As someone who uses Facebook, I see many articles about autism shared around, and often from an ableist perspective. One way to tell if the article you’re reading is going to be full of misinformation is if you see the image above. I hate it. HATE IT! Allow me to explain why.
First off, it conveys the image that autistic people are isolated from society. They are not. Yes, many are extremely introverted, or in some cases they may even be non-verbal. But neither should be a barrier to communication. There are more ways to communicate than with words: hugs, handshakes, giving someone a “high-five”, waving, etc.
But for me, the most annoying thing this image conveys is that autistic people are trapped within their condition. That if we could just somehow remove autism from that person, he or she would be “normal”. But would that person necessarily be better? I don’t know. He or she wouldn’t even be the same person, because autism is just as much a part of autistic people as hair or skin color, or gender.
I am an administrator in a few groups in Facebook, and I’ve added both autistic and neuro-typical people to these groups. The reason I do this is that I feel that we must build bridges between autistic people and non-autistics. This is especially true in my Christian group. Many autistic people have either avoided religion altogether or at least have a negative attitude towards it. I’ve gotten in many arguments in groups because I would not stand for them belittling Christians or any other religion. I feel that by having both autistic Christians and neuro-typical ones, I can help heal the hurt that has been caused and perhaps teach non-autistic people more about the autism spectrum. And maybe we can learn from each other as well. Posting articles that talk about autism causing people to suffer from it or using images like this does us no favors. It presents autism in a negative viewpoint. That helps no one.
I truly wish journalists would stop using this image and educate themselves in the proper way to depict autism.