Instead of the usual cabal of evil eugenicists plotting to wipe autistics off the planet, we have kindhearted state legislators who apparently want to help us reproduce. Yes, really. Take a look at New Jersey's Senate Bill 690, which has been approved by the New Jersey Senate Health and Human Services Committee:
The purpose of the initiative shall be to provide vocational, educational and social training services to persons with Asperger's Syndrome, through community-based service sites, which offer these individuals appropriate support, guidance and education to enable them to: further their education, achieve gainful employment, develop meaningful friendships, and become broadly competent adults who are able to lead fulfilling lives.
What a nice bunch of senators. They want to help us go to college, get good jobs, and even improve our friendships and (presumably) our love lives. If they keep on this way, they might even start believing we're human.
More seriously, this bill does seem to be part of a genuine effort to integrate autistics into mainstream society, even though its language is ridiculously paternalistic (and contains some inappropriate references to "suffering" and "psychosis"). Ari Ne’eman of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network was invited to present testimony at a hearing on the bill, which is definitely a good sign; at the very least, it is an acknowledgment that autistic citizens are entitled to a voice in their own government, just like everyone else.
Still, this legislation is seriously flawed because its approach is based on guesswork, not fact. More specifically, it is based on a relatively recent hypothesis that has not been conclusively established—the idea that autistics lack the ability to understand body language and other nonverbal social signals. Scientific research in this area is still in its infancy. We don't yet know why there are differences in social behavior between autistics and non-autistics, and we don't fully understand the nature and extent of these differences.
In a discussion on my blog not too long ago, Phil Schwarz posted a link to a comment he wrote on another website, in which he hypothesized that the social advantages of non-autistics may simply be a consequence of their status as the majority population. It's possible that autistics can read the body language and social signals of other autistics just fine, but because we are such a small minority, maybe we don't spend enough time around other autistics for that ability to be noticed. Likewise, non-autistics may be just as clueless (or even more so) at reading our body language as we are at reading theirs. For all we know, the human species may be divided into several naturally occurring social subgroups, each with its own genetically determined style of social interaction.
This isn't just an abstract discussion of various possible permutations of social behavior. It has real-life ramifications. If there is only one type of nonverbal social signaling that goes on among humans, and non-autistics know it instinctively while autistics do not, then the proper course of action may well be what New Jersey is doing: Provide social skills training to help autistics cope with an innate lack of social ability. But if, instead, there are different kinds of nonverbal social behavior that come naturally to different kinds of people, then we shouldn't be declaring the majority's form of social interaction to be superior to all others. Rather than sending the autistics off to social skills classes for training in how to behave like non-autistics, we should be sending everyone to neurodiversity seminars to teach them that it's OK for human beings to have natural differences in social behavior.
With so much prejudice out there, and so many unfounded assumptions and unproven hypotheses floating around, governments shouldn't be creating major new autism policy initiatives based on anything that hasn't been thoroughly researched and shown to be scientifically accurate. Given the current woeful state of the science, that means we should proceed with extreme caution when making any policy decisions concerning autism.