Blog Post #4 – Autistic Adults & Representation

Robertson’s article focuses on how autism is depicted as a deficit rather than a form of human diversity. He calls looking through the lens of human diversity the “neurodiversity perspective,” which is influenced by societal diversity in other areas such as religion, gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity. This perspective also supports the emphasis of the strengths and talents of autistic individuals rather than the things that they tend to have trouble with. Robertson discusses eight “Core Domains of Quality of Life” and what we can do to enhance these for people with autism, seeing that we live in a society designed for non-autistic individuals that very well “contributes to, and exacerbates, many of the daily living challenges that autistic people experience.”

I agree with Robertson that a collaborative approach is necessary in order to do this, in which there are partnerships formed with autistic people who have directly experienced these situations and the best ways to navigate them. Who better to explain and promote change than those who have put up with these challenges? And as sad as it is, many autistic adults no longer have their parents fighting for them, and in society parents are often the fuel for the fire when it comes to innovation. The same goes for media and literature about autism. I think the absence of autistic adults in media and literature also often results from the focus on stories and issues involving children simply in order to generate a bigger and broader audience: parents, families, teachers, health professionals, and so on. Let’s be honest – who doesn’t care about the well-being of innocent children? Adults, on the other hand, become invisible, unless they are those “high-functioning” and/or “Aspergian” autistic adults, such as Amanda Baggs, who can also attract an audience.

I found this commerical about Autism Awareness, ignoring autistic adults:

This commercial introduces autism as a complex neurological disorder that affects a child for the rest of his or her life. That is the closest it comes to addressing adulthood – the rest of the commercial shows groups of cute children in black and white, and rambles off facts and numbers about autistic children. It ends by saying that we need to “do something” about autism, and having each child say individually, “for me!” – “for me!” – “for me!” and so on.  The message here seems to be that we need to “do everything we can” about autism for these autistic children, leaving out the sake of adults who are affected by the same exact “disorder.” There are no facts or numbers mentioned about adults, or how autism can affect these children once they reach adulthood.

All in all, I think Robertson is right – there needs to be a shift of focus by research and professional communities, starting with the study of the quality of life for autistic adults in order to create resources that would ultimately give adults with autism more respect, support, interaction, and hopefully, happiness.


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