A CORK autism campaigner has said it’s “upsetting” that the word autistic was used in a derogatory capacity by a Fine Gael Senator about the Taoiseach.
Lenore Good, who has six children - four of whom are on the autistic spectrum - said it’s no wonder people on the spectrum are continuously let down if that's the attitude of those in power.
Senator Catherine Noone called Leo Varadkar “autistic” during a canvass this week, and also said he was wooden and lacked empathy.
The Times Ireland edition quoted her as saying: “He’s autistic like, he’s on the spectrum, there’s no doubt about it. He’s uncomfortable socially and he doesn’t always get the in-between bits”.
Senator Noone has since apologised for her remarks, which was accepted by Leo Varadkar, who said: “She has withdrawn her remarks and apologised and, you know, that’s good enough for me."
“This is a government that has prioritised autism more than ever before for special needs assistance, more special classes, never before,” he added.
Speaking to The Echo, Lenore Good, who runs the online blog ‘Out in the Sticks with Six’, said: “To use being autistic in a derogatory capacity is very upsetting and to then try and correct herself by calling it an illness adds insult to injury.
“Referring to someone as ‘wooden and lacking empathy’ as her reasoning behind her comments is exactly why we have a problem with diversity and inclusiveness in this country,” she said.
Ms Good went on to condemn Leo Varadkar’s response, saying it’s another slap in the face for parents and families nationwide who have no services, supports or place in school.
“To then try and state that they are spending €2 million this year on an autism awareness campaign to educate the public better about understanding is a bit counterproductive when the people running the country don't even understand or think to include us in their debate.
“I only just spoke recently about the term ‘you're so autistic’ being used as an insult among our younger generation today.
"I wanted to try and get information into our schools to educate our children as it was coming from a place of lack of education and understanding.
“Yet here we have a politician, a member of the Seanad, someone who is appointed to make decisions for Irish people whose lack of education surrounding autism is astounding.
“Is it any wonder we as autistic people and parents of children on the spectrum are let down time and time again when this is how we are viewed amongst our own members of government.
“The irony was maybe if we did have a representative on the spectrum in government we would be living in a completely different country.
“Just look at Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Steve Jobs, WB Yeats, Tim Burton, Lionel Messi, Woody Allen, Lewis Carroll, Anthony Hopkins, Charles Darwin, Charles Richter (Richter scale) Emily Dickinson, Einstein, Bill Gates, Thomas Jefferson, Isaac Newton, James Joyce, Mozart, Andy Warhol, Hans Christian Andersen, to name but a few who I am sure also came up against the same ignorance along their journey but for some strange reason people don’t remember them as being ‘so autistic’?!
“They are known for being good at what they bloody do, something Catherine Noone would do well to remember.”