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Autistic Intolerance: Struggling to be Tolerated in the Mainstream World

Updated on November 24, 2009

How developmentally disabled folks are often misunderstood in society

For a couple of years, I've spent at least part of every day in various libraries; posting articles and blogs on different websites, doing research and other various things on the Internet.

It has served as an office of sorts.

At this one library in my neighborhood, there is often a group of special needs people, individuals with Down's Syndrome and other various levels of autism, that come in and do different things.

Some of these people tend to not always behave in an appropriate way, making noise and doing other things that are not seen as acceptable.

Being someone with Asperger's Syndrome, a high functioning form of autism that affects social interaction, I understood these developmentally disabled folks.

Even though there were times when I was a bit bothered by some of their idiosyncrasies, I was always tolerant of them because that's what I would want for myself.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of people out there who do not see things the same way.

One day not long ago, I was in my neighborhood library working on the Internet when this autistic guy was walking back and forth making noises, which is a fairly common thing in this population. A lady who was on the computer next to me started to make a big stink about him, essentially being a bitch.

The supervisor who was in charge of this particular guy tried to explain that he was autistic and could not help what he was doing, but she didn't care. I even tried to explain to her about how autistics like him tend to do things like pace back and forth and make little sounds, but she nastily told me to mind my own business.

It was obvious that this woman was intolerant and didn't want to care about those who were disabled or had autism. In her mind, the guy was just a nuisance who needed to go away.

I understood that she was annoyed by the guy's actions, but her reactions showed that not only was she heartless and unsympathetic to the developmentally challenged, she would not even try to tolerate his situation.

And that was too bad; it illustrated the fact that the disabled are among America's last oppressed minorities.

It was just like another time in that same library, when I explained to someone who was complaining about a man who was incessantly talking to himself nearby that he evidently had Asperger's Syndrome and couldn't help himself.

While the complainer at least understood after I explained things, the same could not be said about another woman I had an encounter with the other day.

I was exasperated about the computer that I was on being really slow as my allotted time on it was running out, and I slammed my hand on the table in frustration when I thought I had lost what I was writing online.

The lady next to me gave me dirty looks and muttered something; I had a good idea what she was muttering. I tried to explain to her about my Asperger's, how that was the reason I acted the way I did, and that she should tolerate that.

She said that she didn't have to. I then told her that she was the bad one, which I felt she was, because she could have ignored me but she chose to be intolerant, like that other lady was to that autistic a few weeks before.

Don't misunderstand me - I could have handled that minor crisis a bit better than I did, but did she have to react so negatively?

It seems to me that in the mainstream world, people who are autistic, are Aspies (short for Asperger's), or have some other developmental disorder are seen as lower than dirt when they act the way people with those conditions act; taking to oneself, making noises and sounds, and doing repetitive motions.

Though it is understandable that those actions make make some feel uncomfortable, that's no excuse for anyone to treat these folks like scum.

Fortunately, there are many individuals who do understand and tolerate them, but too many do not.

That upsets me, especially since I'm a part of that population.

I suppose it would be asking a little much for some folks to understand and tolerate individuals like that autistic guy in the library. Or me.

I know that some people have too much going on in their lives, too many worries, to be concerned about a group of people who are largely unable to do some of the things that neurotypicals - those without any disabilities - can easily do.

However, it would be nice if those in the autistic spectrum were tolerated by everyone, not just their families, social workers, special education teachers and counselors, or the people who run the Special Olympics or VH1's Rock Autism charity.

That's all I am saying here.


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    • Julie A. Johnson profile image

      Julie A. Johnson 7 years ago from Duluth, MN

      It's sad more of the world cannot be tolerant of others. My son has aspergers too, and I am amazed how well he tolerates behaviors of others. We need to focus on similarities, not differences. Thanks for an insightful post. Julie