyone else who may happen to drive or walk on that street in an apparently isolated residential area is beyond me.

One devil's advocate argument that could be made is that autistic children often have problems with elopement. Some of them have drowned or been run over by cars, etc. But sometimes typical children play in the street also. I know of one typical child in my neighborhood who was hit by a car at age 4. I also remember from my youth signs, saying "children at play" on one or two streets. Certainly a sign like this could be put up rather than the sign singling out the autistic child and the same result would occur.

However, there may be something I am missing. Perhaps there is some other reason to warn people about an autistic person. If that is the case why stop at having a sign in the child's neighborhood. Why not require the child (or possibly even adult) to wear a sign around their neck saying, "Caution, I am autistic (or Asperger's), I may do something bad". They are not going to just be confined to their neighborhood. They will end up going out into the world. Regardless of whether they just stay on the street where they live or go out to places, autism will cause them and the people around them some sort of problems. Prejudicial attitudes won't be just confined to one's own neighborhood. So what of the idea that autistics should be required to wear a sign around their neck at all times. After all at one time people with leprosy had to wear a warning sign and shout "unclean" when approaching persons not afflicted with the disease. Diabetics and epileptics wear medic-alert bracelets to warn people. Of course Leprosy, epilepsy and diabetes are quite different from autism since Leprosy is an infectious disease which was contagious (and at one time incurable) and diabetics can go into an insulin-induced coma and persons with epilepsy can have seizures and be rendered unconscious.

Disclosure is given as a quick fix solution to some of the problems of autistics, claiming that for the autistic who wants to make a living and not be fired or have problems with the employer that they should be upfront with their employer (or prospective employer) about the disability and then there won't be problems on the job. As this has not been the case with me, Stephanie Keil or Michelle Dawson (all three of us have lost jobs in spite of disclosure) and others that I know, I really don't think disclosure works. If we teach acceptance, the NT world will learn to tolerate differences and autism won't be a problem, at least according to neurodiversity. In fact, I remember something autism diva wrote someplace (though I don't have the link handy) that neurodiversity was about getting people like Rick Rollens to stop calling autistics "train wrecks" or "toxic waste dumps" and Jon Shestack to stop saying they are "empty shells", then employers will be more inclined to hire persons with autism.

I sort of worry about what might happen in light of this neighborhood sign. I can't think of how humiliating and degrading it would be if autistic children (and adults) were required to wear some sort of sign around their necks. Simple solutions to hard problems like autism are always tempting; however, I hope that neither I nor anyone else will ever be forced to wear a sign around our neck.