The United Nations reports that discrimination against the autistic is the rule, not the exception. Discrimination isn’t always about open prejudice or bigotry, but more often about a lack of understanding, acceptance or knowledge. These must change, and this is what Autism Citizen is here to do – to educate about autism.
“It is only the ignorant who despise education.” – Publius Syrus, 42 B.C.
Recently, Dr. Dainius Pūras as Special Rapporteur of the United Nations said: “Autistic persons should be respected, accepted and valued in our societies, and this can only be achieved by respecting, protecting and fulfilling their basic rights and freedoms.”
To this wise and thoughtful sentiment, we add that accomplishing acceptance can only be achieved through education. Dr. Pūras also said “Autistic persons are particularly exposed to professional approaches and medical practices which are unacceptable from a human rights point of view.”
We concur. To demonstrate this, most family practice medical doctors do not have much training in autism. As it’s a neurological disorder, unless they did extensive study of neurology, they’re unlikely to have sufficient skills to perform a proper diagnosis. Worse than this, many doctors, in many fields of medicine do not know how to interact with an autistic patient.
When the patient is a child or teen, often a parent is present to assist, but in patients with severe autism, where they may be non-verbal or non-auditory, or institutionalized, how does a doctor understand the patient’s ailments or complaint? Unless there’s a visible condition or something that triggers attention of others, the doctor will not know and thus may incorrectly or inadequately treat the patient.
In some patients with autism, touching them can have odd reactions, ranging from uncontrollable giggling to violent response. Without a full understanding of autism, doctors cannot treat the patient properly. Yet despite this, basic training for autism for people in the medical profession is limited.
Within the practice of law, things are far worse. The autistic person is seven times more likely to engage with police in their lifetime, yet there are insufficient numbers of trained attorneys world-wide to deal with their condition. In New Jersey, where we are based, we have the highest percentage of diagnosed cases of autism, yet out of our 41,000 lawyers, only 8 are properly trained. If an autistic citizen needs an attorney in New Jersey or anywhere else, they’re out of luck.
Public defenders fare no better; nor do prosecutors or judges. Thus when an autistic person is called into court for any reason, they have a very high chance of being misunderstood, mistreated and misjudged. Studies have shown that between 2005 and 2011, the number of teens under 18 who engaged with police more than doubled. These are alarming figures as police and the courts are not necessarily aware of the nature of autism.
Discrimination isn’t limited to these professions, but also to businesses, as well as government. Without a doubt, discrimination results from a lack of knowledge, prejudice comes from both a lack of knowledge and hatred. Education can end both.
Join our effort to educate. It won’t end the discrimination, but it will turn the tide to make it the exception, not the rule.