I know a lot of autistic professional people.
But no, I won’t expose them. Because it’s not safe to be open about being autistic. A small number have made the decision to add “Autistic” to their public profile, and this might be because they have reached a stage in their career where they are comfortable that it won’t do any damage to their credibility, or (more likely) they have reached a stage where they feel that things can’t really get any worse.
Last year I put the word “autistic” on my own website, and immediately lost several clients. They simply broke off all communication with me, as is their right, for anti-discrimination legislation doesn’t really apply to consumers. I can only suppose they presume me to be incompetent. I’ve taken “autistic” off now as I need to protect my income, though it doesn’t take much internet searching to find my autistic profile on Twitter. I think I’m good (or at least not bad) at being an architect, and several hundred repeat customers perhaps confirm this. Yet despite my online efforts to reduce the stigma of being autistic, by being openly so, I find it’s best to not put off people who don’t know me yet. Because I need to earn a living wage.
(You perhaps found this page from my Twitter profile? Or a search engine? There is no pathway to find this from my RIBA Chartered Architect website menu.)
The dangers of being openly autistic were starkly revealed earlier this year when the DVLA suddenly changed their website to require that all autistic drivers report this fact to them, regardless of whether it affects their driving, or face a £1000 fine. After some anxious days the DVLA backed down on this breach of human rights, but it’s left us feeling uneasy.
So how many autistic professionals are there in the UK?
This study estimates the prevalence of autism to be 2.24% which in the UK works out as nearly 1.48 million people.
There are about 150,000 doctors working for the NHS (source) of which 2.24% would be 3,360.
I know quite a few autistic GPs, and a handful of surgeons too, through the #ActuallyAutistic Twitter tag, and in real life. They have formed a closed group on Facebook which they direct newcomers to.
On May 7th 2019 the National Police Autism Association confirmed to the Access to Justice panel of the government’s Autism Act Inquiry that their membership had just reached 1000, with the most senior member being a Chief Inspector. (Source)
Based on 122,000 police officers in March 2018 (Source) there are about 2,700 who are autistic.
There were 140,000 practicing solicitors in the UK in 2017 (Source). At 2.24% that’s about 3,100 autistic lawyers. There are a few openly autistic ones in the UK and the US, who have profiles on Twitter.
Most autistic people are not children. Yet most of what we see and hear about autism is about children. Autistic children grow up to be autistic adults (who remember what it was like to be autistic children). Autism is a ‘spectrum condition’, and of course not all autistic children will grow up to be police officers or scientists. But many will. And it’s not unusual.
I hope that one day being autistic will be as acceptable as being dyslexic, or left-handed.
More by me – Autistic Architect Articles
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