Discrimination against autistic people

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Discrimination against autistic people is the discrimination, persecution, and oppression that autistic people have been subjected to. Discrimination against autistic people is a form of ableism.[1]


Research published in 2019 used data from more than 8,000 children in the University of London's Millennium Cohort Study, which tracks the lives of about 19,000 people born in the United Kingdom starting in 2000. Out of the children selected, 231 were autistic. The study from the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that these autistic children were more likely to engage in "two-way sibling bullying", meaning being both a victim and perpetrator of bullying.[2]

Further research published in 2017, a meta-analysis of three studies, demonstrated that "first impressions of individuals with ASD made from thin slices of real-world social behavior by typically-developing observers are not only far less favorable across a range of trait judgments compared to controls, but also are associated with reduced intentions to pursue social interaction."[3] The meta-analysis continues, "These patterns are remarkably robust, occur within seconds, do not change with increased exposure, and persist across both child and adult age groups."[3] This may be why autistic people have "smaller social networks and fewer friendships, difficulty securing and retaining employment, high rates of loneliness, and an overall reduced quality of life."[3] Smaller social networks, fewer friendships, and loneliness correlate with severe health outcomes. According to a paper published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, "Health risks associated with social isolation have been compared in magnitude to the well-known dangers of smoking cigarettes and obesity."[4] Furthermore, according to the UK Office for National Statistics, the unemployment rate of autistic people may reach 85%, the highest rate among all disabled groups studied.[5] Autistic adults are also more likely to face healthcare disparities, such as being unvaccinated against common diseases like tetanus and being more likely to use emergency services.[6]

Autistic people are also less likely to graduate from high school, college, or other forms of higher education, further contributing to high rates of unemployment and lower of quality of life.[7][8] This failure to successfully complete education can be in part attributed to a lack of support from educational institutions. In the US, only one third of autistic children in public schools receive special education services.[9]

In the United States, people with disabilities are victims of violent crime three times as often as people without disabilities. The Bureau of Justice Statistics does not report separately on autistic victims, but it does note that the victimization rate is especially high among those whose disabilities are cognitive. A small-sample study of Americans and Canadians found that autistic adults face a greater risk of sexual victimization than their peers. Autistic respondents were more than twice as likely to say they had been the victim of rape and over three times as likely to report unwanted sexual contact.[10] In 2018, a large scale study found that autistic girls were almost three times more likely to be a victim of sexual abuse compared to non-autistic girls.[11]

Discrimination in media and culture[edit]

Representation of autistic people in media has perpetuated myths about autism, including characterizing autism as shameful and burdensome for family members, advertising fake cures for autism, and publicizing the long-disproven arguments surrounding vaccines and autism. These myths are perpetuated in mass media as well as news media and social media.[12] Stigmatization of autism can also be perpetuated by advertising from autism conversion organizations, such as Autism Speaks' advertising wherein a mother describes having considered murder-suicide in front of her autistic daughter or the NYU Child Study Center's advertisements where autism is personified as a kidnapper holding children for ransom.[13]

Moreover, the autistic behavior known as stimming is frequently referred to as "distracting" and the way autistic people naturally talk is often described as rude.[14] Stimming specifically is often targeted in therapies such as Applied Behavioral Analysis, despite the fact that it is vital to self regulation.[15]

Physical health-related research[edit]

In the United States, recently published research[16] shows that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has not funded grants focused on the treatment of physical health disparity conditions, such as insomnia, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions, in autistic adults across four decades of research funding. McDonald and Scudder (2023) explicitly distinguish health disparity conditions that affect the lives of autistic people from research grants focused on the cause, cure, and prevention of autism. Although their research focused on autistic adults without an intellectual disability, the research did not exclude this population and found a lack of funded grants focused on the treatment of health disparity conditions for autistic adults with intellectual disabilities. The research describes several systemic discriminatory "nodes" of practices and policies that may contribute to the apparent discrimination in research grant funding. These include the exclusion of disability populations from groups designated for physical health disparity research grants, the designation of autism as a "primary disease;" a designation used as a rationale for some National Institutes of Health (e.g., the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute) to exclude research focused on autistic populations from grant funding review, and the pressure on early career researchers by academic institutions (that receive NIH funding) to either change their research topic or their population for NIH grant applications and to avoid challenging NIH policies until they are at a more advanced stage in their career.


In the United States, the Trump administration supported restrictive immigration policies that discriminated against autistic people. Under these policies, autistic immigrants faced deportation.[17][18]

In Canada, autistic immigrants have been denied citizenship or they have faced deportation due to the perception that they are a "burden" upon the Canadian medical system. In 2018, reforms in Canadian immigration law were announced, the reforms are supposed to make it easier for autistic and disabled immigrants to migrate to Canada.[19]

New Zealand effectively prohibits the application for permanent residency for people with autism "where significant support is required".[20][21]

Australia's health criteria have prompted criticism about its immigration policies. Australia forbids the immigration of people who would be exceptionally costly for the nation's health care or social services. Autistic people are subject to this policy.[22]

Singapore, which is renowned for having rigorous rules and regulations, also has severe immigration laws. According to these laws, prospective immigrants with long-term conditions, such as autism, could be turned away by the country's immigration officials.[user-generated source?] [23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Billawalla, Alshaba; Wolbring, Gregor (2014). "Analyzing the discourse surrounding Autism in the New York Times using an ableism lens". Disability Studies Quarterly. 34 (1). doi:10.18061/dsq.v34i1.3348. Retrieved 13 December 2021.
  2. ^ Toseeb U, McChesney G, Oldfield J, Wolke D (May 2020). "Sibling Bullying in Middle Childhood is Associated with Psychosocial Difficulties in Early Adolescence: The Case of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder". Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 50 (5): 1457–1469. doi:10.1007/s10803-019-04116-8. PMC 7211196. PMID 31332675.
  3. ^ a b c Sasson, Noah J.; Faso, Daniel J.; Nugent, Jack; Lovell, Sarah; Kennedy, Daniel P.; Grossman, Ruth B. (1 February 2017). "Neurotypical Peers are Less Willing to Interact with Those with Autism based on Thin Slice Judgments". Scientific Reports. 7: 40700. Bibcode:2017NatSR...740700S. doi:10.1038/srep40700. ISSN 2045-2322. PMC 5286449. PMID 28145411.
  4. ^ CORNWELL, ERIN YORK; WAITE, LINDA J. (2009). "Social Disconnectedness, Perceived Isolation, and Health among Older Adults". Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 50 (1): 31–48. doi:10.1177/002214650905000103. ISSN 0022-1465. PMC 2756979. PMID 19413133.
  5. ^ Putz, Catherine; Sparkes, Indiana; Foubert, Josephine (18 February 2021). "Outcomes for disabled people in the UK - Office for National Statistics". www.ons.gov.uk. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  6. ^ Nicolaidis, Christina; Raymaker, Dora; McDonald, Katherine; Dern, Sebastian; Boisclair, W. Cody; Ashkenazy, Elesia; Baggs, Amanda (2012-11-21). "Comparison of Healthcare Experiences in Autistic and Non-Autistic Adults: A Cross-Sectional Online Survey Facilitated by an Academic-Community Partnership". Journal of General Internal Medicine. 28 (6). Springer Science and Business Media LLC: 761–769. doi:10.1007/s11606-012-2262-7. ISSN 0884-8734. PMC 3663938. PMID 23179969.
  7. ^ "Attrition Issue: Why Students with Autism Drop Out - the 61% Project".
  8. ^ "Autism Statistics and Facts".
  9. ^ MacFarlane, Jaclyn R.; Kanaya, Tomoe (2009-03-10). "What Does it Mean to be Autistic? Inter-state Variation in Special Education Criteria for Autism Services". Journal of Child and Family Studies. 18 (6). Springer Science and Business Media LLC: 662–669. doi:10.1007/s10826-009-9268-8. ISSN 1062-1024. S2CID 143938436.
  10. ^ Pitney Jr JJ (2015). The politics of autism : navigating the contested spectrum. Lanham. ISBN 978-1-4422-4960-8. OCLC 907022313.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  11. ^ Ohlsson Gotby, Vide; Lichtenstein, Paul; Långström, Niklas; Pettersson, Erik (September 2018). "Childhood neurodevelopmental disorders and risk of coercive sexual victimization in childhood and adolescence - a population-based prospective twin study". Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines. 59 (9): 957–965. doi:10.1111/jcpp.12884. ISSN 1469-7610. PMID 29570782. S2CID 4238219.
  12. ^ Holton, Avery; Farrell, Laura C.; Fudge, Julie L. (March 28, 2014). "A Threatening Space?: Stigmatization and the Framing of Autism in the News". Communication Studies. 65 (2): 189–207. doi:10.1080/10510974.2013.855642. S2CID 145668002. Retrieved 23 December 2021.
  13. ^ Waltz, Mitzi (February 16, 2012). "Images and narratives of autism within charity discourses". Disability & Society. 27 (2): 219–233. doi:10.1080/09687599.2012.631796. S2CID 143756605. Retrieved 23 December 2021.
  14. ^ "Asperger's Doesn't Mean They're Rude". Psych Central. 2021-08-09. Retrieved 2023-02-21.
  15. ^ Taylor, Elinor (2 October 2023). "Beyond 'bad' behaviors: A call for occupational scientists to rethink autism". Journal of Occupational Science. 30 (4): 575–590. doi:10.1080/14427591.2022.2136231. S2CID 253503104.
  16. ^ McDonald, T. A. Meridian; Scudder, Audrey (2023-01-13). "Mind the NIH-Funding Gap: Structural Discrimination in Physical Health–Related Research for Cognitively Able Autistic Adults". Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. doi:10.1007/s10803-022-05856-w. ISSN 0162-3257. PMC 10762646. PMID 36635433. S2CID 255773930.
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  18. ^ "Trump Administration Seeks To Bar Immigrants with Disabilities". Disability Scoop. 30 April 2018. Retrieved 2022-05-07.
  19. ^ "Father of son with autism calls Canada's new immigration policy a 'blessing for all of us'". Global News. Retrieved 2022-05-07.
  20. ^ ""Burdens" and Borders: Disability Discrimination in New Zealand Immigration Law". Equal Justice Project. 4 May 2020. Retrieved 2023-03-04.
  21. ^ "Operational Manual - Immigration New Zealand. Issue Date: 3 May 2024Operational Manual - Immigration New Zealand. Issue Date: 22 August 2016". www.immigration.govt.nz. Retrieved 2024-05-14.
  22. ^ Doherty, Ben; Knaus, Christopher (23 February 2017). "Outcry after Sydney doctor faced with deportation over autistic child". Guardian. Retrieved 2024-03-15.
  23. ^ "4 Countries that don't allow Autistic immigrants - StrangerMiles". 2023-06-04. Retrieved 2023-08-28.