Poverty, Bullying and Autism Shouldn’t go Hand-in-Hand

February 12, 2014

An interesting blog in the Huffington Post by Whitney Bradley crossed my desk the other day. This first-person account of a young man with Asperger’s (I know, it supposedly no longer exists) syndrome is a sad testament to our society that I’ve brought up more than once in my blogs. The closing words of his blog still haunt me. “I’m lost, suffocating in poverty, and I have a disability that is the primary cause of that.”

Then, not a day later I found this blog by Amy Gravino, about adults with autism being bullied in the work place. It’s difficult for me to believe that such callous and unenlightened behavior continues to exist. People—adults in theory—tormenting those who are different and thinking it’s OK to do so. Business as usual.

In the first article, Bradley displayed a wit and sense of humor that belies his situation. I found his blog to be Bradley’s way of reporting the depressing state of affairs for many adults in his situation; bright, talented and gifted individuals, without the support and opportunities mainstream society enjoys. In both articles, bullying was a sad refrain. We work hard to stop bullying on the playground. Why is it being taken up again with impunity in the workplace?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to encourage the abilities of these individuals, while mentoring them in communication and social skills? Everyone would benefit. Companies would recognize the dedication and hard work that so often accompany a diagnosis of autism, not to mention the elevated skills in many instances. As Bradley said, “Not only can I fix your bicycle, I can explain to you what makes the steel tubing in it good or bad, I can explain how a triaxial weave works on your carbon frame, and the physics of how you shift gears or stop. With no prior experience I replaced the rear end on a Ford Expedition. And I did it in an afternoon, the right way.

“But what I can’t do is shake hands and make eye contact all day. That beats the hell out of me. Because of that, I’ve been homeless more than a few times.”

Society, too, would benefit economically if adults with autism were employed and individuals with autism wouldn’t be consigned to a life of poverty and isolation.

Gravino was fortunate, she found work where autism is understood and individuals with autism are supported. She is right when she states that bullying is an issue that doesn’t stop at the edge of the playground and needs to be addressed. The only way it can be addressed is to expose it. The only way to expose it is to be intolerant of bullying. Befriend people with different abilities, support their efforts and don’t look the other way or participate when bullying occurs in the work place. Be courageous. Take it into your own hands. Change the tide.

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