Dr. Manny threw his considerable support behind Chris Tuttle and the movement to employ people on the autism spectrum when he wrote a brief article raising awareness about Tuttle’s experience, the growing employment opportunities, and Dr. Manny’s expectations for society:
“No matter what, I will always stand up for the rights of people on the autism spectrum and try to spread awareness about this disorder. Fortunately, many industries today are starting to focus on creating employment initiatives for this population, which is such a wonderful enterprise. We want all people – regardless of disability – to have opportunities for independence and growth. But this can only be accomplished if we have a tolerant and understanding society.”
As much as I support and applaud this sentiment, as much as I empathize with Dr. Manny’s experiences as the parent of a child on the autism spectrum, and as much as I want to support all the good things Dr. Manny said and all the positive awareness he’s raised, I can’t help but get stuck on his opening sentence: “Today, I became aware of a story about a grocery store employee afflicted with Asperger’s syndrome, who was unnecessarily harassed by a female customer,” (emphasis added).
Contrast that brow-raising assertion with the original article, which stated:
“Tuttle-Virkler noted in her post that her brother was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a developmental disability characterized by difficulties in social exchanges and repetitive patterns or behaviors. Tuttle-Virkler said that the incident really upset her brother,” (emphasis added).
It’s hard to raise awareness about the abilities of people with disabilities while still using the language of disability-as-affliction.