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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bizarre Speculation That Romney Has ASD

On Stephanie Miller's syndicated radio program, former MSNBC host David Shuster engaged in the bizarre speculation that Mitt Romney has ASD:
Every time you hear Mitt Romney speak these days I keep thinking about I have an uncle who specializes in the field of Asperger's, and people with autism, and has been making the point to me for several years that there’s some very brilliant creative people who have Asperger's and he’s suggested perhaps that Mitt Romney has some sort of form of Asperger's because he’s so socially inept in terms of being able to connect with people.
What he thinks is funny is really sort of not so funny. I sort of wonder if there is some sort of tic that he has or something that’s related to that.
This comment is just the latest example of a disturbing trend:  trivializing ASD by using it as a synonym for social ineptitude.  Natalie Palumbo, a teenager whose brother has ASD, writes at The Age of Autism:
I have noticed a trend among younger entertainers to use the term “autistic” as the new R-word. As it has become socially unfashionable to use the term “retarded” as a negative descriptive, the term “autistic” seems to be taking its place. I have heard internet personalities refer to someone as “autistic” when they want to insult their intelligence or mock their behavior. I live in a world where it is close to impossible to get proper help for my brother, and now his condition is being trivialized to being nothing more than a term used to insult. I fear the word autism will become as meaningless as current slang. With the epidemic growing, this is especially troubling to think no one will take it seriously. I face a lifetime of being a caregiver for my brother and therefore social attitudes and trends affect my life.
Shuster's gaffe is not as bad as Joe Scarborough's, but both of them need to think before they mention autism on the air.