More information, please.

Most of the frequent articles and reports about autism are sensational and include little accurate information about autism.

Here in California we’re having a drought.  Every article about the drought contains at least a brief reference to how a drought is defined, how much rain we’ve had compared to previous years and suggestions for conserving water. Some say that many of the drought related articles are politically inspired, but the information is still there.

Maybe the drought isn’t the best comparison, topic-wise.  I’m sure everyone has heard that the actor, Philip Hoffman, died recently. A sad loss, and I am not trying to relate the topic of addiction, merely the information given in the articles. I learned more about heroin in just a couple of articles about Mr. Hoffman’s death, than I learned from reading 70’s rock star biographies.

There was another kind stranger autism article recently. A restaurant manager gave a mother and her autistic daughter a free meal after another customer complained about the child being too loud. Of course I applaud the support or acceptance that this stranger offered.  But I also resent the tone of these stories is that the kind stranger is doing a marvelous favor and paints the child and parent as a tragic situation.

These articles could have included an explanation about how self-stimulatory behavior, like yelling, helps people, and not just autistic people, deal with the sensory overload they can experience in public.  How about an interview or link to an autistic person’s account, like this post, Quiet Hands?

There are too many stories about autistic people, usually children, going missing, often with a tragic end. The public needs useful information about autism and wandering, especially when a news report is a about a human being who is currently missing. All news reports should contain descriptions of the missing person using respectful and meaningful terms.

Describing an autistic eight year old child as being like an infant is demeaning to the person and inaccurate information to provide strangers who are helping in a search. Tell us how the missing person is likely to respond. If the person is not going to respond to traditional communication methods, offer alternatives, such as the person’s favorite familiar items, songs or recordings. These details should be in articles about anyone missing.

I’d like to see law enforcement professionals answer questions like: How soon should a concerned parent or caregiver call when a child is thought to be missing? What about an adult? If we see someone who fits the description, or spot what may be an important clue, how should we respond?  How can parents and caregivers of children prone to wander keep our children safe and still encourage them to interact with the world? What kind of training is given to law enforcement professionals to handle situations involving people with disabilities who may respond differently than the general public?

I wonder if these details are left out of some articles because they are good bait for controversial comments.  There are many topics other than autism that have the same information and controversy challenges.  So this is me, stepping up onto my soapbox to ask for more accurate information. Don’t assume we know anything. Especially on the internet, give us links to define terms, not links to other articles.

I’ll keep reading and someday, the information will be there, and hopefully a new trend will be started.

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