Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Thank you for doing the right thing

“To publish an article without talking to people with autism … what were you thinking? On the other hand, it’s the norm!” — Landon Bryce to Alice G. Walton, related by Alice G. Walton

A post in my Twitter timeline raised a serious concern: a Forbes.com contributor had written about adults with autism but didn’t quote any adults with autism.

I read the article by Alice G. Walton and I shared the author of the post’s concern.

I didn’t dispute some of the concerns that were addressed in Walton’s article: about our prognosis for employment or the ability to live independently.

Walton cites Jim Ball of the Autism Society saying that a majority of young adults and adults with autism live at home with their parents.

A fact sheet prepared by the University of Missouri Health System’s Disability Policy and Studies School of Health Professions that accompanies Walton’s article states that in 2009, the percent of young adults with autism who had a job was nearly half that of all young adults with disabilities, 33 percent versus 59 percent.

My experiences corroborated that these were valid things to be concerned about: my underdeveloped social skills made employment difficult when I lived in the Bay Area.

At the time, I had no diagnosis with which to understand my challenges nor to know that I was not alone.

I am grateful today that a Record-Bee editor was willing to take a chance and hire me 14 years ago. I feel very thankful that I perform work that benefits the community.

I worry that I may not be able to successfully apply for another job.

I worry too about what would happen to me if I lost the supports that are provided by my family. I benefit from my husband serving as mediator between me and and the people around me: explaining those aspects of human behavior that I do not understand.

But there is a difference between talking statistically about an entire group of people and attempting to portray direct experience.

And, of course, there’s the other side of autism: the gifts as well as the challenges. I attribute my creativity, lack of pretense and the kinship I feel for my cats to my place on the autism continuum.

I would like to credit Walton with responding to feedback that she received to the article. This weekend I viewed a follow-up piece in which she profiles several people on the autism spectrum. They are John Scott Holman, Ari Ne’Eman, Bridget Allen, Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg, John Elder Robison and Kassiane Sibley. A couple of these people are known to me and five have Twitter accounts.

I want to speak up about situations that I view as unfair. But I believe it even more important to acknowledge when someone does the right thing.

Thank you, Alice G. Walton, for correcting the omission of our perspectives from your earlier piece about adults with autism.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Robust debate and even unusual opinions are encouraged, but please stay on-topic and be respectful. Comments are subject to review for personal attacks or insults, discriminatory statements, hyperlinks not directly related to the discussion and commercial spam.