In order to illustrate a larger point, John Donvan and Caren Zucker tell the story of the first man ever diagnosed with autism, and how he lives today as a 77 year old:
The truth is that we often deny to adults with autism the kind of empathy and support we make readily available to children with the conditionor, for that matter, to people with white canes at crosswalks. We underestimate their capabilities, reveal our discomfort in their company, and display impatience when they inconvenience us. The people standing in the back of a long supermarket checkout line aren’t always going to say or do the nice thing when some odd-looking man in front is holding the whole place up because he can’t figure out the credit-card swipe. It’s in that moment, [Dr. Peter] Gerhardt says, that the thumb-on-the-logo trick is a matter of “social survival.” If the man with autism can navigate this situation successfullyand, just as important, be seen doing soGerhardt argues that our collective acceptance of people with autism in “our” spaces will tick up a notch. If the man fails, it will go the other way....
Adults present greater challenges: they are big enough to do real violence in the event of a tantrum; they are fully capable of sexual desires, and all that those imply; and they’re bored by many of the activities that can distract and entertain children with autism. “People want to treat these adults like little kids in big bodies,” Gerhardt says. “They can’t. They’re adults.” As such, he argues, they’re equipped, as much as any of us, with the recognizable adult aspiration of wanting to “experience life.”
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