Friday, May 21, 2010

Dear Abby, Is He Human?

Jasper is 24, autistic, and has a girlfriend. A visitor to the home he shares with his parents notices that Jasper has a mark on his neck that might indicate he and his girlfriend may be (now or soon) having sex. The visitor is concerned. She expresses her concern by suggesting to Jasper’s mother (in Jasper’s presence) that she might want to consider having him “fixed.”

I found this recent installment of Dear Abby through FWD. Read FWD’s response here. Jasper has been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and ADD. Dear, dear Abby, rather than letting the busybody have it, suggests that if Jasper’s mother is interested in maintaining her friendship with the Bigoted Busybody, she should let her know that Jasper’s counselor has said that things might, eventually, work out okay for Jasper.

How many kinds of wrong do you see?
Here, I’ll get you started.

1. (Bigoted Busybody) Presuming to know what is best for a person with a disability.
2. (BB) Talking about a person as if he were a household pet.
3. (BB) Talking about a person as if he were not in the room or capable of understanding.
4. (BB) Promoting eugenics.
5. (Mom) Throughout the letter, calls BB her “friend.”
6. (Fill in the blanks.)

There is a lot of talk in the autism “communities” about who has the right to speak for autistic people. What this usually means is something more like who has the right to speak up for autistic people. I wonder what Jasper has been taught to believe about himself and his rights as a human being. He is a man, not a child. Not a pet. Had I been in his place, I would not have been able to respond verbally. At his age, I most likely would have broken a few things. I would have howled in pain. I make animal sounds sometimes, but still, I am human.

When autistic people are spoken about by charities, parent groups, spouse “support” groups, television, movies, magazines, and newspapers daily as if we were a burden, behavior like this becomes more common. Under what circumstances would a parent of an adult without a disability feel the need to ask an advice columnist whether this might be a good time to tell the offender to shut the hell up and get out? I can’t imagine.


  1. OMG. This is one of those times when I'd go all "redneck" for sure. I hate the social conditioning we are given to accept this sort of BS behavior. Good for everyone for calling Dear Abby on this!

  2. It's hard to say what I would do in that situation.

    I'm speechless now, just reading it.

  3. Why would one want to keep a "friend" like that?

    I'll be honest, I've never quite understood the whole ask some stranger with no credentials whatsoever her advice on a situation. I mean, first off, aren't there people locally who are more qualified to answer pressing social questions?

    I agree with gina.

    We have an obligation to our children to stand up at the time to people who harm our children with their words and attitudes. Our children need to know we stand solidly behind them.

  4. Grrrrr....

    I would bet that what the man and his girlfriend think and feel are the least considered pririties of the other people who are discussing this.

  5. Ok. First time I read this, I though "fix" meant "cure his autism". Which would have been offensive enough (plus impossible.) Then I realise that it means "get a doctor to mutilate his genitals so he can't pollute the world with disabled babies."

    I'm not autistic, and I want to cry and throw things and make noises like a wounded dog.

  6. This is one of those letters that I really suspect of being fake and just trying to troll. I'm hoping they will publish a lot of reader responses in the column like the ones here.

  7. Roger Kulp,

    Neurodiversity is not only about autism, it is about the recognizing and respecting the rights of people with all sorts of differences. I understand that there may be some conditions under which a person might decide not to procreate. This should be the decision of those directly affected.

  8. ATTENTION NT'S: We breed. Deal with it.

    (Well, not me personally, I'm asexual, but you get the picture.)

  9. I remember reading this one in my local paper and couldn't believe it at the time. Still can't believe it.

    The fact that the mother refers to the woman as her friend and seriously doesn't know what to do after allowing this woman to speak to her that way says a lot about the dynamic the two have going on. There shouldn't even be a question of what to say to a woman who compares your son to a dog.

    It makes me wonder how she really sees him, if she has to ASK...if a friend comes before your child.

  10. Wow, I just discovered your blog, and I know I will be reading it regularly all the time now. Thank you so much for bringing attention to these things.

  11. Very well said, parents are lost and often misguided, and that's with a "typical" kid. You start adding in variations like autism, and its tough. I work with parents in the school system here all the time that are this way. They are just lost and confused.

  12. Wow. I have a son with autism and I KNOW what I'd say. "Mind your own damn business!"

  13. My 17-year-old son has mild to moderate Autism. He has emerged into an amazing person who has every bit as much potential as my other 11 children. When he was five he nearly drowned his little sister (accidentally of course, he thought she needed a bath!). My own sister told me to put him in an institution. Why doesn't the world understand? I don't talk about autism every day on my blog, but autism has become a huge part of my life. If you would like to read about my son and how we have dealt with some of his issues, please visit my blog at
    I love comments and suggestions.

  14. that is so disturbing that a meddling cow said that. Aspies are capable of using birth control and have a right to have children of their own.

    I would never have even known I'm an Aspie if it weren't for my son.


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