The Freedom to Make Mistakes
Here's a reality check: Millions of young adults rent overpriced apartments, run up credit card debt buying products they don't need, respond to slick advertisements as predictably as Pavlov's dogs, get cheated buying used cars, and make other unwise decisions. Most of them are not autistic.
Not all that long ago, parents simply took it for granted that if a teenager was naïve, he or she was going to end up learning a few useful lessons in the School of Hard Knocks. Making mistakes and learning from them was considered to be a natural part of the process of gaining life experience and wisdom, not a horrible calamity to be avoided at all costs.
Before the autism diagnosis came into common use (again, not all that long ago), parents often encouraged their socially inexperienced teens to get more involved in the world and to make more decisions, so that they would learn how to go about it. Now, however, expectations have shifted radically for those with the diagnosis. They are being redefined as perpetual children who cannot choose to work, marry, rent an apartment, or make any other adult decisions.
This is how human rights disappear.
Let's go a little farther back in history, to the days when married women could not own property or enter into contracts. These laws were based on the cultural assumption that women were naïve, childlike, and in need of protection. Similar attitudes were found among the supporters of slavery and segregation, who often argued that blacks did not need equal rights because they were not capable of making intelligent choices.
Given the fact that women and blacks were systematically excluded from almost all aspects of the business world in those days, it's likely that many of them actually were much more naïve and easily cheated than white men. But the remedy for that (as society discovered in modern times) was to provide better education and equal opportunity, not a permanent and total deprivation of civil rights.
The same holds true for autistic teenagers. There are financial education classes that teach young people how to create and live within a budget, how to handle credit prudently, how to rent an apartment, and other useful information on how to manage money. Parents can, and should, talk with their teenagers about sensible rules for making financial decisions—such as not making a major decision without taking time to research and reflect on it, not buying a used car without having a mechanic check it over first, and so forth. Achieving a basic level of financial literacy is just as important as learning the subjects taught in school.
Yes, they'll make some mistakes (just as most non-autistic teenagers will) but the consequences usually won't be serious, and they will learn from their experiences, as they do in other areas of life.
One of the freedoms most vital to our civil rights is the freedom to make mistakes.