Many praised the series for taking such a comprehensive look at autism. But not everyone was pleased with MacNeil’s reporting on the issue. In blog posts, comments and e-mails to PBS, self-advocates are chiding the veteran reporter, saying that their perspective was left out. What’s more, they are criticizing MacNeil for comments they say suggest that those with the disorder lack empathy and can be violent.
“There’s always a problem when you talk about autism and do not include autistic people in the discussion,” says Ari Ne’eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, who suggests that the series featured “dehumanizing rhetoric” and language insinuating that people with autism are “violent and that we’re a burden on society.”
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right.
And, finally, a process question also came through on how you chose the guests and the experts that you did.
There's a comment from John Horton, who writes in and says: "I think an adult with autism should have been included on the roundtable. They're talking about them but not to them."
ROBERT MACNEIL: Well, perhaps he's right.
We tried to concentrate on what we thought were urgent issues, urgent problems. And a lot of adults with autism, particularly those who describe themselves as a kind of neurodiversity community, are high-functioning people with autism, who have busy and productive lives in the world, who serve a wonderful purpose of helping the community at large to understand and witness autism and be tolerant of it.
But they speak for themselves. And we didn't see them as an urgent issue, as urgent as the impending arrival into adulthood of hundreds of thousands of teenagers with autism.