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Friday, May 3, 2024

Autism in the US Military

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss military personnel and military familiesThe IDF recruits autistic soldiers.  The US military is lagging.

John Donvan, Marjorie McAfee, Katy Sheward, Justin Green, and Aria Young at ABC:

For people on the autism spectrum, finding their place in the American military can be an arduous process. The U.S. Department of Defense considers having autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to be a “disqualifying condition” to join the military. Many candidates are turned away because of their diagnosis.


“National security problems are some of the hardest problems we have in this country,” said Cortney Weinbaum, Sr., national security researcher at RAND Corporation. “It makes no sense to not want all brain types working on it.”

Having authored one of the few studies attempting to assess the military’s handling of neurodivergence, Weinbaum found a community of military members hiding their symptoms to avoid being medically discharged.


“With ASD in particular, we've seen about 1,800 applicants come through the process with that diagnosis,” said Miller. “And we've seen about 500 applicants actually approved for a waiver with a history of ASD.”

Miller admits that the waiver process can be opaque and lengthy.

“We do not necessarily put out a lot of information about the waiver process itself, because every review is individualized and depends on those individual circumstances,” Miller told “Nightline.” “But we do believe that we need to do more to make the waiver process understood and known.”

Stephanie Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Personnel Policy at the Department of Defense, says the military is beginning to take a more individualized approach to autism in the waiver process, reflecting a more nuanced understanding of the diagnosis.