Autism Reality

Invisible Autistics

[Picture of 11 year old Conor Doherty, my buddy. Conor is a low functioning autistic person diagnosed with classic Autism Disorder, assessed as “severely autistic with profound developmental delays”]

The Mainstream Media loves to present feel good stories about autism. With 1 in 150 persons suffering with autism spectrum disorders the mainstream media invariable gravitates towards the higher end of the autism spectrum. Dr. Sanjay Gupta at CNN is a classic example with his interview of an autistic person who writes very sophisticated articles from a keyboard and is a prolific internet blogger. In the US April is autism Awareness month and the heartwarming stories and interviews with high functioning autistic persons will hit the media again.

Katie Couric and NBC’s Today Show will feature a charming intelligent and high functioning autistic teen. These are nice stories and they are stories that SHOULD be told. But where are the MSM interviews wih, or visits to meet, low functioning autistic persons? David Suzuki took a realistic look at some persons with more severe autism in a 1996 episode of CBC’s “The Nature of Things”. But that was Canada (the CBC) 11 years ago. In today’s ratings driven “entertainment as news” media world, there are unlikely this April to be any mainstream media visits to mental health facilities or residential care facilities where severely autistic youths and adults might be found; often living minimal custodial existences.

Stories about autistic persons with limited language skills, who engage in self injurious or aggressive behavior, or are sedated by medications, aren’t likely to make the Mainstream Media coverage of autism this April. Low functioning autistic persons living in custodial care are not the stuff of feel good stories. They will likely remain hidden away out of sight, unseen in our modern media society.

They are our invisible autistics.

April 1, 2007 Posted by | autism awareness month, autism disorder, CNN, Dr. Gupta, high functioning autism, Katie Couric, low functioning autism, NBC, Today Show | 7 Comments

Paging Dr. Gupta – Please Bring Your Cameras to the Lower End of the Autism Spectrum

Dr. Sanja Gupta
Chief Medical Correspondent
CNN

Dear Dr. Gupta

Your interview and comments about an autistic person who is obviously very intelligent and able to communicate at a high level with the use of technology are helpful to assisting public understanding of autistic persons with characteristics similar to that individual. It is also helpful that you have directed people’s attention to finding others who might be in a similar situation.

I hope too that you will bring your cameras to the truly low functioning end of the autism spectrum of disorders. There are many truly low functioning autistic persons who do not have a basic grasp of language at the outset. For many technological communication tools, voice synthesis technology, will not offer help. These truly low functioning persons do not necessarily make for a feel good news story on CNN. These souls will not respond to your invitations and you will not be able to engage in “lively email banter” with them. Take your cameras to some of the institutions which provide adult residential care for some of these persons much less fortunate than the person you interviewed. After your visits they too might have “opened your eyes about the world of autism”, a big part of that world that is not regularly featured in Hollywood movies and CNN features.

Respectfully,

Harold Doherty
Fredericton NB Canada

February 23, 2007 Posted by | autism awareness, autism disorder, CNN, Dr. Gupta, low functioning autism | 3 Comments