By Kim Rossi
George Will recently said on Morning Joe that President Trump seems to suffer from a form of "social autism," referring to the President's paper towel hurling response to hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico.
From The Wrap:
On the second hour of “Morning Joe” Wednesday, George Will — the dean of conservative media — had some choice words for the president’s visit to Puerto Rico on Tuesday.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist said that many of Trump’s interactions with people on the island following the devastation of Hurricane Maria suggested the president was suffering from “a kind of social autism.”
He specifically zeroed in on viral footage of Trump throwing paper towels to hurricane victims in a kind of “Las Vegas lounge act” routine,as he put it.
The response to Will was swift. I'm not sure if folks are offended because they think President Trump having autism is an insult to our kids (possible, and I'm sure plenty do) or if they feel Will was being disrespectful of the diagnosis using it as a put-down, or if they are just plain sick of the diagnosis being handed out like Halloween candy. I'm reminded of when Jerry Seinfeld stepped in it claiming he had a form of autism because of some social anxiety and quirkiness. He retracted that statement very quickly after many of us expressed our utter dismay.
For the record, I don't think President Trump has any form of autism - a real, definable diagnosis that goes far beyond personality, and even beyond personality disorders like narcissism or arseholeism.
But autism is certainly in the news and in the media in general. Take the new TV show, The Good Doctor on abc. This new show features an incredibly unrealistic surgeon cute, young and autistic (cue the drama music.) He sounds like Rainman, looks like Doogie Howser and has the bedside manner of Spock.
I've watched George Will on TV for decades. I did not know that he has a son with Down Syndrome. Did you? He wrote a poignant column about his boy's 40th birthday a few years ago. I'm hoping he meant no ill will, pardon the pun.
From WaPo in 2012:
When Jonathan Frederick Will was born 40 years ago — on May 4, 1972, his father’s 31st birthday — the life expectancy for people with Down syndrome was about 20 years. That is understandable.
The day after Jon was born, a doctor told Jon’s parents that the first question for them was whether they intended to take Jon home from the hospital. Nonplussed, they said they thought that is what parents do with newborns. Not doing so was, however, still considered an acceptable choice for parents who might prefer to institutionalize or put up for adoption children thought to have necessarily bleak futures. Whether warehoused or just allowed to languish from lack of stimulation and attention, people with Down syndrome, not given early and continuing interventions, were generally thought to be incapable of living well, and hence usually did not live as long as they could have....
Part of better awareness for autism means that some will misunderstand what the diagnosis really is for so many families, and the word will become - has become - a symbol for a negative personality type.