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People with Autism Should be Accepted and Respected



There should be true worldwide acceptance and therefore better treatment of people with autism. All too often, people with autism are marginalized and not allowed to reach their true potential because the world was not built for them. Neurotypical individuals (people who do not have autism) built the world for neurotypical people. Hence, they can be very judgmental about people with autism and individuals with other differences.


Autism has become a common developmental disability. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, currently, one in 36 children is identified with this condition (exact numbers vary, because the autism rate has more than tripled in recent decades.). Autism is marked by difficulties with social communication and by repetitive behavior or interests.


Autism is almost four times more common among boys than girls. Women are underdiagnosed and/or might not be diagnosed with autism until they are middle-aged. Autism can manifest itself very differently, depending on the person. For example, climate change activist Greta Thunberg (who is the youngest TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year) and some non-verbal people all have autism. Treatments, but not cures, for autism exist.


People should always accept individuals with this condition. Autism Acceptance Month, which occurs every April, is an autism awareness campaign begun in the 1970s that provides an opportunity to better understand autism. In 2021, the terminology changed from “awareness” to “acceptance.” Th is new terminology is crucial because it is not enough to just know about autism; people need to accept others with autism and understand their capabilities.


Society should include people with autism and other conditions in all facets of life. One key method is employment, which can increase the quality of life of people with autism. People with autism can be 140% more productive at work than workers without autism and can be valuable to their co-workers. They may understand complex systems, independently focus on tasks, and can be reliable and loyal.


Although 35 percent of people with autism go to college, just 15 percent of individuals with autism with college degrees are employed. Even when people succeed in school and could make meaningful contributions as valuable workers, they can still struggle in getting meaningful employment. People with autism have higher unemployment rates than people with disabilities in general.


These negative employment outcomes can cause even greater problems, especially related to mental health. People with autism can be especially vulnerable to the harmful emotional consequences of unemployment. Perhaps as a result of general marginalization by society, it is not surprising that people with autism are more socially isolated, have higher rates of depression, and are at much higher risk of suicide, compared to the general population.


The following are tips about how to relate to people with autism:


DO:


  • Accept them – People are born with autism. Th us, they have autism through no fault of their own.

  • Meet them where they are (which is key to social work).

  • Use a strength-based approach (which is used in social work) – Realize that they might be able to do things that many cannot do and have valuable strengths. For example, some individuals with autism can be exceptionally good at memorizing and learning information, can be detail-oriented, focus for lengthy periods of time, and problem-solve well.

  • Take their autism seriously.

  • Be open to their ideas on how to treat them (A key concept in social work is that the client is the expert.).

  • Accommodate their needs and preferences (including communication ones).

  • Provide explanations if they would like.

  • Be patient with them.

  • Give them opportunities to succeed.

  • Let them demonstrate and use their unique talents.


DO NOT:


  • Mock and/or complain about their autism-related challenges.

  • Focus on their weaknesses.

  • Get overly upset with them because of their autism-related problems (i.e. – preferring written communication, not liking to talk on the phone, wanting explanations, not maintaining eye contact, or stimming/making repetitive movements- and/ or noises).

  • Single them out.

  • Exclude them.

  • Have preconceived notions about what they can/cannot do based only on their diagnosis.

  • Force them to disclose their diagnosis – Their diagnosis is their information to share.

  • Out them – It is similar to not disclosing the citizenship status of an undocumented immigrant client.

  • Force them to conform (causing people with autism to camouflage/mask – imitate neurotypical behavior) – An example of forced compliance is wanting them to have the exact same communication type/level as people (who do not have autism). Th is unjust treatment is akin to saying that a person with a broken leg must climb up stairs because everyone else can. Forcing people with autism to conform can cause autistic burnout, which can show as more difficulty managing emotion, anxiety, more traits of autism, and loss of skills.

  • Be ableist against them.

  • Dismiss their challenges.

  • Use functioning labels.

  • Stare.



Miriam Edelman graduated from Barnard College with majors in political science and urban studies. Thereafter, she worked for several years on Capitol Hill in personal offices and on committees in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. She received a master’s in public administration from Cornell University. Having founded the Jade Moore Forum on American Politics in memory of her late friend, Edelman was one of two graduate student recipients of the Cornell-wide Distinguished Leadership Award. She received a master’s of science in social work (focusing on policy) from the Columbia School of Social Work. She aims to continue her career in public service. She is especially interested in health, disabilities, women’s issues, diversity, the District of Columbia, civic education, and democracy.


References

1. "Autism spectrum disorder.” Mayo Clinic. 2023. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/autism-spectrum-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352934.

2. Budde, Chelsea. “9 Tips for Interacting With Individuals With Autism.” Crisis Prevention Institute. September 19, 2012. https://www.crisisprevention.com/Blog/Tips-for-Interacting-With-People-With-Autism.

3. Chen, J.L., Leader, G., Sung, C. et al. Trends in Employment for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder: a Review of the Research Literature. Rev J Autism Dev Disord 2, 115–127 (2015). https://doi. org/10.1007/s40489-014-0041-6.

4. Danforth, Laura. "Autism Awareness Month: Th e History and Today.” Language Builder. Perhaps 2018. https://blog.stageslearning.com/blog/autism-awareness-month-the-history-and-today.

5. “Data & Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. April 4, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html.

6. Deweerdt, Sarah. “Autistic burnout, explained.” Spectrumnews.org. March 30, 2020. https://www. spectrumnews.org/news/autistic-burnout-explained/.

7. Drinko, Clay. “Meet Them Where They Are: Improvisation can help social workers co-create meaning with clients.” Psychology Today. March 4, 2020. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/play-your-way-sane/202003/meet-them-where-they-are#:~:text=Improvisation%20can%20 help%20social%20workers%20co%2Dcreate%20meaning%20with%20clients.&text=Th ere's%20a%20 classic%20social%20worker,or%20how%20they're%20reacting..

8. Gambacurta, Corinne. “Greta Thunberg Likens Autism to Superpower.” Organization for Autism Research. March 3, 2020. https://researchautism.org/oaracle-newsletter/greta-thunberg-likens-autism-to-superpower/.

9. Moya, Maria Jimenez. “Autism Acceptance Month is underway. Here's why the name is important.” USA Today. April 2, 2022. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2022/04/02/autism-acceptance-month-name-change/7243001001/.

10. Nash, Jo.” Strengths-Based Approach in Social Work: 6 Examples & Tools.” PositivePsychology. com. May 31, 2022. https://positivepsychology.com/social-work-strength-based-approach/.

11. Orozco, Brandon. “Autistic Unemployment Paradox.” Autism Foundation of Oklahoma. August 21, 2022. https://www.autismfoundationok.org/blog/the-paradoxes-of-high-autistic-unemployment-series-part-1-autistic-unemployment-paradox/#:~:text=Autism%20Unemployment%20was%20 approximately%2085,identify%20and%20prove%20its%20existence.

12. Penot, Jessica. “Why Many People With Autism Dislike Functioning Labels Calling people with autism high- or low-functioning can be invalidating.” Psychology Today. August 23, 2022. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-forgotten-women/202208/why-many-people-autism-dislike-functioning-labels.

13. Praslova, Ludmila N. “Autism Doesn’t Hold People Back at Work. Discrimination Does. Neurodiversity discrimination is systemic, but there are ways to defy it.” Harvard Business

Review. December 13, 2021. https://hbr.org/2021/12/autism-doesnt-hold-people-back-at-work-discrimination-does.

14. Rosa, Shannon Des Rocha. “Why is the Autistic Unemployment Rate so High?” Th inking Person’s Guide to Autism. February 27, 2018. https://thinkingautismguide.com/2018/02/why-is-autistic-unemployment-rate-so.html.

15. Rudy, Lisa Jo. “What Is Stimming? Repetitive behaviors or noises often associated with autism.” Verywellhealth.com. July 19, 2023. https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-stimming-in-

autism-260034.

16. Rudy, Lisa Jo. “Women and Girls With Autism: How Autistic Traits May Differ.” Verywellhealth. com. August 9, 2023. https://www.verywellhealth.com/autism-in-women-5209272.

17. Sarris, Marina. “Autism and the Troubling Risk of Suicide.” SPARK. September 7, 2022. https://sparkforautism.org/discover_article/autism-suicide-risk/.

18. “Signs and Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. March 28, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/signs.html#:~:text=Autism%20spectrum%20 disorder%20(ASD)%20is,%2C%20moving%2C%20or%20paying%20attention.

19. “Strengths and abilities in autism.” All Together Autism. 2022. https://www.altogetherautism.org. nz/strengths-and-abilities-in-autism/.

20. SW Helper. “Four Social Work Practice Models.” May 19, 2023. https://swhelper.org/2017/01/31/four-social-work-practice-models/.


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