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The Realities of Severe Adult Autism Challenges: Out of the Spotlight and Out of Mind

Posted Jan 31 2011 3:03am

Dr. Temple Grandin has accomplished much in business, and on the lecture circuit, and deserves applause for her accomplishments.I do not doubt that Dr. Temple Grandin has done much for autism awareness generally over the past 12 years since my son was diagnosed with Autistic Disorder. But awareness of the realities faced by severely autistic adults has not increased noticeably over that time and to some extent has been obscured by Dr. Grandin's accomplishments.  Dr. Grandin is an exceptional person of exceptional accomplishment.  The key word is exceptional.

Claire Danes is receiving acclaim for portraying Dr. Grandin.  And there ends public knowledge of adults with autism disorders.  For many in the public Dr. Grandin, as represented by the beautiful Ms. Danes is the face of autism.  Ms Danes is a talented and beautiful woman, by any measure, but the reality of autism is not so beautiful and the reality of severe adult autism is in fact brutally ugly with many  severely autistic adults living their lives in institutional care and ignored, except for brief flashes, by media and public.
The media gets involved, as it did recently,  in the case of the Nova Scotia autistic man who was kept locked in his room for weeks where he was, despite camera surveillance, left by staff to urinate in a corner. 6 years ago an autistic New Brunswick youth was kept on the grounds of a youth correctional facility despite not having committed an offense or not having been charged with an offense because there was simply no where else to keep him.  He was shipped out of the country to a US facility. Years before that an adult New Brunswick man was kept in a psychiatric  facility before being shipped out of the country to the Spurwink facility in neighboring Maine in the US. The headlines fade, as they usually do, and there is no movie or book industry or interest group lobby to keep the ugly realities of life for severely challenged autistic adults in the public mind. And little, very little, changes for those autistic adults for whom even one of the  most basic of decencies,  a pot in which to pee, is not always assured.

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