Filters, autism, and Rosanne Barr

I have a t-shirt that says “you know that little thing inside your head that keeps you from saying things you shouldn’t? well, I don’t have one of those”. A lot of people on the spectrum don’t have filters, and that’s why some people have jobs as autism coaches and why there are so many books about social skills. Autistics aren’t, as a group, people who automatically have a talent for social skills or fitting in or saying the right thing at the right time. Everybody has a story about a time they wish they hadn’t said something, but people on the spectrum have a lot of those kinds of stories. This is what happens when nature doesn’t install a filter in your brain: There’s a direct connection between the stupid part of your body and your mouth. Today’s news provides a dramatic example of what can happen when you don’t have a good social filter.

Roseanne Barr went on Twitter early Monday morning and blew up her career.

The good news is that Ms. Barr doesn’t appear to hate one group of people; based on her tweets, she can find something to hate about just about everybody. The news has described her as being racist, Anti-Semitic, a bigot, and against anyone who differs from her (and perhaps what she would find worst of all – not funny). Some of the stars had a lot to say about her. Emma Kenney, who played her granddaughter on the show, said she was hurt, embarrassed, and disappointed, calling Barr’s racist comments distasteful and inexcusable, stating that “bullies will never win.” [Ms. Kenney is multi racial.] Sara Gilbert tweeted that Barr’s comments were “abhorrent and do not reflect the beliefs of our cast and crew or anyone associated with our show”. She was disappointed with Roseanne’s actions and adds that it’s sad and difficult for all of them because they created a show they believed in and were proud of and one that audiences loved-separate and apart from the opinions of a single cast member.

What Roseanne did is detestable and unforgivable. The media made her famous for all of this for years, the show made it funny, and she just assumed she could get away with it. Numerous other celebrities have expressed their feelings about all of this – and no one defends her. It must be very lonely to be Roseanne Barr right now.
The tweet was a joke that went too far and got out of hand as a result; there’s a lesson here because people on the spectrum don’t always know if what’s funny to them is funny to everyone else. There is a simple solution to this – when you’re in doubt, check with someone who isn’t on the spectrum. The best advice I can give here is don’t tell jokes about different types of people as they will likely find it offensive.


Roseanne Barr went on Twitter early Monday morning and blew up her career.”

The target of this tweet, Valerie Jarrett, a former political advisor who served under President Obama, reacted by responding at least she had a wide circle of support for her. She replied that she was worried about all the people out there who don’t have a circle of friends and followers to come to their defense in their time of need. The solution for this is if you hear racism or bigotry, simply be that circle for whoever is the victim of it; stand next to them and put your hand on their shoulder. Post a message saying that you’re sorry it was said and it was wrong, then address the author of the hurtful comment and hold them accountable.

There is good news, although not much, about this, and that’s we now live in a climate where hate speech is less tolerated. Because people on the spectrum are an easy target, it’s likely that comments, jokes, and sick imitations of them will be fewer and those that are made will be criticized much more heavily. Pakistani-American Kumail Nanjiani said that “nothing good has come of this entire thing”. If you disagree, you need to realize that talking about the damage is the start of change for this, and this change needs to happen for the world to be better.

Let Me Introduce Myself

Hello. My name is Stephen Pelzer, I’m 24 years old and I’m currently a camera operator for filming of the Autism Channel World News. I also research stories for the news program to use. A little while ago I was asked to start doing a blog for the Autism Channel. Here is my introductory post. I hope you’ll post comments – it can be lonely on a blog.

There are 3 main ways that people learn about autism. The first way almost everyone comes across the concept of autism is by watching movies and TV shows. Some TV shows include The Big Bang Theory, its recent spin-off show Young Sheldon, The Good Doctor, and Scorpion. A lot of people have seen or at least heard of the movie Rainman where Tom Cruise plays a man who learns that he has an autistic older brother played by Dustin Hoffman, and bonds with him during a road trip. My mom is a huge fan of the BBC show Doc Martin and my dad is a fanatic of Star Trek and its spin-offs. Both series have had at least one character with traits of autism. A TV show called Parenthood, which wrapped up in early 2015, had a kid who was diagnosed with autism in the first season and by the time the series wrapped up, his shadow married into the family. In future posts, I’ll talk about whether the media is getting it right, at least to me-and I hope you readers will comment.

The second main way people learn about the autism spectrum is by knowing someone with it, and it’s definitely a spectrum. One end of the spectrum is occupied by people who seem to be in worlds of their own and can’t or don’t want to spend much time away from them. I’ve met a few of those people and I just wish that there was a way to get to know them better. At the other end of the spectrum are the people dubbed “aspies”-people like Temple Grandin, Sheldon Cooper, Sherlock Holmes, my maternal grandfather, and me. I may have had other relatives with it but I can’t say for certain. I’ve been playing D&D since Christmastime 2016 and the players in my group “get” each other and have learned to live among non-Spectrum people, basically our equivalent of the Muggle world. There are moments where it’s hard for me to shift my focus to topics I don’t really want to focus on at the moment, but since the time when my parents first heard “Asperger’s” I’ve learned a lot, worked a lot, laughed a lot, and lived a lot, like most people. Let me know if you don’t really laugh that much. Many people know me for my jokes, and my cooking – but that’s another story. In future blog posts, I may post some recipes.

The last main way people learn about autism is in the news, but it’s not often portrayed positively or accurately. When a mass shooting focuses on the perpetrator having autism, it just sounds like trying to make sense out of something that doesn’t make sense, and it disgusts me. The current statistics are that 1 in 68 people in the US have autism, but that doesn’t automatically make them potential time bombs waiting to go off, or brilliant scientists, or underage doctors, or undefeated detectives, or innovative inventors. Most of us are just living our regular everyday lives like ordinary people, but we whisper more about our focused interests than others. If you would like to post with readers about your special interests and why they interest you, do so by all means. Let’s try to make this our own news and write our own personal stories.

Welcome to the world of autism. Just join me and share your world with me too. Even if you’re not autistic, you might be interesting in one way or another. Stranger things have happened in this world.