Sunday, April 01, 2007
[Picture of 11 year old Conor Doherty, my buddy. Conor is a low functioning autistic person diagnosed with classic Autism Disorder, assessed as "severely autistic with profound developmental delays"]
The Mainstream Media loves to present feel good stories about autism. With 1 in 150 persons suffering with autism spectrum disorders the mainstream media invariable gravitates towards the higher end of the autism spectrum. Dr. Sanjay Gupta at CNN is a classic example with his interview of an autistic person who writes very sophisticated articles from a keyboard and is a prolific internet blogger. In the US April is autism Awareness month and the heartwarming stories and interviews with high functioning autistic persons will hit the media again.
Katie Couric and NBC's Today Show will feature a charming intelligent and high functioning autistic teen. These are nice stories and they are stories that SHOULD be told. But where are the MSM interviews wih, or visits to meet, low functioning autistic persons? David Suzuki took a realistic look at some persons with more severe autism in a 1996 episode of CBC's "The Nature of Things". But that was Canada (the CBC) 11 years ago. In today's ratings driven "entertainment as news" media world, there are unlikely this April to be any mainstream media visits to mental health facilities or residential care facilities where severely autistic youths and adults might be found; often living minimal custodial existences.
Stories about autistic persons with limited language skills, who engage in self injurious or aggressive behavior, or are sedated by medications, aren't likely to make the Mainstream Media coverage of autism this April. Low functioning autistic persons living in custodial care are not the stuff of feel good stories. They will likely remain hidden away out of sight, unseen in our modern media society.
They are our invisible autistics.