Are people with autism hated and persecuted by society?

I’m Aspergers myself and I notice that many people are turned off by me because I can be kind of strange and obsessive (I prefer saying passionate) about things that others do not care about or find important because they generally don’t involve sports, work or relationships. A lot of people on the Internet and in real life take issue with me for no apparent reason, I know I look and talk kind of “retarded” sometimes but I don’t think that’s a good reason to be mean or hostile towards another person.

Is there a widespread sentiment that autistic people are bad or annoying, or even evil? Or do you think society is understanding enough of autism? For what it’s worth I’ve heard that in parts of Africa, Cameroon in particular autistic children are often hurt and killed and accused of being witches.

Are they persecuted? Not necessarily; like anyone else with a disability or a challenge, they are more likely to be victims of predatory behavior than perpetrators.

Is it really true that they, and their families, frequently get thrown out of public places, or banned outright, because of their behavior, especially as children?

ETA: I have a few relatives on the spectrum, one of whom is impaired enough that even though she attends public school, we all know she will never live independently.

Re irritation in some cases I think sometimes people get the impression that other people who like to behave like obsessive jerks self diagnose as “Aspergers” to get a pass for their annoying behavior as something they can’t help and this diagnosis allows them get away with being obnoxious and making zero effort toward any social graces.

It’s not fair but that’s what some people think about people who tout themselves as “Aspies”. There’s the disconnect of dealing with someone who seems rational and intelligent until it suits them not to be. lt’s hard for people to swallow that as something beyond a person’s control.

Yeah, some irritation. The same is true for people who are very, very depressed. They aren’t any fun to be around. They aren’t hated or persecuted, but there is a (natural) tendency for them to be avoided in the general run of social interactions.

I’m making up a list of whom to invite to a party. Guess who is less likely to be on the list.

I’ll admit right up front, this isn’t “fair.” It can be counter-productive, because people who aren’t invited to social participation have fewer chances to learn to behave well in social situations.

But, hey, tell it to an ugly man: life isn’t fair.

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. :slight_smile:

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.

There was a family at the church I attended in my old town who stopped going there because of their 5-year-old son. The parents said he was autistic, probably because it was the easiest way to explain what was wrong with him; it sounded to me like he had a metabolic disorder that caused autism-like symptoms. I personally never saw him engaging in any abnormal behavior, but then again, I wasn’t in the Sunday School class where he thought it was very funny to constantly pinch other children :eek: and no amount of redirection would get him to stop. The other parents and teacher had a meeting and told them that their son could not be in the class with the other kids, which broke their hearts to do because they knew the family was doing the best they could.

I wasn’t sorry to see the mom go, but not for this reason. She was in charge of picking the music for the contemporary service, and she picked TERRIBLE songs. :rolleyes: I wasn’t the only person who felt that way, either.

I’ve met a few diagnosed-autistic people (of all ages) where it was really obvious the second you met them that something was wrong with them and what it was, but most probably look and act pretty much like people who aren’t on the spectrum. I remember a high school psychology teacher telling us that we see mentally retarded people every day; we just can’t tell that most of them are retarded. I’m sure the same thing is true WRT autism, and that includes the people on the spectrum that I grew up with (and I can think of several right off the top of my head).

Self-censoring, as you described it, has to be done with “normal” kids too.

My brother and his wife have some friends whose son, who is now a teenager, was diagnosed with Asperger’s as a preschooler. My brother has said, “He seems perfectly normal to me, but then again, I don’t live with him.”

People who are severely depressed are frequently not going to care about invitations, and may systematically turn them down anyway.

And then there are the people who cannot participate in social situations because if they show up, everyone else will leave (or parents will pull the other kids out), or an organized activity will disband just to make that person go away. I realize this is not limited to people on the autism spectrum, and the person may or may not be aware of this themselves if they are not outright told.

I personally find sports talk boring. If someone is going on and on about sports, I’ll listen politely at first and then try to steer the conversation to something else. If they keep talking about sports, then I’ll hang out with the person less and less. It’s not because I feel the person is evil or bad or anything like that. It’s that we don’t have enough in common to make our interactions together interesting.

Aspergers or not, this type of behavior will cause most people to pull away. People listen because they’re interested in what is being said. If you’re talking about things that the other person is not interested in, they are not going to want to listen for too long.

Most neurotypical people will pay attention to subtle clues in the other person to gauge interest in what is being said. If they realize the other person is not interested, they move the conversation to another topic. So I may start talking about car repair with my coworker, but if I sense he’s not interested I’ll transition to something else based on what he is saying or what I know about him. If you don’t pick up on those verbal or body language clues, you would likely stay on the first topic and the other person would eventually pull away.

Are you in any type of therapy to learn how to better deal with neurotypical people? You can learn to spot these clues and then have better interactions. It would also help to find people who share your passions so that they will be more interested in you.

I guess people with Autism are hated and persecuted in the sense that all people who are considered different are. I doubt you’ll hear people say they hate Autistic people, or that something should be done about ‘those people’, you’ll just find many situations where people will act like assholes and shun someone they see as different, and the worst of them will display resentment at having their perfect little world invaded by an outsider. Just remember that those people treat a lot of others like that also.

I’d say that probably people who have Asperger’s Syndrome or some other mild sort of autism are probably thought of and treated as if they’re merely weird. At some point, there’s a break or division in perception between people thought of as “really f–king weird” and “something’s wrong with them”.

Usually that break is what would decide the overall treatment- in my experience people are more likely to be irritated with someone perceived as weird, as it’s thought to be within their control, while someone who’s perceived as being clearly different in some sort of negative way, is usually not held as responsible for their actions. That doesn’t mean that people will treat them the same- all of them will be shunned and treated differently to a greater or lesser extent, but with the weird types, there won’t be a lot of sympathy, while for someone who clearly has something diagnosably wrong with them, there’ll be more sympathy.

But nobody really draws any kind of distinction that I’m aware of between Asperger’s and general weirdness, or between more severe autism and other mental handicaps. In other words, nobody goes out and treats a severely autistic kid any different than someone with a similarly disabling level of Down’s syndrome or cerebral palsy. Likewise, someone who is perceived as strange due to their Asperger’s isn’t going to be perceived as MORE weird than someone who’s just garden variety weird without any underlying condition.

I think hated and persecution are pretty strong terms, and autism a pretty broad category.

I can think of times I might - oh - resent the amount of services being provided to a neuro-atypical child in school, or the extent to which that child’s behavior detracts from my child’s educational experience. And I might consider unpleasant having my public experiences affected by someone else’s behavior - whatever the cause.

I’m not sure I view mental pathology too terribly differently from personality. Some people are rude, loudmouthed assholes. And not everyone feels they have the ability - or obligation - to change their personalities in ways to make me happy. I don’t care to be around such people, but I don’t generally wish bad things for them.

If autism means an individual behaves in a manner i don’t personally care for, than I may choose not to associate with them - at least in certain situations. And I might have a personal opinion as to what workplace accommodations are “reasonable” in specific situations. If you consider that hatred and persecution, well, then I guess I’m a hater and persecutor.

I think the area I might express unpopular opinions, is the extent to which I feel our society should generally accommodate people with different needs, wants, and abilities. Someone might view that negatively as the complacent tyranny of the able, neurotypical.

Hell - a lot of people think I’m an asshole. I really don’t have many friends, nor do I want many. And I really do not understand a lot of human behavior and emotion. Who knows if I’m on the spectrum? I’m not sure what I would expect differently, or how I would conduct myself differently, if I were diagnosed with mild Aspergers or something.

My son clearly is on the spectrum, tho he’s doing pretty well in his life/career. His biggest “issue” is that he tends to be inflexible in his thinking, and judgmental about some things, in ways that I think limit his social life. So what is society supposed to do? Force women to like him?

My personal thought is that most mental health conditions exist on a wide continuum, and that a tremendous proportion of folk who are diagnosed are at the mild end of that spectrum, where their pathology is indistinguishable from the general range of personality traits. I think too many folk have unrealistic expectations of what they should be capable of. But many folk like to rely on a diagnoses as an excuse.

This society does not hate autistics, it dismisses them, classes them with the mentally ill and the intellectually disabled – to be mostly tolerated, even supported or cherished, but not to be listened to seriously as rational adults.

That’s all based on a “Rain Man”/“Circle of Children” conception of autism. Most people who diss Asperger’s patients, I should guess, do not think of them as “autistic” at all, but only as annoying oddball-nerds.

I’m quite uninformed about autism and don’t know if I’ve ever encountered someone with it. How does one know? Or does one have to be told that someone has it?

This. I know a number of people on the Aspie end of the spectrum, and count a few among my close friends. They can certainly be annoying oddballs. It sucks, and I make allowances for it, and I feel bad for being annoyed. But annoyed I can be.

But there are plenty of people whom I annoy as well. Hell, there are probably people who find Temple Grandin annoying, and she’s the absolute best.

No. There is not culture of hatred or persecution of people with such developmental disabilities. There are individuals who react to other individuals with cruelty which includes ridicule but it’s not fair to say that there are any groups or demographics that particularly hate or persecute people with autism or Aspergers. I have a nephew who is 28 with Aspergers. It manifests as a social disconnect where he incessantly asks questions but seems incapable of listening to answers. He is just loading up his next question while people are trying to help him. That gets irritating to be around. He lives far way so I don’t have to deal with him but my mother is his grandma and she coddles him. He then takes it that because she is nice to him over the phone and bails him out of trouble by sending him money and clothes, that he is welcome to move across the country and take up residence with her. Thing is, my mom lives in my house and I do not have room for him. When she argues with him not to come, then she puts me on the phone to be the bad guy. And then the questions start. “What did I ever do to you?” He doesn’t get that he’s forcing me to be the voice of authority to stop his plans. I don’t want to have to do that. Eventually he started insulting me and I called every authority I could in his locale to ask if anyone can talk to him. He left his state supported apartment and has been bouncing from hospital to shelter since.

There’s a whole range of behaviors that encompass autism. It’s often referred to as being “on the spectrum” because it can be very subtle to very prominent.

Common symptoms are difficulty forming personal relationships, inability to understand social constructs, looking away/not looking you in the face, intense interest in certain subjects, sensory issues such as not liking many foods, not being able to handle loud noises, bright lights, crowded situations, etc. It’s quite normal for everyone to have some of those conditions, but in an autistic person they may be quite significant.

For example, you may not immediately realize a kid is autistic. You may just think he’s quiet, shy, or really likes a subject like dinosaurs. But if you spend a lot of time around him, you realize he interacts with the world in a different way. He doesn’t just like dinosaurs, dinosaurs are the only thing he wants to talk about, is willing to talk about, and knows everything there is to know about dinosaurs. When talking to other kids, he doesn’t clue in that they don’t want to talk about dinosaurs. Obviously this can lead to many issues with the child and may make them retreat even more into their private world.

Another example might be someone you’re just introduced to stands way too close and endless talks about something you have no interest in. They literally do not see the subtle body language clues and indifferent ‘mm hmms’ you say that indicate you’re not interested. You may have to abruptly cut off the conversation to get away.

As you can imagine, these behaviors can make it tough for someone on the autism spectrum to fit into society.

You search the person’s skin, using needle-pricks, for an insensitive-to-pain mole or wart or birthmark – that’s where the familiar-demon suckles.

Another sensory problem possibility is a sensitivity to touch that can make ordinary clothing feel like constant itching and/or chafing. I’ve heard Temple Grandin speak and when parents ask about their recently diagnosed children, she says that no two autistic people are exactly alike and starts listing things that may or may not be a difficulty. Each possibility needs to be checked and somehow dealt with. She also mentioned possible digestive difficulties and that some overloads synergize. That is, it’s possible that noises and/or lights feel sharper in, say, crowded situations.

Brainglutton, I think you’re using outdated information. A more modern method is weighing them on a scale against a duck.

Wait, autistics are made of wood? :smack:

My kid, clearly in the shallow end of the spectrum pool, has told me that he doesn’t self-identify as on the spectrum, because his impression is that doing so is almost trendy, and that many (most?) people who do so are trying to excuse their bad behavior. Just one person’s opinion.

I’ve been reading a bit about autism lately, and the more I read, the more I think it explains a great deal of my kid’s social issues. But I’m not sure what the benefit to him is if he were to more strongly self identify. I regularly sense that he’s disappointed at not having more/different friends or a girlfriend. But then I hear him saying/doing things which are clearly social poison. So what should he do - try to associate only with folk on the spectrum?

Otherwise he’s healthy, independent, doing well in a challenging field. Yeah, I wish he were happier and more social, but none of our kids ever were. My wife and I never were. We try to be good people, but to what extent can you deny your personality to gain acceptance? A question not only folk on the spectrum struggle with.