Here are some things I've witnessed over the past week. One scenario is made up. Can you spot the fake?
1) I’m on my way out to dinner with a friend. We are talking about general stuff, or she is, politics, work, the weather. Suddenly, out of nowhere, in reference to a conversation from the previous day, I hear that “some autistic people just can’t function in the real world”. Don’t I understand that such people may have to be institutionalized?
2) In a work setting, four of us are discussing ways to help people with disabilities find employment. A presentation I’m working on comes up; it concerns autism and employment. Services for adults are scarce, we all agree. Someone interjects that the main issue regarding autism is “finding out what causes it”.
3) In class this week, we are discussing ethical dilemmas that might occur in the practice of social work. All members of the class are seniors and will soon graduate with social work degrees. One student describes an event at her practicum agency, concluding with the statement, “I felt like such a retard”.
4) At the grocery store, a mother and son are in front of me in line. The son is pacing and counting to himself, not causing any trouble. He seems to be around ten years old. The mom sees me looking at him, leans toward me, and whispers, "he’s autistic”. I understand she is used to being judged, and does not necessarily mean to indicate that this is a terrible secret. I tell her I am autistic, too. She glares at me, pulls her son closer, and whirls around to face the front of the store.
5) I am working on a paper with an autism professional I know. In the first paragraph, she describes a time early in her career when an autistic man explained to her why he found person-first language inappropriate to discussions of autism. “I am an autistic man”, he told her. She goes on to talk about how other autistic people she knows are helping her to learn more about respect and self-determination. Throughout this same paper, she has used the term “person with autism” no less than twenty times.