ReMember Magazine

Art, Science, Spirituality, Technology

For the Benefit of Humanity

Being Autistic While Black

Image description: Handwritten signs in front of a house: “Attention! An autistic man lives here. He does not know what a cop is or what a gun is. He makes loud noises. He will not hurt u! He does not understand words or commands. Oh yes: He is Black too.”

The demographic research on autism diagnoses in the Black and brown communities indicates that white children are diagnosed with autism at a rate between 1.1 and 1.2 times higher than that of BIPOC children (National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

This diagnostic disparity means that children may not get the support and services they need to be successful. They may instead receive a diagnosis of Emotional Disturbance, or Oppositional Defiant Disorder. They may not receive a diagnosis at all. And they may end up in jail, or dead, as a result lack of society’s understanding of autism, as well as the impact of untrained community members and lack of social support.

U.S. prisons also typically offer limited opportunities for employment and life skills training, which can be of particular benefit to autistic inmates. Some prisoners can participate in a program to learn budgeting, taking responsibility for one’s actions, and communication skills, meant to reduce recidivism rates. However, these programs are not widely available.

Autistic people across demographics are at risk for:

  • High rates of unemployment or under-employment

  • Low participation in education beyond high school

  • Majority continue to live with family members or relatives

  • Limited opportunity for community or social activities—nearly 40% spend little or no time with friends. (Source: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/autism-spectrum-disorder-in-teenagers-adults.html)

In addition, autistic individuals may experience changes in their ASD symptoms, behaviors, and co-occurring health conditions during adolescence and young adulthood. These changes can affect their ability to function and participate in the community.

As a society, we are crossing the Rubicon. We are at the point of no return  — where to continue to deny the impact of systemic racism and internalized ableism across all institutions and diagnoses will be at our own peril. Further, to acknowledge that strength lies in diversity, including neurodiversity, will benefit all beings.

Learn concrete rules and steps for handling disagreements as part of our 16-week PEERS® curriculum — conflict resolution is a vital social skill.

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