Parent of an 11 year old on the spectrum checking in.
First, autism is a spectrum. The ones more autistic obviously have special needs, and get treated like they have special needs (which ranges from being really helpful and understanding, to survival of the fittest). I have had many many people in public step up to help out (can I hold the shopping cart for you while you get your child settled, do you need help getting your child out of the deep end of the pool, we would love to have her come horseback riding and will provide someone that will only focus on making her’s a great experience).
in our experience, we self censored rather than got thrown out of public places. We tried out best to be inclusive, made sure we were in good shape before attempting to go public, left early if it wasn’t working. I’m not ashamed of my daughter in public, but by the same token, I put her needs first and any situation where she is melting down is not good for her as well as for the general public. Thank goodness, we are basically past that stage.
We are part of a group of autistic families that get together. Let’s just say, it can be kinda loud and crazy when there are 15 families together. But, what’s crazy to civilians, doesn’t really bat an eye. I do have to say that trying to help a melting/melted down child on the more extreme end of the spectrum leads to flashbacks when it was our child and we were the ones dealing with it.
To the OP, I think those more on the mild end of the spectrum get a tough time because you are perceived as “neurotypical”. In other words, not obviously on the spectrum. Thus when some see your passion (others might see as compulsiveness), maybe personal space issues (eye contact, stemming, rocking), being honest to a fault (blunt rather than diplomatic) but don’t make the connection with Austism/Aspergers. Shit, they may think you’re just an obnoxious dude from New Jersey that tells it like it is.
Honestly, I don’t think most of society even “gets” or gives 2 cents about autism. I do think that is slowly changing as the percentage of austism increases. Things improve with personal experience and/or understanding of autism. In the case of poorer countries without services, an autistic child (especially a non verbal one) has my utmost sympathy. My daughter was born and lived in China until aged 5 1/2 and a huge reason we moved to the US was to get her more help.
Protoboard, I don’t think I’ve answered your OP very well. I work in high tech, I worked at Microsoft (which has a high percentage of folks on the spectrum or parents of kids on the spectrum, and insurance with the best corporate coverage for autism services in the US, and a co-founder who has never admitted it but is probably 99% sure to be on the spectrum himself), and within this industry I think autism spectrum folks that can do the work are valued.