Reality and Dashed Hopes

I had written an upbeat blog entry earlier this afternoon about a young musician I found on YouTube two days ago. I found him engaging and refreshing, talented and creative, topical and irreverent in a way that was positive and humourous.

Or so I thought.

One of my passions in life is educating people on Autism Spectrum Disorders and related illnesses. Too often, society at large has internalized incorrect information and based on that composite, discriminate against individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, related illnesses or invisible disabilities.

As I was researching linkage for my blog entry, I came across one of the most offensive, ignorant and dangerous YouTube videos I have ever found online. It portrayed Asperger Syndrome in such an insensitive and incorrect way that would easily incite others to cruelly ridicule those who are diagnosed with AS.

Now I’m not talking about a video that only has a few hundred hits. The video in question has had 2,479,146 views to date and right smack dab in the middle of the video, playing the part of the passenger (and enjoying his role in the misportrayal of AS) was this young musician.

Imagine my surprise and disappointment. Until I happened upon that video, I thought this young artist was a great teen with a wonderful sense of repartee and a witty outlook on life that was just this side of Weird Al Yankovic.

It got me wondering about how others who are uneducated on the subject of Autism Spectrum Disorders perceive and present AS to their friends and circle of influence and so, I googled Asperger Syndrome as it was misspelled in the video.

Maybe it’s because I tend to see what’s good in people rather than anticipate what’s bad in others that I find myself surprised by what I find from time to time. In this case, I was horrified to see that there are more than just a few people who have such a twisted view of AS that it no longer resembles the diagnosis.

No wonder the media oftentimes misrepresents individuals with Autism in their news reports. No wonder the media oftentimes wonders aloud if the latest violent campus gunman has AS or if the suicide bomber in another country has AS. It doesn’t matter that it’s not true. What matters is that it’s a hot button that can be dropped into nearly any outrageous news story and no one says a thing about how wrong it is to bring AS into the story at all.

When’s the last time a news reporter began a report with, “A car driven by an average person who wasn’t paying attention to what he was doing crashed into a gas station pump as a customer who was equally clueless was fuelling his car, sparking a fire and sending a giant cloud of black smoke into the air above the city on Monday afternoon?”

No that’s not an attention-getter. But drop the word Asperger Syndrome into the mix and all of a sudden, it becomes the sort of story that everyone is tuning in to watch because ‘everyone’ knows how dangerous and/or stupid people with AS allegedly happen to be.

“A car driven by a man with AS crashed into a gas station pump as a customer with AS was fuelling his car, sparking a fire and sending a giant cloud of black smoke into the air above the city on Monday afternoon.”

Now we have all sorts of Letters to the Editor stating that people with AS shouldn’t have cars and shouldn’t drive cars and shouldn’t be allowed to refuel their cars because they’re just so darned dangerous, don’t you know it?

So where does this misperception concerning Asperger Syndrome come from? It comes from videos like the offensive, ignorant and dangerous YouTube video I found while researching linkage for my original blog on an otherwise talented young musician.

Hopefully my personal email to him will make him rethink his actions and spur him on to educating himself on the subject of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

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