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.


jonathan said...

Yes Roger, after I wrote the post I thought the same thing you did. This was not actually an essay the senator wrote but allegedly excerpts from a speech he made at a university. This came from a disabilities related blog as you can see from the link. The whole shtick does sound like neurodiversity propaganda and I wonder if the posthumous diagnosis of turing right after dawson and cowen's piece is a coincidence. It does sound like ND propaganda and I am now somewhat skeptical the senator actually said these things.

K said...

Helen Keller was once asked by a newspaper reporter if she could imagine any disability worse than lack of sight. She replied, “Yes,” there is something worse. “Lack of vision.”

I'm wondering Jonathan, how would you respond to Helen Keller?

jonathan said...

I guess I would say having metaphorical vision might be nice but it does not help you if some mean person rearranged the furniture in your house.

Anonymous said...

Are you more disabled than Helen Keller was? That seems to always be your argument against others, that they can't possibly understand you reasoning because your more disabled. Do you think you are more disabled than Helen Keller was?

Stephanie said...

"Helen Keller was once asked by a newspaper reporter if she could imagine any disability worse than lack of sight. She replied, “Yes,” there is something worse. “Lack of vision."

I have to say that I really like that quote. I know Jonathan probably doesn't but I find it inspiring.

Jake Crosby said...

The ending where Vernon Smith is quoted says it all:

“We’ve lost a lot of the barriers that have to do with skin color and various other characteristics. But there’s still not sufficient recognition of mental diversities.” He adds, “We don’t all have to think alike to be communal and to live in a productive and satisfying world.”

This is the most ridiculous thing of all: equating mental disabilities not only to diversity but to thinking differently from other people.

I have an Autism Spectrum Disorder, but that has nothing to do with my thinking differently from others. In fact, it impedes my ability to think differently by making it harder for me to express my thoughts, not to mention those with Classic Autism who can barely express themselves, if at all.

Stephanie said...

I'll always know what profound autism is first hand because my cousin has it. He is more severe than anyone here so you all should be thankful that you are not as nearly as severe as he. If you've ever read Casdok's blog about her son, that is along the same line as my cousin: almost and adult but still non-verbal, occasionally violent, etc.

Even if I do have HFA no one can ever claim that I don't know what profound autism is because I do. I definitely wish that he and others like him were cured but that won't happen in his lifetime. So, in the meantime, I know his family do what they can and love him regardless.

Stephanie said...

Here's a new book for you:

"Empowered Autism Parenting" by William Stillman

Isn't Stillman the same loon that wrote "Autism and the God Connection" and "The Soul of Autism"?

Those books border on psychotic so I expect this one is no different.

jonathan said...

Yes, he is one and the same, I have not read his books, but read his blog and have commented about him in a previous blog post, though I don't have the link handy it deals with his prediction that autism prevalence will be 1/10 persons in five to ten years from now. A self-diagnosed person with Asperger's who charges people $100 an hour just to consult on the telephone. The man is a piece of work indeed.