Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Autism and Being a Responsible Citizen

The picture shows a group of people. Various ages, genders, ethnicities. It represents any group of autistic people in this example.

You may have been expecting a younger boy, with a rather sullen expression and a tendency to play computers and be wildly behaved, or geeky?  Or a teenager or young adult of similar type?  Yes, Society invented a myth about what autism looks like.

It also invented myths about how responsible we are as fellow inhabitants of this beautiful earth.

We see it mirrored in some press and web reporting.  The stereotypical male is produced. 
 We will be told that he is a tragedy, or a criminal.  Well, unless he has heroically overcome these mythical only-two-states-available, and is now a genius or an inspiration.

It is as bizarre as imagining that all the people in that photo were just like that.

Autistic people are not aliens. We are people. People of all kinds. All genders. All ages. All intelligence levels. All backgrounds. All faiths and no faith.  Just like other people... and we are also autistic . Autism is a different social communication method, a different logic based understanding of the world. Often hugely creative and great seekers of social justice and fairness, most are desperate to follow rules and get things right.  Our brains take in and process too much information from the world around us. Sometimes that is a beautiful thing to experience. Sometimes intensely painful if we are not able to recover between sensory overloads. Nothing whatsoever in the diagnostic lists links to crime.

Some autistic people end up in trouble with the law. I and my fellow trainers have had the honour of training hundreds of Police, Court Judges and similar, for many years. We have had endless conversations with them, and with autistic people who have ended up a encountering the criminal justice system.

Nearly all such autistic people are victims. Targeted for sexual assault, for fraud, for stalking, for bullying, for every crime imaginable.

Some autistic people are wrongly arrested for behaving in erratic ways during a brain event, which is not a criminal act.

Some are wrongly arrested because their behaviour looked criminal, but was actually just autistic , e.g. using touch to find out who a person is. Why use touch? Because some of us are faceblind and cannot see faces, so while young, may have attempted to feel who it was.  As a Blind child would. Some may have mistaken a social rule, and been then accused of stalking. Various examples of mistakes exist. Some utterly tragic.

Some are actual criminals. No more likely than is the case for others. We know this from good research. Research that is there for all to see.

So, what is happening when we see report after report in some places, linking us with crime? 

I do not know. But I do know that e.g. gay people also can face unwarranted accusations of general criminality. I know that some People of Colour face such accusations also. For many years’ women were seen as too hysterical and incompetent to hold important roles. As a society, we have accused all sorts of groups of hugely unfair things over the years. Different? You must be a criminal...

Well, no. Actual criminals are highly unlikely to be autistic.

It is time to acknowledge that most autistic people are responsible, gentle, sensible people who exist peacefully and lawfully amongst us. Many are people of the highest integrity. All are worthy of a place in a world, free of false stigma. Bringing caring, friendship, passionate expertise, honesty of expression, and diligence. 

Thank you for reading.