Sunday, 1 May 2011

Something That Really Bugs Me About Most Autism Articles in the Media

I've clarified something that really bugs me about most articles about autism in the mainstream media (not our own of course). It's that they never, or hardly ever, interview anyone who's actually got autism. Can you imagine doing an article on, say, living with a kid with diabetes, and not interviewing either the kid ( if old enough) or an adult with diabetes? Or cancer, mental health issues, spina bifida, etc etc? Indeed, just about any condition you name, they will always do their best to interview those with the condition, or, if it's about kids and they're too young, to interview some adults with it. In other words, they go for journalistic balance.
BUT NOT WHEN IT COMES TO AUTISM. The most I've ever seen is the occasional sidebar, usually with someone like Jen Birch. (She must get sick of being interviewed by NZ media, every time autism or aspergers comes up!) Otherwise, it's like there is this great gaping hole in their articles.
I can only presume it's because of the overwhelmingly negative image that autism has, and which they continue to foster. I'm unsure whether those on the spectrum are assumed to be too 'handicapped' to be able to communicate their position (even those who are obviously verbal, and adults), or whether they aren't seen as having a valid viewpoint or position to discuss. Either way, the image presented is either of children who will grow up into remote, uncaring, selfish 'weirdos' and semi-automatons (with spots, BO, thick glasses and pocket protectors perhaps?), or, if 'lower functioning', someone to be put into 'care' of some kind, and forgotten about. Certainly not anyone the average person would want to know, or make a connection with, or learn about the experiences and viewpoints of.
I could say 'well that's their loss', but in truth, it's ours. Through such attitudes being common, and commonly perpetuated by the media, we continue to be marginalised, dismissed, rejected, stereotyped, bullied, harassed, shut out of employment, and generally excluded from so much of life, and the world. We end up lonely, bruised in spirit, often bitter and cynical, with mental health issues like depression and anxiety disorders, not to mention frequently living in poverty, or homeless. In short, we are suffering, and while one article alone doesn't cause this, it certainly won't help either. If only someone would do a REALLY balanced article, one that puts the other side of the story, and starts to demolish some of the myths, eg that we are incapable of love, have no capacity for empathy, and no feelings.
If only. I must confess, i'm not holding my breath waiting.


  1. totally agree with you!

    be on the look out because I have found a magazine which will be doing a article on me which will be released in the June/July edition.

    NZ's best-selling health & fitness magazine

    the above will be the magazine which will be running a article on me!

  2. Yes, well clearly the public perception of autism as portrayed by the popular media lacks the depth and range of different issues symptoms and characteristics that present themselves in real autistic people.

    But there's something I'm a little confused about when it comes to the Aspergers variety of autism. Isn't there supposed to be a touch of genius in people with Aspergers? Maybe their genius is quite often hidden or masked by other disabilities, but isn't there always a flame burning there just waiting to be discovered and exploited if only people look for it carefully enough? Aren't Aspies a special species to be carefully nurtured for the treasures they have the potential to yield if only they can be uncovered?

    My confusion is about whether there really is such a link between Aspies and genius, or whether Aspies, like other autistics come in a whole range of different IQs, ranging all the way from genius to stupid? If there's no evidence of a genius link, then I should simply shut up, but if there is, or if there could be, the good offices of the media should be used to tell the public how there's a chance of finding golden treasure down the line if Aspies are carefully nurtured. That would really alter the public's perception of Autism, wouldn't it!

  3. Autismo Girl, i will keep an eye out for it in the shops, come June/July!
    @ J (i know that's you!) the jury is still out whether or not aspies/auties in general are more intelligent. I suspect, myself, that we are born spread out over the full range of IQ points, but that perhaps we USE what intelligence potential we have better? But then again there are those on the spectrum who really struggle with academia, becos of co-morbid learning difficulties, or unsympathetic teachers/school systems etc; but others only use it for academia or learning everything there is to know about their 'special interests'. So it's a mixed bag, and no real generalizations can be made at this point.

  4. Having said the above, i do feel however, intelligence or not, we do have many capabilities that are not currently being utilised by society, we do suffer from un- or under-employment, so in this sense, it is true that we represent an untapped 'golden treasure'!