I see there is an interesting new article from Morton Gernsbacher and two of her friends. This article deals with a rather unoriginal and cliched topic, the lack of visibility of autistic adults. This is nothing new in fact I wrote a piece dealing with this issue about eight years ago, in which I bemoaned the fact that the existence of autistic adults is largely ignored. In addition to Gernsbacher, one of the authors is Bev Harp, a well-known neurodiversity ideologue and at least one time part of that unsavory clique of neurodiversity bloggers called "the autism hub". The third author is one Jennifer L. Stevensonwho apparently until recently was a graduate student at the university of Wisconsin who studied under Gernsbacher.
Though Gernsbacher(and by extension one of her grad students)is not one of my favorite people, she and the other two authors do bring up some valid points about how autistic adults and some of the problems we have is largely ignored and how the problems of childhood are portrayed by the media. They neglect to bring up the fact that perhaps one reason adults are ignored is that no one wants to acknowledge the poor prognosis that most of us will have. This is especially true for neurodiversity proponents such as Gernsbacher and company.
They trivialize what is a very bad disability by claiming that terms such as "suffering from" is belittling language. Yes, I suffer from autism, it is not belittling I really do have this disability and suffer from it every day. Only one of the three authors (Ms. Harp) alleges to have autism and she apparently is someone extremely high functioning who was able to enroll in a social work graduate program, so certainly the fact that many of us do suffer tremendously from this brain disease is certainly an abstraction to these individuals.
Autistic children are further mythologized to lack awareness of their situations and surroundings; indeed, the very idea that they might be embarrassed or offended by being used as pawns in pity-driven fundraising campaigns is often dismissed by the very parents who consider themselves autism "advocates." Children, therefore, present the face of choice for virtually all autism support societies and most autism charities.
I am indeed impressed by the omniscience of Gernsbacher, Stevenson and Harp in knowing that autistic children (every one of them) is embarrassed by the use of their images in "pity-driven" fundraising. No, it is not possible that these people are trying to get help for their severely sick and crippled kids. It does not matter that the neurodiversity movement used the murder of Katie McCarron and the dumb remarks made by Allison Singer about driving off a bridge with her kid as pawns in their crusade to express their hatred and lies and propaganda, claiming that those of us who wish a cure for ourselves or our offspring are somehow responsible for murder.
They go on to cite Brugha's flawed study for proof that there are equal numbers of autistic adults to autistic children. I believe it is possible that autistic adults exist in the same numbers of persons born in more recent birth years, but admittedly definitive proof is lacking and may not be feasible to acquire. One must remember the old cliche about looking for a needle in a haystack.
They go on to cite the dismal prospects of most autistic adults (both future and present), certainly ironic in light of decrying the use of pity in fundraising.
Most concerning of all to this blogger, is their comments about autism in the workplace. They talk of "Jack", an autistic man whom they state is an efficient computer technician. In spite of Jack's skill in a rather marketable profession, he "loses out" on various jobs due to inappropriate attire, inability to look people in the eye and reticence in interviews.
They write the concerning statement:
Employers lack the knowledge and resources to support an employee like Jack. They have, after all, like the rest of contemporary society, been inundated with rhetoric asserting that autistic children must either be cured or suffer a lifetime as unemployable burdens. Rarely has the alternative—a capable autistic adult needing appropriate workplace supports—been presented. Scarce resources will not be directed toward such an unidentified need.
As someone who spent many years struggling in the workplace and suffering from these problems first-hand, I believe I have some knowledge about this and I wonder how capable Jack truly is and assuming so, if there are any supports that will be helpful to him or make a difference in his employability. I am certain this is not the case for myself. That part of my problem was an inability to do a job as competently as a nonhandicapped person due to my own disability. I am certainly skeptical that Gernsbacher and colleagues really have valid answers.
I seem to remember Bev Harp had some sort of job, prior to studying social work, but what of Gernsbacher and Stevenson? Do they have the knowledge to support someone like Jack? Gernsbacher's professions have been high school teacher and then college professor. She has lived in a lifetime in an ivory tower with essentially no practical business experience. From looking at Stevenson's website, she is an extremely young (probably no older than 30) graduate student who as recently as 2002 was a college undergraduate. As far as I can tell she has no real work or world experience outside of academic psychology. They claim that no cure is needed for Jack and if employers would somehow accommodate his disability he would be fine. Based on my own experiences in the workplace I am certainly skeptical of this. I don't believe inappropriate attire would make a difference for a computer tech. If he were highly skilled reticence in interviews would make no difference. In the days when I was applying for work as a medical transcriptionist, I was rarely asked extensive interview questions, but prospective employers were interested in assessing my skill for the job. While it is true, that some employers might have prejudices against Jack due to some quirks, if he were truly a competent computer tech, he would be able to work someplace. I did keep a number of transcription jobs for fair amounts of time. Though I suffered some discrimination in the workplace, competence was certainly an issue in my case.
They also speak of an autistic woman named "Jill" who loses jobs due to making "animal noises" in meetings with clients. They go on to claim that the employer should completely overlook Jill's behavior, no matter how disruptive it is. Of course, we have heard this before from Ari Ne'eman, who at 21 years of age and never having had paid employment in his life stated that social pleasantry should be eliminated as a criteria for evaluating people for hiring or ability to do a good job. It is quite clear that these three authors (certainly Gernsbacher and Stevenson) are equally naive about the minutiae in the workplace as Ne'eman.
While I am somewhat gratified these three have brought attention to the lack of visibility of autistic adults, I don't believe it is helpful for them to claim people who want to help themselves or their children are invoking in pity as if it were a bad thing. I think it is even less helpful for them to propose simplistic quick fixes in the workplace for adults with autism, when they themselves have so little experience in the real working world.