Jeremy Ring Demonstrates His Ignorance About Autism

Senator Ring seems to think that the life of an autistic individual is a problem. He would rather pity. But the autistic community does not need pity or a “cure”, as there is nothing to be cured.

By Sean David Hartman

My name is Sean Hartman. I have autism. I have been living independently most of my adult life. I have a job which fully finances my housing, I take care of a dog, get around independently, and have a diverse stock portfolio. Yet according to Democratic State Senator Jeremy Ring, a candidate for State CFO, I am the victim of a horrible disease. A disease so horrible, it is comparable to Ebola or the Zika virus.

Senator Ring seems to have a complete lack of understanding of what it means to be autistic, and certainly not the concerns of the autistic community, to compare the millions of autistic children and adults to victims of a disease that led to quarantines and death.

Senator Ring, in an effort to support the autistic community, instead insults millions of successful and independent autistics in the United States today, including myself.

His full quote…

“Autism diagnoses are growing at an alarming level that it now directly or indirectly effects a majority of families across the country. As we recognize National Autism Awareness Day, it is extremely disheartening that not a single elected leader in our nation stood before a camera and defined Autism for what it truly is, an EPIDEMIC. It is critical that our leaders start investing in resources to identify the cause and find a CURE as aggressively as they would any other EPIDEMIC. More attention seems to be given to EBOLA and ZIKA than Autism that is unconscionable.”

Most people sadly do not know about the neurodiversity movement, mainly because the mantle of autistic advocacy tends to go to Autism Speaks, an organization that, despite its name, has no autistic individual on the board. In fact, many in the autistic community have openly attacked Autism Speaks for misinformation and stigmatization.

John Elder Robison, an autistic neurodiversity advocate, resigned his role in Autism Speaks after its founder, Suzanne Wright, referred to autism as a “problem”.

“I celebrate the gifts autism bring us,” John Elder Robison wrote in an essay, “and I have discussed the emerging realization that autism – as a neurological difference – confers both gifts and disability on everyone it touches.”

The neurodiversity movement is all about empowerment of the autistic community, helping them realize their gifts, not their scruples. What Senator Ring does, in calling the issue an epidemic, by comparing us to debilitating diseases, is seeing us by our faults, not gifts, bringing us down instead of lifting us up.

Also, does he think that autism is contagious? Ebola and zika are epidemics due to viral spread. Does Senator Ring think if an autistic individual shakes his hands, he’s going to catch the autism?

I certainly think he knows that autism is a social disorder, not a disease, and cannot be spread by viral means. But the problem is these simple mistakes continues to harm and stigmatize the autistic community.

It shows, at least to me, that Senator Ring has not had conversations with autistic adults. He has not asked them about how they live, or if they see their condition as a “disease” meant to be “cured”, or a part of who they are, and worthy of acceptance.

It was the word “cure” that the neurodiversity movement takes the most offense. To say that autism is to be “cured” continues to stigmatize the autistic community. It normalizes the lie that autistic individuals like myself cannot live normal, independent lives. It says that my only hope for normality is a cure for the “disease” that infects me.

“The idea of a cure for autism doesn’t make sense,” said Julia Bascom, programming director for the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, an autistic-run nonprofit engaging in autism advocacy and support.

“Autism isn’t a disease or an injury; it’s a neurodevelopmental disability that shapes our brains differently.”

Senator Ring seems to think that the life of an autistic individual is a problem. He would rather pity. But the autistic community does not need pity or a “cure”, as there is nothing to be cured.

Some autistic individuals compare the “Curebie” Movement to gay conversion therapy and archaic homophobic rhetoric trying to “cure” homosexuality. It is now widely accepted scientific fact that homosexuality cannot be cured and is something generally to be accepted, if not tolerated.

Yet according to Senator Ring, he takes the rhetoric many of these homophobes took against the LGBTQ+ community and directs it to those of us with autism. I certainly do not think this is intentional ableism, but I think his ignorance must be called out and addressed.

I am hoping Senator Ring will learn more about the autistic community from actual autistic adults living with the condition every day. He should look into the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, or more locally, at Autism Connections of Southwest Florida, a nonprofit organization of which I am an alumnus, which helps autistic individuals learn social and independent living skills.

The autistic community does not need a cure.   The autistic community needs acceptance. Hopefully Senator Ring will stop stigmatizing the autistic community, and start understanding them.


Sean David Hartman is a freelance reporter for the Central Florida Post, with a wide portfolio ranging from entertainment to politics. He is a centrist political operative and blogger and a student at UCF. Hartman is autistic and bipolar, and supports the neurodiversity movement.